3 Minutes with Photographer Michael Kern

3 Minutes with Photographer Michael Kern


Photographic artistry can take on many forms. Those that make the greatest impact often challenge convention and blend styles to create something new. Nature photography is defined almost as strictly as Photojournalism where one’s subject must be honestly portrayed with minimal digital alteration (e.g. no composites, cloning, etc.) all while showing animals in the wild versus captivity. Fine art photography on the other hand swings to the other end of the spectrum where anything goes. One photographer who blends these two photographic genres together in such a way to highlight the best of both worlds is Michael Kern who is today’s guest on “3 Minutes with…”

1. Describe your photography in 100 words or less.

“Help people find the beauty in the beast” – Since the dawn of time, few creatures have stirred as much emotion as serpents and dragons. Evoking fear and respect, hatred and reverence, they dominate the mythology of virtually every major civilization. Nonetheless these creatures of nature can be spectacularly beautiful, rich in color, line, texture and form – classic elements of artistic style and composition. Unfortunately, appreciation of this beauty requires one to get close enough to study the complex scale patterns, color palettes, and textures that nature creating in these species. I create my images to help people find this rarely seen beauty in a safe, non-threatening manner.

2. What gear/software do you use?

I shoot with Nikon gear…. Currently a D3 and D3X (when I can get my hands on one). Almost 90% of my work is shot with a Nikkor 105 macro lens. I heavily utilize and love the whole Nikon R1C1 macro flash system. I have added additional light modules to the system to increase the shooting flexibility and creativity options. In postproduction, I have been all over the place, from Photoshop to Lightroom to Capture NX…. utilizing quite a few add ins. I am currently using Lightroom and Photoshop w/Nik SW’s Viveza as my current workflow solution.

3. What’s one quick tip that you’d give people interested in animal portrait photography?

Don’t be afraid to break the rules. My work doesn’t fit in any real genre. I try to create “fine art images” with my work but because the subjects are of animals people consider my work “nature photography”. However, since I stage most of my shoots, my work isn’t pure nature either. I am in between genres….

4. What 3 Photography Sites or Photo blogs do you recommend?

Most of my research is need specific…. I keep my eye on Nikon Rumors and DP Review but also have gotten a lot of value from the National Association of Photoshop Professionals when new versions of the Adobe tools are released.

To view more of Michael’s photography visit his web site:
The Gardens of Eden (http://www.thegardensofeden.org/)

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Jim Goldstein is a San Francisco based professional photographer. An author as well as a photographer Jim has been published in numerous publications including Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Popular Photography and has self-published a PDF eBook Photographing the 4th Dimension - Time covering numerous slow shutter techniques. His latest work and writing can be found on his JMG-Galleries blog and on 500px

Some Older Comments

  • Paul March 25, 2012 06:26 am

    First time I've seen snakes as the chosen subject. Interesting subjects.

  • Alisa March 24, 2012 11:22 pm

    Stunning photos, thanks for sharing a unique aspect and wonderful photography.

  • Ken Nichols March 23, 2012 06:41 am

    I just would like to know if your father might have taught photography at Syracuse University in the '60s. There was a Robert Kern there when I went through the Navy's Photojournalism Program. Ken Nichols

  • Pietro Cecchi March 23, 2012 03:35 am

    Super great photos, Michael... :)
    National Geographic style.


  • MsKirpi March 22, 2012 06:27 am

    I'm not a big fan of snakes & reptiles, but these photos are amazing! They make the critters look almost appealing to me! I love the detail of the scales & eyes (even though I got the shivers).

  • Marcus Davis March 22, 2012 05:55 am

    This is a great article and there is no doubt about the talent, but the pictures are hard to look at. lol I don't really mind snakes, but the extreme close up detail on them makes me squirm. Calling on my bravery to look at the pictures again, I would say that the second picture is my favorite. The fact that its scales look like leaves is amazing.

    I look forward to seeing some of Michael's other work. Preferably something a little more cuddly. lol

  • Catherine / Woo-Notes.com March 22, 2012 01:07 am

    Stunning pictures! and I love this 3-minute concept, it leaves me wanting more (maybe we could get a link to a longer interview? Just a few more questions and answers ;-) ) I'd also like a category or tag link to specifically more of these 3 minute interviews.

  • Miran March 21, 2012 07:16 pm


    Nothing's wrong with his eye, some lizards use their tongue to keep their eyes moist as they have no alternative way of doing so. That picture was obviously take at just the right moment when he was licking his eyeball :)

  • Alexx March 21, 2012 04:55 pm

    Gross second to last pic.

    What's wrong with it's eye?


  • raghavendra March 21, 2012 03:27 pm

    why it is always 3 minutes?
    wildlife photography is the best and tough


  • ccting March 21, 2012 10:52 am

    How come we don't have real Zoom Macro lenses?

  • ccting March 21, 2012 10:51 am

    Wow.. so beautiful...

  • Lara White March 21, 2012 09:19 am

    Stunning photos! I have always loved snakes since the first time I saw one in Kindergarten. For a long time I actually wanted to become a herpetologist actually before becoming a photographer. It has never occurred to me to photograph snakes though-until now. Thanks for sharing these incredible reptile images with the world!

  • Victoria - Washington Boudoir Photographer March 21, 2012 07:20 am

    Scary snake photos!! our certainly braver with me because I never would have gotten that close to them!

  • steve slater March 21, 2012 06:12 am

    Some great photos and a super style.

    I have worked a lot with crocs and and find there is a lot of beauty in that beast: