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Date: Thursday, April 30, 11am Pacific Time
Speaker: Tin Man Lee
Happy Valentine's Day!
Back in July, I was with a group of photographers in Alaska photographing bears.
Once we landed from the small plane, we encountered a male bear with a memorable face.
He had scars on his face and body, noticeably one below his left eye.
And one of his teeth was hanging out, yikes, must be quite painful. The injury was probably due to fight with other bears.
Locals called him “Snaggletooth”.
In the world of bear photography, it's quite a rare treat to be able to photograph an adult male bear, because they don't seem to like humans much.
If you approach them, they either turn around with their back facing you, or simply walk away.
I remember many years ago, a mother bear and her two cubs tried to get close to us so that another male bear in the area wouldn't get too close to them. She just knew that the male bear didn't like to get close to humans.
From my experience, it's mostly overcast when I was in Alaska. Cloudy weather is fine for bear photography because the light is soft. But I've always wanted to get backlighting on them.
With almost 24 hours day light in Alaska in early summer, it's tricky to get dramatic light most of the day. Well, I finally got this chance with Snaggletooth.
At first, I was a bit nervous photographing him as he didn't look too happy.
And the other bears in the same area felt the same way. Wherever he walked to, the bears nearby would flee.
We observed him for 5 days. He mostly spent his time lying on the grass, rolling, sitting up and looking up to the sky as if pondering about life.
In the same area, there were at least another two adult male bears.
One was young and handsome, with a perfectly triangle-shaped head. Another male was almost the same size as Snaggletooth if not bigger, but without any scars on the face.
They all seemed to be pursuing one female bear in the area, a beautiful light-colored “blonde” female bear. This was a photo of her.
Male bears usually would follow a female bear for days before the female accepted them. And a lot of time the female would just not mate with them.
The other two male bears kept following the female bear but Snaggletooth never took any action. He seemed to have given up before even trying.
On our last evening there, something unexpected happened. Snaggletooth was sleeping on the grass while the female bear could be seen a mile from him.
Hopeless. I thought. He's never gonna get the girl if he didn't “up” his game. She's too far away.
But all of a sudden, we saw the female raised her head and sniffed, and started to walk towards our direction where Snaggletooth was. Just for a few steps and she stopped and got back to grazing.
Oh my god. I couldn't believe my eyes. So did Snaggletooth.
Never had she walked his way, even though it's just a few steps.
Was it just a delusion? Maybe she was not interested after all.
He got up, looking at the lady's direction, and he turned his head and looked at us, as if asking us for help.
No one can help you my friend.
Would she still walk this way?
Should Snaggletooth walk over to her?
He couldn't make up his mind, just kept looking around, and looked at us repeatedly.
“Go! Go for her! What are you waiting for!” I screamed in my head.
After a bit of hesitation, this was what happened. Enjoy this video!
First of all, my email list has grown to over 10,000 subscribers now. So, welcome if you are new!
It's been a while. Things have been hectic. I haven't picked up my camera since last November except for one day when my friends Henrik and Don came for a reunion where we went to look for barn owls.
I'm deeply concerned about the coronavirus and have been watching news all the time. It's so difficult to tell what's true or not.
Anyways, 3 things in this post.
1. 4 tips to take unique photos
These days everyone owns a nice camera. If you go to any popular National Parks or famous wildlife/bird hotspots, you find yourself standing next to 50 other photographers pointing at the same direction.
If everyone are taking the exact same photos, what's the point? I've written a post before about one important question you should always ask yourself.
If you are like me, you see photography as an art form for self expression.
Wouldn't it be cool if you take a photo in such a creative way that you know no one else has that photo, and when someone sees this photo, they know its taken by you and you only.
Here, I will share with you 4 quick tips so you can be different.
I) Go against the Rule of Thirds
Canon 1DX Mark II, 600mm f/4 III, 1.4x teleconverter, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 1600
Most of the time, the Rule-of-thirds works, but when you don't follow it, you may create something unique.
Try to compose in a way that the subject goes all the way to the 4 corners and see if it works.
You all know I love backlighting because it creates abstraction (everything turn golden, the grass, the fur, everything, so it instantly creates mystery) and adds mood (with a nice rim light around the animal).
One thing though, if you decide to try backlighting, you better be the first one to get to the right spot because you will be hated by the other 50 photographers standing next to you who all plan to photograph the animal with direct sunlight on the animal/bird. Try to find a place to hide so they (the humans) can't see you.
Nikon D850, Nikon 400mm f/2.8, f/2.8, 1/1000s, ISO 125
Nikon D850, Nikon 600mm f/4, 2x teleconverter, f/8, 1/800s, ISO 800
III) Black and White
If your photos have nice form, meaning it has some interesting texture, lines, curves and shape, then removing the color components may help the viewers to focus on the beauty of the form.
Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm f/4, 1.4x teleconverter, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 1600
Canon 1DX, 600mm f/4, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO 800
For some reason, rhinos always look good in B&W because of their “armor”
Nikon D850, 600mm f/4, 2x teleconverter, f/8, 1/1250s, ISO 800
Canon 1DX Mark II, 70-200 2.8, f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 800
IV) Smaller in frame
This is the most mis-understood concept. I saw many photographers tried to do that but it's very difficult to do it well. It's hard to find an environment that is in harmony with the animal.
Nikon D850, 70-200 2.8, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 100
So yes, this is it. Give these four tips a try next time and let me know how it goes.
2: New purchases
Jacket: I had been wearing my Mountain Hardwear jacket and loved it but I guess I messed it up by not following the instructions to wash it. It's no longer warm. I finally purchased the Arcteryx Cerium LT after trying different ones in REI for a whole month. Oh my god, I can't believe how light weight and warm it is. It's not cheap but I highly recommend it.
Peloton: Don't laugh, yes I purchased a Peloton. Ever since I injured my back 4 years ago with two herniated discs in my lower back, I was so fortunate that I healed after trying acupuncture.
Since then, I have been taking my health seriously. I went for a healthy diet (low carb, yogurt and all those), and would do exercise everyday and I have lost 35 pounds in 2 years.
However, while running uphill for an hour near the super windy Patagonia last April to look for pumas, and sprinting on deep snow for two miles with heavy lenses last Oct for a red fox in falling snow, I realized that I'm still way out of shape.
Lately I found out that the best way to lose body fat is by going for HIIT cardio exercise after intermittent fasting. I usually don't eat after 7pm these days, and I would like to do cardio when I wake at 6 or 7am.
Getting dressed and driving to the gym for cardio in early morning isn't easy…
Anyways, it's all excuse. I just want to try new things. If you also own a Peloton let me know and let's be exercise buddies. It's been so much fun after owning it for a few weeks, sweating like crazy for 30-45 mins each time and I love those Live classes. But boy those classes are tough!
3) Facebook Live Masterclass
I've been working on a webinar on wildlife photography and it will be broadcasted live at my exclusive Facebook Group: Award-Winning Wildlife Photographers within the next two weeks. Anyone in the group can join at no cost. If you are interested, go to the link and request approval to join, and stay tuned.
While in Hong Kong, I tried my best to convince my mom that it was not dangerous to photograph wolves and that I wouldn't be eaten. She looked quite worried when she saw this photo I took back in last Oct.
It's 2am and I'm still wide-awake.
Just got back to Los Angeles after a short trip to Hong Kong and I didn't seem to be able to adjust to the jet lag.
I've been wanting to update my homepage for a long time to make it simple and clean.
Even though I am quite a mess, I am a minimalist at heart, at least that's my aspiration. And I still dream to live in a van someday…
I love photographing BIF (birds-in-flight).
Nothing gets the adrenaline rushing when you see a beautiful and elusive bird flying by.
You only get this one chance, no one is there to help you, to get the bird in focus in your viewfinder, pan along with the flight of the bird, and nail a shot to reveal the stunning flying pose that's not visible by the naked eyes.