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Capturing the Living Environment

A Guest Post by David Julian

“Wherever I go, I seek compositions that artfully interpret subjects and the ‘feel’ of the place they inhabit”

Gulls at sunset Oregon 293

On a recent road trip down the Oregon coast, I spent a day at infamous Canon Beach. To say that it’s a magical and photogenic place is an understatement. The surrounding public access coastline draws over 20,000 people a year, yet much of it can easily be seen with hardly a soul upon it.

On this September morning, there were probably forty people within a hundred feet of me near the base of the ever popular Haystack rock, so I chose to move in closer to nature and leave the people out of frame. It’s easy to reach these multi hued Ochre Sea Stars at low tides, but a challenge to find an unpopulated composition that really comes to life. I wanted to show the habitat more than to focus in on the animals themselves, which I would make detailed portraits of later. I also made a gallant effort not to step on the anemones, mussels and tiny crabs covering the area.

“I must have looked like a strange clown balance stepping toe to toe with the extended tripod legs held high over my head.”

OregonTrip 2011 9

Once I found the perfect composition, I mounted my SLR and a favorite lens, my Canon 17-40mm wide zoom, composing half my frame with the starfish grouping and half with the landscape and shoreline.

The warm morning sun lit my foreground perfectly. Timing the shot was important as incoming tidal waves swirled in and around my sinking tripod legs, causing a shift in its position. I stopped my lens down to f16 to use a high Depth of Field to show not just the starfish, but also the nurturing sea and landscape’s details. A slow exposure allowed me to soften the receding waters leaving a reflected sky.

Sun Starfish Cannon Beach V

The result was a pleasing description of animals in their environment.

I had some interesting shots, but I was not finished telling the story of this amazing place. I wanted also to show our accessibility to these environments. My next idea was to show the starfish and the people in an imaginative way. I put my camera back in my bag and strolled along the tide pools noting how people viewed the uniquely accessible offerings of undersea nature in their path.

Once I had a feel for their behavior, I set out to reverse the typical photograph of people watching nature. Instead, I put my camera’s point of view as close to the starfish as possible, and let the people become the background. This technique worked perfectly, and put the emphasis on the natural history of this location rather than our occupation of it.

DJ self portrait kayaking web72About the Author: Travel, nature and fine art photographer David Julian has spent 30 years capturing the essence of places, people and light with creative vision.

Since 1991, Dave has led over 60 workshops and won several national awards for fine and commercial arts. His images have been commissioned by leading corporations, collectors and published in books, blogs and magazines including Nikon World, Outside, Geo, Islands, Conde Nast Traveller, Audubon, Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Rangefinder and The New York Times Travel magazine.

When not taking on assignments or developing projects, Dave kayaks, speaks publicly and instructs group and individual photography workshops in the US, abroad and online.

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