Bear Necessities

Bear Necessities

Bucket List

Bear Necessities

bear necessities

I’m at 36,000 feet on a flight from Seattle to Anchorage, blissfully dreaming about another rendezvous with Alaskan Coastal Brown bears in a remote, fly-in lodge. Suddenly my body is overcome by a wave of paralyzing dread. Have you ever had a dream where you show up for a final exam in college, but you forgot to study? Or you attended no classes? Or you weren’t wearing pants? Well, that’s the feeling.

The meaning is obvious and unmistakable. There’s an upcoming event for which I’m unprepared. This could be the result of packing fantastically light for a remote photography location in the Alaskan wilderness. For example, I’ve packed only two lenses. On my first trip to Alaska more than ten years ago, to offer context, I hauled in 37, give or take a few. Doctor Freud could easily have demonstrated a symbolic link between the number of lenses carried and pants – or the lack thereof.

However, the anxiety would wane within moments as my left-brained rationality laid out the game plan for this expedition. I had two Canon R5 camera bodies, a Canon 100-400mm lens with EF-RF adapter, a Canon 24-105mm lens, and 4 TB of Lexar CF Express cards. That’s all my photography gear.

The practical excuse for this minimalism was the weight limit imposed by the air service from Anchorage out to the lodge. If you wanted to board the plane, your clothes, boots, jackets, toiletries, photography gear, and anything else necessary for five nights in the Alaskan hinterlands couldn’t exceed 50 pounds. In years past, this limit was more of a suggestion to help reign in chronic over packers. I was advised this year would be different.

But even before the newly enforced restriction was known to me, I had decided to leave the 500mm f/4 lens, bulky tripod, and gimbal head at home and adopt a light and nimble approach to the bears this year. I was convinced that super-telephoto primes were becoming less necessary for most wildlife photography and, in many cases, a liability. To creatively compose or to ensure I achieved the right balance of negative and positive space in the image frame, I would need to continually “zoom with my feet” – moving closer and farther away with every shooting encounter. Zooming with the lens while keeping my feet stable and in one place is a tremendous advantage.

bear necessities

“Illiamna” Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, USA

Then there’s the obvious fact that bears are large mammals and don’t require the same image magnification as songbirds, for example. Coastal brown bears in this specific area were relatively well adapted to a human presence, so I could approach these bears closer than grizzlies in the interior parts of the North American continent. The 45 megapixels of the Canon R5 also allow generous latitude for cropping in post, making the decision even easier. In fact, replacing the heavy prime telephoto lens with the 100-400mm wasn’t really much of a radical option at all.

The decision not to bring a tripod was more psychologically uncomfortable, however. Before I left for Alaska, I experimented with some settings. I knew at 400mm I would need at least 1/1000 of a second to ensure consistently sharp images when handholding the camera and lens. I tested the combination of 400mm and 1/1000 of a second in a variety of lighting conditions I expected to encounter while working with bears in Alaska. Under no reasonable lighting situations did I need more than 4000 ISO to produce a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. Most ISO settings were at least half of that, and in sunny conditions, I could use ISO 400 or less. With the low-light capabilities of the Canon R5, I felt those numbers were easily manageable. Plus, handheld photography gave me more freedom and mobility to capture those decisive moments that make wildlife photography so captivating. I’m confident I captured images handheld on this trip that I would have missed had I been using a tripod.

A second camera body is an essential safeguard against accidents or electronics failure, especially in a remote place like Alaska. I mounted the Canon 24-105mm lens on the second R5 body for wider “bearscapes” with background tree lines, mountains, clouds, and sky. Environmental portraits are some of my favorite wildlife images.

In the end, the two camera bodies gave me a necessary peace of mind, the 24mm to 400mm range offered no unnecessary overlapping focal length redundancies, and the 4 TB of storage in the CF Express cards allowed me to leave the computer and external hard drives at home. Best of all, I made no real sacrifices to the quality of my photography work while still weighing in a few ounces under the limit.

Sometimes the bear necessities are all you really need.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – AUGUST 2021

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Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Focus Market

Focus Market: The All-Photography NFT Marketplace

Focus Market: The All-Photography NFT Marketplace

Creativity

Focus Market: The All-Photography NFT Marketplace

Focus Market: An Introduction

As the Creative Ambassador for Focus Market, I thought I would introduce this new NFT platform in my own words in the video above. It’s a marketplace where photographers can sell and photography collectors can buy tokenized photography works of art as NFTs. There are no digital art and animated memes here, just high-quality photography. Focus Market is also more environmentally friendly than other NFT marketplaces, which is particularly important to those of us who do wildlife and nature photography.

In addition, Focus Market is a community. Members can buy and earn FOCUS tokens which entitle holders to a share in the platform’s revenues – passive income for photographers.  All FOCUS token holders will receive a percentage of transaction fees from each sale.

If you’re new to NFTs, here is a primer on what they are and why they are the future.

In the coming weeks, Focus Market will be open to private beta testing with an eventual full public opening sometime in August. Bookmark this page for updates as the platform evolves..

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Focus Market

Essential Composition: Frames

Essential Composition: Frames

Creativity

Essential Composition: Frames

FRAMES

Using frames is an effective compositional technique in photography and art that provides a powerful way of emphasizing the primary subject or most essential visual element in the photo. Framing immediately directs attention to and leads the eye to the subject or anything else you feel is important in the image. This is the “frame within a frame” that you’ve probably heard so much about in composition books. The image border is a frame too. Frames are another way of helping manipulate and guide how your audience looks at your image.

Look for frames in architectural elements such as doorways or arches, natural elements such as tree branches and natural arches, or variations in light and dark to effectively frame your subject.

“Spring Garden” Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina USA. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm @ 58mm, 1/20 second @ f/13, ISO 500.

In the image above, the arching tree branches not only provide a frame for the walkway and “V” shape created by the azaleas and receding tree trunks, but it also gives some needed balance to the image by counterpoising some visual weight the colorful flowering shrubs in bottom part of the photo (learn more about Achieving Photographic Balance in a previous blog post).

You can learn more about using frames, as well as many other compositional concepts in my e-book, Creative Composition: Image Design Masterclass.

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By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Focus Market

How to Earn Money from Photography

How to Earn Money from Photography

Creativity

How to Earn Money from Photography

Earn Money from Photography
Earn money from Photography: Taking a coffee break in Baja California, Mexico.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; If you want to make a career out of nature, wildlife, or travel photography, do it for love. Do it for love. Do it for love. Money is a dirty word, in this context anyway, that can only contaminate and foul this beautiful pursuit to which we have dedicated a sizable portion of our disposable time. If money is a byproduct of simply doing what you love, then you’ll be a happy photographer or artist and most likely a successful one too. If financial rewards become your master, however, you’ll most certainly fail and probably be an unhappy failure at that.

And now, with that bit of virtuous throat-clearing out of the way, I should say that you can indeed earn money from photography. Just remember to take the advice in the previous paragraph if you decide to do so. While an aspiring professional should create a realistic business plan with specific goals, timelines, and budgets, a hobbyist, on his or her own time, can earn a little extra money for that new lens or plane tickets to an exotic photography destination. Following are a few suggestions, in the name of love, of course.

Sell Prints

Selling photographic prints is the most traditional way to earn money from photography, and what immediately comes to mind when one thinks of photography monetization. You can sell directly off your website and print them yourself, or you use a third-party printer such as Mpix or Aspen Creek Photo. In the digital age, selling prints is easier than ever. But unless you have lots of time to devote toward procurement and shipping, this can be quite tedious. However, sites like Photoshelter allow you to choose a vendor and have the entire procurement, printing, and shipping handled for you.

In addition to the above, you can sell physical prints at art fairs and shows, in gallery spaces, and as consignment works in places of business. These are time-consuming options, but if you have the time, it can be fun and rewarding as well.

Stock Photography

There was a time when a photographer could make a decent living by selling stock photography through agencies. Sadly that’s not been the case for at least 15 years or so. By “selling stock,” you – the photographer – are essentially selling image rights. You own the original copyright to the photograph, but buyers could own specific rights for very particular uses. For example, a magazine editor could buy the publishing rights to an image for one issue and one exact size on a page. Based on the size of the image and the periodical’s circulation, the editor and agency agrees on a price for that specific use. The agency keeps a percentage of the fee and the photographer is paid the remainder. Stock sales can still amount to a modest passive income stream  for a photographer but not nearly what it used to be. Getty Images, Shutterstock, and Adobe Stock are just a few stock agency options.
Earn Money from Photography
“Simba” Young lioness in tree, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Be A Guru

If you have the knowledge and desire to teach, sharing what you know can be a fun and profitable way to earn money from photography. Online classes via Zoom, writing ebooks, or leading workshops to photo-worthy destinations are just a few different ways to share your passion. Teaching is a very particular skill, however, which is completely separate from your photography skills. Being a good photographer doesn’t necessarily mean you will be a good photography teacher. Be honest with yourself. Are you a good communicator? Are you a good listener? Are you genuinely passionate about teaching others? Are you compassionate? Are you naturally generous with your time and attention? Are you a leader? The answers to these questions should all be considered before asking others to invest their time and money in you.

NFTs

I’ve mentioned the prospect of NFTs as a potential income source for photographers both here on my blog and quite frequently on my Twitter feed. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are cryptographic tokens on a blockchain representing a real piece of artwork – like one of your photos! The photograph is minted or “tokenized” and certifies ownership on the blockchain.

The world of NFTs can be perplexing and confusing, but real opportunity does exist in this space. I would recommend an all-photography NFT platform to sell your work (without the digital art, cartoons, and gifs crowding your work out), such as Focus Market, to see how your work is accepted. This option isn’t for everyone, but it requires relatively little effort and time for the potential rewards.

Gone are the days when magazines would hire photographers for assignments and fly them all over the world for their photographic vision. So waiting by the phone for a call from a major media outlet for a photography assignment might be a futile exercise. As I mentioned earlier, this is advice for nature, wildlife, and travel photographers. Portrait and wedding photographers, for example, would have other opportunities in addition – or in place of – these listed above. But whatever you do, be sure make it fun and do it in love.

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By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Focus Market

Essential Composition: Balance

Essential Composition: Balance

Creativity

Essential Composition: Balance

Balance

The concept of balance in composition is one most people can easily understand, even those who don’t consider themselves artists or photographers. After all, the idea of balance can be a lifestyle goal; balanced time, a balanced diet, and just trying to stay balanced and upright to keep from falling over are things to which we can relate. Balance is a universal concept.

In gestalt theory, the Law of Symmetry states that the human mind will constantly seek balance in all visual information it receives from the eyes via the optic nerve. It says that if something appears unbalanced, the viewer will waste valuable time trying to resolve the problem instead of focusing on the scene’s contents. Concerning photography and composition, photographic balance refers to “visual weight” within the image frame and how it’s arranged. The placement, size, and brightness values of all the visual elements will determine if the image feels in equilibrium or not. Photographic balance is harmonious. When an image is out of balance, it can give the viewer a negative or uncomfortable feeling or sensation.

There are two types of compositional balance used in photography, art, and design: formal and informal balance. Symmetry is a type of formal balance where two sides of a photo are mirror images of each other. Symmetry can refer to vertical balance – where the top and bottom are essentially the same – or as horizontal balance – where the left and right sides of the image are equal.

Balance

A reflection is one of the few instances where bisecting the photo through the center of the image frame is effective compositionally. Symmetry works when the photographer wants to communicate or project equality, equivalence, uniformity, or even fairness. There is little visual tension with this arrangement, and all the visual elements are harmonious.

With informal or asymmetrical balance, visual equilibrium is achieved by counterpoising two or more elements at opposite ends of the image frame. The arrangement can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Image balance is achieved by strategically placing two or more of these strong visual elements and distributing them equally within the photograph. While formal balance creates symmetry, informal balance leads to an asymmetrical composition, yet it’s still balanced.

Balance
Balance
Balance

When positioning two powerful visual elements at opposite ends of the image frame, you give the image informal balance and trigger powerful visual tension and energy by moving the viewer’s eye back and forth between the two elements via a virtual diagonal line (see above). These elements could be two competing focal points with varying sizes and colors, as long as they are conspicuous. The result is an image that achieves photographic balance and harmony and is also dynamic. You can learn more about photographic balance and many other compositional concepts in my e-book, Creative Composition: Image Design Masterclass.

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By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Focus Market

NFTs and Photography

NFTs and Photography

Creativity

NFTs and Photography

NFTs and Photography

NFTs and Photography

NFTs have been around a while – at least 5 or 6 years – but it wasn’t until 2021 did they really capture the attention of creators from every corner of the globe. NFTs didn’t even enter our collective consciousness until the artist known as Beeple sold a piece of digital artwork for a record 69 million dollars. A number like that can certainly get people’s attention, so suddenly, everyone was talking about NFTs. So can NFTs benefit photographers? Wait, what is an NFT anyway?

What Is an NFT?

An NFT is a unique cryptographic token on a blockchain that can represent a real piece of artwork, music file, or collectible. These items are minted or “tokenized,” which certifies ownership on the blockchain and allows these assets to be bought, sold, and traded. NFTs are also “non-fungible,” which means they are wholly immutable and not interchangeable with each other, unlike currency or commodities.

NFTs And Photography

When most people think of NFTs, what immediately comes to mind are highly pixelated digital art, cartoons, and GIFs. Some of this art is genuinely compelling work and deserves our respect. Others, however, are no more than non-fungible, tokenized gimmicks (an audio file of a fart was minted and sold on an NFT marketplace just recently). But photography, still in the NFT infancy stage for the most part, is on the rise. Several marketplaces have reported a marked increase in both photography NFTs minted and sold over the past few months. NFT platforms such as Focus Market are even connecting buyers and sellers of photography work exclusively.

If this trend continues, photographers will be able to significantly supplement their incomes with a minimal amount of invested time or effort. In fact, experts expect demand for some of the trendy digital art to wane as collectors seek out higher quality art, including photographic images.

Copyright Issues

When you sell an NFT to a buyer or collector, are you giving up all your I.P. rights? The answer is an emphatic no. You still retain the image copyright just as if you had sold a physical print to a client. The buyer could display the image digitally or re-sell the NFT to someone else. Each transaction is chiseled into the blockchain with complete transparency, so there is never any question about legitimate ownership.

The Environmental Impact?

When I first entered the NFT space a few months ago, its environmental impact was my biggest concern. I read that the BitCoin blockchain, to use one well-known example, consumed as much energy in a year as some entire countries! Ethereum, the blockchain used for most NFT tokenization, is also an energy hog. But green NFT blockchains now exist, and environmentally conscious photographers are flocking in that direction. Ethereum 2.0, perhaps only months away from being introduced, uses 99.5 percent less energy than Ethereum Classic. This means minting a photograph will consume about the same amount of energy as posting an image to Instagram. Well done!

The future of green NFTs is bright. Concerns for the environment and the carbon footprint associated with blockchains and minting NFTs are serious ones but are now mainly in the rearview.

Should You Give NFTs A Try?

If you’re a photographer, you need to do what’s best for yourself and your business. That might include choosing to sell NFTs or not. That’s entirely up to you. But don’t let the fact that NFTs are new and unfamiliar be the reason you decide to sit on the sidelines. During the course of my career, I have watched many photographers dismiss innovative technological trends for no other reason than they were new and required a different approach to the business. The transition from film to digital and embracing social media are two glaring examples. By the time the error was realized, the opportunity had passed and they spent years playing catch up.

Yes, NFTs might seem strange at first glance and perhaps even confusing. But without disclosing any specific numbers, I have made more income with NFTs in only 2 months than I did in print sales over the past 5 years. And I believe this could be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Focus Market