My goal as a photographer is to capture that perfect moment on film when everything comes together--light, background, subject, and pose--to form a perfect compostion of nature's beauty. I love the saturated colors of nature: of fish, of birds, of flowers. As a former art teacher, I realize that nature has all the elements of art; nature is art. The variety of colors, shapes, patterns, and movement--all of these attract me to nature's endless array of subjects.
I grew up in the 1950s and 60s in California when our visual world was captured on film as never before. Photos record the events of lives--and our times--in a dramatic and poignant way. As a boy, I remember rushing over to my grandmother's house to study each new issue of Life magazine. These images had a tremendous impact and influence on me, making my world a visual one. National Geographic also fed my interest in images and fostered an early love of nature.
Another great influence on me was Jacques Cousteau and his television documentaries. When I was twelve, my father bought me a mask and snorkel and took me snorkeling at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Despite this being the worst place on the planet to snorkel, I was instantly hooked. I wanted to be a diver--and I wanted to photograph what I was seeing. A steady diet of nature documentaries, along with regular trips to the San Francisco Zoo and expeditions to look for salamanders along Skyline Blvd, cemented my interest in wildlife and nature.
While attending San Francisco State University, I studied film-making, photography, music, and the arts, followed by a post-graduate degree in teaching. As a young teacher, I went to Australia to work for two years...and stayed. Teaching made me aware of how we all start out with an innate appreciation of nature, and I wanted to nurture that through my images. I turned to still photography, spending all my spare time taking photos. Once I built up a stock of images, I signed up with a number of picture libraries around the world including Animals Animals / Earth Scenes in North America, Nature Picture Library in Britain, Nature Production in Japan, Auscape International in Australia, and FotoNatura in Benelux and Germany. My wife, Linda, is a freelance writer and my images almost always accompany her articles and touring books, giving us the opportunity to work and travel together. I am now a full-time photographer.
For a period of ten years we lived and worked in Florida, mostly due to its natural beauty and abundant wildlife. However, Australia was never far from our thoughts since we had lived there for twenty-five years, and in the end it drew us back. We were once again based in downunder full-time, working on a series of four 4WD touring guides for Explore Australia until family issues brough us, once again, back to Florida. Who knows where we will end up, but no matter where we are, nature is always the major force in our lives.
IN THE CAMERA BAG:
Steve’s notes on photographic equipment.
While I fully agree with the old adage that it’s the photographer not the camera that makes a photo, nature photography requires specialized camera gear to achieve successful wildlife photos. Birds, mammals, insects or underwater photos each require special tools such as telephoto lenses, macro lenses or underwater housings. My suggestion is to think about what aspect of nature photography you are most interested in and start with the gear necessary for that. Then, purchase new equipment as your subjects require or your interest grows. If you’re interested primarily in bird photography, a long zoom or telephoto in the 300mm to 600mm range is mandatory. These lenses require a good sturdy tripod with a gimbal or ball head (even with the help of image stabilization and high ISO!) and a strong shoulder . If you are interested more in macro subjects, look at one of the many fine macro lenses in the 50mm to 200mm range. Again, photographic success is going to require the use of a tripod for sharp images. In this age of digital imaging, cameras become obsolete much faster than in the glory days of film, so it’s best to put more money into good lenses that hold their value rather than camera bodies that will be outdated in a year or so.
The list of gear that I use is simply my personal choice and it has changed many times over the years. I’ve moved from film to digital, from long heavy lenses to lighter, more compact lenses suitable for travel and to save my back. There are many top cameras out there and even more great lenses. I’m not sponsored by any manufacturers and I pay for all my own equipment, so I’m careful about what I buy and do a lot of research and soul-searching before spending my hard-earned money. The Internet is a wonderful tool for getting opinions and reviews on photographic equipment as long as you filter it and determine what’s right for you. Today’s digital SLRs are feature laden marvels, but you need to work out which features you need and those that you don’t. Because of the environments that I shoot in, I require cameras and lenses that will keep working in dusty conditions, bouncing along rough roads in four wheel drives or in high heat and humidity.
I use Nikon cameras and lenses exclusively and have done so since I bought my first Nikon F many years ago. Over the years I’ve built up an arsenal of Nikon lenses and have upgraded as I felt necessary and real improvements came along. Currently I’m using the following:
-Nikon D3 bodies
-80-200mm f2.8 zoom
-70-180mm macro zoom
-24-70mm f2.8 zoom
-14-24mm f2.8 zoom
-Wimberley gimbal head
-Think Tank packs
-Lowepro backpacks & roller bags
-Pocket Wizard flash triggers
-Kirk plates and accessories
For underwater work I use an Aquatica housing with dome and macro ports. In the Aquatica I use 16mm fisheye, 18mm and 20mm wide angle and 60mm and 105mm macro lenses.
We use Apple computers and several external hard drives to back up everything several times
For me, photography is an adventure. No matter what you use to create images, have fun doing it and, as photographers, let’s work together to preserve and protect this amazing planet we share.
Cheers and thank you for visiting Natural Wanders,