James got a quick win before he even finished the class, with a photo that got over 50k likes and 13k shares, once he mastered low light action photography, without the need of a supertele prime lens. Since then, he had received a lot of recognition, including a photo that will be published in a book by National Geographic!
Want results like these? Check out my one-hour free training on how I took award-winning bird and wildlife photos!
After 30 years of doing photography, including being a professional photojournalist, do you think one can still improve?
Well, James has never stopped learning. He's always the first one to implement new techniques to further master his craft.
James was on a morning stroll when he saw a wild bobcat. The situation was challenging. It was early in the morning with low light. The bobcat was at a backlit spot which made autofocus very difficult.
Knowing he only had a few seconds for this once-a-lifetime opportunity, he used his lightning quick response and superb skill to take a photo, which was quickly featured by NANPA and Frans de Waal, world-renowned biologist and pioneer on animal feelings. James's photo received over 50k likes and 10k shares.
Recently I saw down and chat with James. He's an expert in low light action wildlife photo. You surely don't want to miss this interview above.
Hey everyone, this is Tin Man Lee from Sharp Winning Photos.
Today, one of our very successful clients,
James Capo is joining us to talk about some of his recent photos that got a lot of
recognition, including one photo that got over 35,000 likes
and 4,000 shares, and one of the people who shared his photo was France de Waal,
one of the pioneer in animal behavior. With that said,
hope you enjoy this interview. So, how are you?
How are you doing? I'm doing good. Well,
thank you! You feeling better these days?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, a lot a lot better now.
Yeah, so you are in Arizona? Yeah,
just outside of Tucson. Oh,
I see. I would just want to congratulate you for the photo.
I just took a look and it has 35,000 likes now
I saw that and almost 10,000 shares.
I just it's blowing me away. I can't believe that.
Yeah. I mean just one day before that, you were telling me that
it was your first 1000 likes in NANPA (North American Nature Photographer Association), right?
And then… so you didn't see the Frans de Waal sharing before?
No, I hadn't. If you hadn't sent me that notice that it was getting all that traction there,
I would never have known. So I have actually been following his work
for a long time because I don't know if you have seen his Wikipedia
and he's one of the top pinoeer… what is the another author,
wait, both of them wrote a lot about animal feelings
and empathy and stuff and then he did a lot of research.
Yeah, and he has a really really popular Facebook page.
So I actually have been following him.
You know, I emailed him and I thanked him
for the featuree and asked him where he picked up my my photo from, and he said he didn't remember.
Yeah. I don't know. I only posted it three places.
I see. Wow. It was in award winning photographers (FB group) and the Journal of wildlife photography.
Okay. So one of those three,
I guess he must have picked it up. Yeah.
Yeah. So with that said why don't I just share that screen
so that we can talk a little bit more. It is just too exciting to see this good result.
So, can you see the screen right now? Yep,
sure can. yeah. Yeah, so that's the page right?
So that is Frans de Waal. So,
I was just looking at his Wikipedia page.
So he was he is the Charles Howard Candler
Professor of Primate Behavior in the Department of Psychology at Emory and he had a few books.
I actually own a few books of his about animal feelings
and all, so I would highly recommend you to get it if you haven't. So,
let me see… look at that
and then I'll just slowly scroll it down… 35,000 likes and 785 comments and 9.8…
9,800 shares. That's… Check it out.
Melissa Groo even liked it. Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah, Melissa Groo is one of the most outspoken about animal well-being
and conservation and all the stuff.
so that is cool. And then I also mention to… I was talking in the
Coaching Call few days ago about your photo
and I didn't know if you were able to join last Saturday.
I wasn't on that one. No, okay. Yeah,
so I was saying that one of the key thing
when… so let's go back into the the NANPA page so that is… I think that was the, nope..
There was another one. I was just,
I was just like re-living the moment.
So that was the the one that that I was following.
And once I saw that you posted that photo I think that was probably maybe within an hour after I saw
it and then I saw this crazy amount of likes and all and I said, this
photo is going to break 500 (likes) in record time.
And I told many of the the class that 500 is the benchmark right now.
Like if you can reach that number of likes then it really means that
you really evokes something in people's mind
and when we're looking at it
and then you're just saying to me that right? 1,000 likes, and that was the second day.
So I was talking to the class that in addition to looking at the comments
and the likes, definitely click on the shares
and then you may see some like Audubon Society
and those, some of the big groups and then if you click on that,
you see that some of those groups have sometimes even more likes
or comments on the page such as the Frans de Waal page
and then I also mentioned about the comments,
right? and as you can see here when we look at the comments,
right? A lot of the people would say “fantastic”, “very cool”
and all but what we're looking
for are the long paragraphs. I bet you reply to some of them right
because people actually would stop
by and type a long paragraph, that means this is the emotion that they evoked
and then if it is about like,
oh, I remember this photo, it reminded me of 30 years ago
and I saw my first bobcat for example like that then you know that.
Oh, this brought them back into the memory and stuff like that.
So it's just crazy and then this one yeah,
like look at like this paragraph. I mean it is probably
gonna take you a long time to to reply
and the reason I want to point out to you is
because Susan recently had a photo with 500 likes with her
pelican photo. I think she told me that one lady
said that the photo reminded her of a pelican she saw a few years ago,
and she couldn't wait to get out to try photography again the next day,
you know, that is the kind of difference and I bet that there are so many here. Look at that.
people are waiting essays to you. I know.
This is crazy. I was reading through some of them.
I couldn't respond to all of them. I started to but I mean,
look how many are there that I haven't even, you know, clicked on like for yet.
It's just… yeah, some of them you haven't seen it and you know,
like all these really really long one.
Look at that. So this is the key. I think this is the key where you actually can see like
what kind of emotion you are able to get. I'm just so happy for you.
Can you say a few words about yourself?
Like what you're doing now,
or like how do you start photography. Interesting
because I was listening to your interview with Paul yesterday.
Yes whenever yeah yesterday. I guess it was
and he was talking about how he got into photography
and I could really relate with his story
because I started with a like a brownie
when I was just a little kid
and I have two older brothers, 8 and 9 years older than I
am and they they wanted to start a dark room in the basement of the house
and they kind of convinced me to go along with them.
I think they wanted to use some of my allowance, you know,
so I threw in there and we built a dark room
and Paul was talking about seeing an image developed in the chemical development tray.
And the first time I saw an image just appear out of like, paper like that.
I was so amazed by it. I watched it until little image turned black and thought whoops.
That was I think I forgot to move it into the Stop bath,
but I was just so amazed by it and that kind of really got me interested.
So I got into photography probably
when I was like 11 or so. Wow.
And kind of kept it as a little hobby through my teenage in high school years.
I went to college for journalism, studied photojournalism at college.
And worked a little bit in the field afterwards,
but got sidetracked.
I won't say sidetracked, got another degree in Theology and ended up being hired by church.
And so I wasn't so much working with photography.
Just kind of kept it as a hobby for a number of years,
but like Paul was saying for him photography went latent for about 10 years.
And it did for me too, because work happens, family happens.
Yeah, same here. Yeah, you know my interest was always there
but just never able to find the time
for it until till the digital revolution kind of came along
and I got a digital camera
and it was just kind of time
and everything worked out where I could really kind of get back into it again.
So what I want to say is those 10 years of what Paul was saying the “lost years”, right?
I think we never really stopped our creativity
because we already knew photography
so somehow those years we learn from the life experience
and then a lot of the emotion and feeling and those and and those experience.
I think it is critical for us in the later time
when we create our photos and on to express our feeling,
right? Yeah agreed. Absolutely.
So you mentioned that you have been a photo journalist and a wedding photographer? No not wedding.
I was never much of a people photographer except sports.
I love to shoot Sports. Again. I see that's so much of what Paul was saying in that interval.
I say it was almost my track. As a matter of fact after
I was laid off for a period of time
and I thought okay time to get back into photography
and journalism and just trying to make a living
and wanting to get married at that point in time that I got my big break was probably
getting a picture picked up by the Associated Press of Arnold Palmer trying to
make a comeback at the LA open back in 79.
No I guess it was like 80, 81 or 83 something like that,
but it was just not going to happen for me at that time.
So I ended up getting into financial services.
Oh, also in the finance.
Joining my dad in the business.
He was in the business. So that's what I did
and you know learned a lot and just kind of kept it in the back burner for a long time.
I see. So how did the bird and wildlife came into your life?
Wildlife, nature was always the big draw for me.
I got into journalism photojournalist because that was a way to find an employment,
you know. And sports,
I like to shoot Sports. I always really love nature.
I've been an outdoors person on my life back-packing, hiking, camping.
I see. Things like that.
I see. So that's what I've enjoyed shooting over the years.
So were there any particular thing you wanted to solve
or did you have anything you wanted to improve or something like that?
You know, I'm always looking to improve, and from experienced people that whose work.
I admire, I always figure I could pick something up and you know,
I had a fair bit of success
and over the years and so I thought if I got into your course
and information I can pick up a tip or two and be worth it for me.
I never expected to learn as much as I did.
I have to tell you that. The first thing that impressed me the most as you remember that day.
Like we have this Facebook group, right and then you suddenly reported back.
And you said oh, this is the photo that I just took this morning or yesterday evening.
And and then the ISO was what, 256…
and the photo has no noise
At first I thought of this is not possible because you know,
even though I I love the class, right?
But when I taught something that crazy, nobody’s gonna listen to it,
not even actually go out and try it and you came back and then you tried it.
Like I remember there was a birds in flight with the cactus right?
let me see if I can have that photo right here.
And and you had… did you have some good success for this photo?
And I think there is another one. That is the action one too.
Not here…I can't find it.
But anyway, so one of them was like a photo like this right
and look at the ISO and you …
So anyway, so after that, I knew that you are going to have, you are going to came out
with, getting the best value from this program
because you are someone who actually took action
and you are not afraid and then you went back to the place and then I think you got an in-flight shot.
And then you get… I think two shots
one with a very unique background, one is a very creamy background or something like that,
Right? So how was the process of testing that out?
What did you think when you first heard about those crazy
I shot mostly with crop sensor before
and anytime I got up to 800 ISO that was about as far as I could manage and get anything usable.
So I was always trying to control the ISO which meant you know, longer shutter speeds
and missing a lot of shots,
especially when it got darker out. So when you started talking about,
you know exposing to the right (ETTR) even under low light and everything I was going, this is crazy!
I tried to do the opposite and just let the ISO float basically
and so I figured I would give it a try, made sense to me the more
information you get in there the better
chance you have for it to be doing something than if you don't get the information in to the sensor,
you know, you got nothing to work with
so I figured I'd give it a try
and I'd also also started to use denoise, topaz denoise
and so between your class on how to get the information into the sensor in the first place.
I was now using a full frame sensor,
which is better at the higher ISO,
but I've never dreamed of going that high but I figured I'm just going to let it float.
I'm just going to set auto ISO
and set the shutter speed and aperture where I need it and and see what happens.
And so I got the picture back in these 25600 and I thought well,
I'm going to run it and see
what happens and it really amazed me that I could get something good out of it, usable out of it
and not just usable but really, quality, usable.
It surprised the daylights out of me.
Yeah, and I want to just yeah like this with you.
Yeah, that one was also 8,000 ISO.
Hmm. The Bobcat is 10,000 ISO
so, I mean it's opened the door to me to shoot in low light, early morning
and late in the evening photos.
Photos that I would have never thought of trying out before
and you have really the best example to show people that they don't need the like the (Canon) 1DX mark III.
They don't need the R5. They don't need the 600 F/4, 400 2.8 or whatever. It’s all about,
I think just what Paul was saying yesterday,
did you hear at the end? He said it's all about the techniques. You
have to understand your camera, your lenses
and also your post-processing which is also critical, right?
If you don't know how to do that properly, you wouldn't be able to pull out all the details.
For example, this photo.
And look at the face, it’s absolutely zero noise at ISO
10,000 and the details on the tree and all the different texture.
I think it plays such a strong relationship
like and then the hot and cold (colors). There are so many things playing and then the eyes,
right everybody were talking about the eyes, right
and also the of course the the motion (pose)
and then I think it came into a very interesting time
when people will all talking about the the cougar attack (actually NOT an attack or stalk, but the mother cougar defending and protecting the cubs)
and now and then you come out with a very friendly friendly Bobcat.
This one is what I call it like the Pinnacle of Photography,
which is, the animal is showing you what they do.
Like, this one is seems like he is doing the marking,
right? Yep, is it a male or female?
Do you know? I think it was a male.
I’m not positive but I think it was a male. I think they mentioned
that for the male they have a bigger head
but I don't know about, yeah,
a lot of people mentioned about the eyes because because of the blue eyes there.
I didn't colorize the eyes I brought I used a lot of the techniques
that you teach Dynamic Tension Sharpening (Stacking).
I like that. The light-dark tension.
I did some of that. I brought up the light in the eyes. The overlay.
Yeah and layers to bring out some of the detail
but I didn't colorize that. So I think like
I mean yesterday Paul was talking about the the portrait, the street
right that he mentioned that you know,
sometimes when the animal is in the shadow,
the color temperature is actually colder right?
And so the white color or those’d have a bluish cast
and this is actually reality right because I mean this is backlit.
And so there's some kind of shades of blues in there and then that
It’s really magical, right? So tell us more about that encounter, liker how you get that. People wait
for years for those kind of shots.
Well, there's a little park near my house.
Actually, there are two parks that I like to go
to and I'll walk in the parks
and I know the wildlife that's there
and I had seen a bobcat once before in this park
and actually posted that I think you might have seen that one its licking his paws.
So I knew bobcats were in the area
and seen a number of times
but this one I just walked into the park early, right around sunrise
and, I saw little motion at the edge of the trail where it
went into the woods, dead in front of me.
And so I stopped and I looked at
it and I realized it was a bobcat and so I got down on one knee and you know,
just try and get lower angle
and see what it would do and it came out, walked up onto the trail
and walked along the berm there in front of the woods and I've got another shot.
I don't know if I can share my screen here that I sent you an email just before we got on.
Oh, okay that a bunch of photos in it. Wow,
that's a lot of photos. Yes. Oh my God, you got some crazy backlit photo.
So it started walking along this berm in front of the woods there and that was shot and I mean,
I just watched it, crouched down, drank from the puddle
for a little bit and then got up
and stretched and went over to that tree and stretched out scratching the walls on the tree.
So I don't know maybe close to 10 minutes
of watching him and then somebody came walking the dog behind me
and it always happens like that. The bobcat disappeared into the woods after that.
So, oh, that's look at that you got eye level.
This is a clearing and it’s almost like a fairy tale like with that kind of backdrop.
It kind of reminded me of the people who were taking photos of the
elephants in this place the Mana Pool in Zimbabwe
you know like this Ancient Forest, right?
But turns out is actually somewhere near where you live right?
Yeah. This is real close to my house. Yeah.
a quarter of a mile from my house. Pretty crazy.
It's next to a ball field and the ground and things like that.
Yeah the background of that image is a little noisier than I would have liked,
but I really like the way it worked because to me it just says he's coming out of the woods.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean the glow is awesome.
So I think that really compensates
for everything and then I really love like this texture right here too
and then you get the four feet separate, eye level.
Oh God, it was good. I can't wait to see
how this one does and then you get a close up to heaven post.
Yeah. I got a close-up too, that's when it first came out onto the front of me.
Oh wow I see. I really love the lines of this one too.
And, so all these photos you were really braving it at 10,000 ISO.
So what were you using before, like before you do that?
So you don't push it to the “super” exposed to the right thing (ETTR), then
what would you do if you like you didn't know about this
techniques? I’d be getting like basically blackness
because there was no way I was going to be able to… I wouldn't have pushed it past
probably 1600 ISO before. I would try to stretch the 1600.
Okay, so that why I used the limit, cuz you can limit the auto ISO.
Yeah. Yeah. Oh don't do that. Don't do the maximum ISO thing.
what what I always did until I listened to you and I thought okay.
I'm going to take it off and just see what happens. Obviously,
it's one of the better decisions I've ever made
to listen to that.
So basically if we haven't met right? You
also need to try a few times to be comfortable,
to know that the extreme limit right?
Because if this is like only the first day we talked about it,
then you wouldn't be comfortable.
But since you have tried again
and again. This is what I talked about like this one, this one
and a lot more that you have been perfected it, right?
And then when this one comes then you know exactly
what is going to do because I really like that you were not
giving up 1/1000s to go
for like 1/500s because that would be questionable.
Right? If is 1/500s because this rising and going down, you're not panning it.
There's no panning action that can help the
shutter speed to freeze it (the action). It is all vertical and down.
So you need the maximum speed. So I want to salute you for doing that.
Yeah. Yeah, and just imagine how many people would have missed that shot.
If they were not giving this kind of try, going on
this ISO and look at that. I literally I think this one you can print at 32 inch
or more, larger prints with no problem
at all and you're not even using the 1DX mark III,
right? So that is Canon 6D Mark II, that's decent sensor, decent camera for sure,
but it's not. Yeah,
not the 5D. So,
how did it change your style of shooting these last few months after…?
Obviously time of shooting has expanded
for me into the beautiful, beautiful time when the light is remarkable,
but low, but I've also ditched my tripod, you convinced me to do that.
Oh really so you were a “tripod user”?
Yeah. I didn't go anywhere without my tripod
and didn't realize how much it was really restricting me because again,
I was thinking I need to be steady especially if I'm going with a slower shutter speed.
So, you know, this is there's this domino effect that starts: I
can't risk a high ISO therefore I need to
shoot with lower shutter speed and therefore I need a tripod there,
you know all of these things that happen, right?
Hmm. Yeah. Well,
I couldn't have gotten this if I had a tripod so,
you know, you've changed the way I shoot considerably.
Yeah, with these these techniques.
Yeah because looking at that, this bobcat is a giant right,
but I mean bobcat is just bigger than the house cat maybe not not by that much, right?
But you were able to get low. That is almost looking down at you.
He became a giant and and that's when you were kneeling down?
Yes. Yes. What I want to say is you have a very artistic eye
and you were able to see all these colors like from all these photos.
Right? Look at this one. You see this one.
What is the name of it. iIs it called Periwinkle?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, like purple maybe.
Yeah like this
you are very good at finding ery nice background
and you know the shapes
and all these things and I think that the techniques that we have been
talking a lot about really helped you to realize
what is in your mind, in your brain,
right? Like this one,
right? You immediately get into the position
and if you are still using the tripod, right? By the time you adjust the height
and all and it would not be possible
and also the ISO really opens up a lot of opportunities and I do think that, with all fairness,
right? Most of the people would not be able to nail the shot with
this because it was not too bright, I bet, it was a little bit dark,
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean I was in shadow
for the most part it was just a few minutes after sunrise basically
when you see that your images were respected by the peers more
and also respected by some pioneers in biology
and animal and seeing all these comments and all, like what does it feel to you?
Oh man exciting. Yeah.
You know, obviously I mean
when Frans de Waal picked this up
and it started getting the traction there totally flabbergasted me.
I was thrilled to get you know, 3 or 400 or 500 (likes) on NANPA,
I thought was, that made my day,
when I got 500 likes in two hours on that
I was doing a happy dance and then it just kind of kept going from there.
So this is, I don't know, just tremendously rewarding, very exciting.
Yeah, and you made me doing the happy dance too,
you know. Yeah, and I'm just really just I mean,
this is really just helping,
you know, I'm so glad that you're able to accept all these weird crazy theories.
Right? I mean even, you know,
just few days ago when I created a post about exposed to the right (ETTR) tutorial
a free tutorial to people, people still challenged me,
they’d say, wrong, like I know about ISO invariance,
I know about all these things and I don't see any difference and you know,
they’d quote a lot of the studies, website
and all but like we tested it out,
reality is very different
and when we tested it out
and really see that oh my God before that my photos were not printable,
but now there's no noise,
right? Because nobody gonna believe that. That’s the thing
and that's what made sense to me
when you were saying about how you have to get the light in there in order
for the information to record on the sensor.
Yeah, not letting enough light in there, you just not going to get the information to record
which means you can't bump the darks without getting noise
because it's not information there to pull out but at least if you exposed to the right,
it means you're going to have to do the post-processing obviously
because you can't just take it out straight out of the camera.
In post-process, you got to work at it.
But at least the information is there so that you can pull it out and make a nice image.
Yeah. Yeah. It's almost kind of like the dark room process where you have to understand every single component.
When you give in the signals that is this
big and then the noise is always like this,
and if it’s dark then the ratio of the noise
and the signal is so big that you can recover that right,
but now that even it’s dark it doesn't really matter
as long as you make sure that ratio is still keeping consistent
and then you can get crazy stuff.
So I'm just so happy for you. Like
for anyone who is on the fans of this course right then you still recommend them, right?
You bet. Definitely. Yeah, so let me,
thank you so much ,James. Let me just mention a couple of other things
because there are a lot of things that went together with this that I got from your course.
Okay, the greens in the background were
lighter and I had to bring those tones down to make the cat stand
out not not pull you eyes into the back.
I didn't do… I don't have Nik so I didn't use Nik to do that.
I did it in Lightroom, just going into the HSL
and clicking on the greens
and bringing the luminance down on the greens and that did the trick for that.
So that was one thing again that I picked out from your class.
Not that I didn't know about it before
but I saw it and use and I saw how you used it
and I thought okay that's going to work through this image.
So I did that and then the the Tension Sharpening as well as the light-dark tension,
which I had to do on this image, especially around the face,
but that will pull the cat out more.
So a lot of the post processing things that you teach, I used in this to
bump the image to get the most out of the image.
So it starts with getting the right exposure.
Because that gives you the material to work with
but then you need to know how and post to use that material to make the image work.
Yeah, the whole strategy, every step you do is really bring out the data
so that it helps you to to evoke the emotion that you want
and it's not just like those typical boring stuff that we used to be taught,
right? Oh, you just do this color correction,
and then this sharpening, and then this denoising,… No!
Every step is all about this tension and helping the the viewers to look at it.
Right? And and then these comments right here is the proof that
every single one of them is, is just amazing.
I mean, there's not… Look at that.
Like there's no short comments. Everyone is a whole paragraph.
And so that means… those are the people you never met,
right? Yes. Look at this paragraph.
And yeah, it's just …
and I haven't even pulled it out and I don't even know. Look at that!
While we were just talking about it, it’s from 9,800 to 9,900 shares now.
You know, one of the things that I have to say to was
so cool, a lot of the comments that we read through the comments they say,
you know “Were you afraid?” “It's just wild cat” and all. I wasn't afraid.
The cat was completely unthreatened by me being there.
It was just completely natural and I just felt privileged.
I mean, I wasn't scared at all
and all I could think about was I hope I'm getting hese pictures.
Yeah. So, is there anything that you like about the course?
Yeah, it's a real package deal.
I mean, there's so much, like I say, I expected to get a tip or two.
I started and I ended up just kind of being… there was so much.
I ended up changing
or implementing into my post processing and workflow and different things.
The whole course has a package, has been endlessly helpful.
Yeah, and I think you agree that you know the whole thing about taking photos
and also the editing becomes
so much more fun like when people look at this photo they feel the emotion
and all but they didn't realize that you have put in how many tensions
right? or the techniques of getting rid of the noise
and all this hard work right? People would not know. They will see this photo
and make a huge difference in their life.
But all the small details, every step you didn't miss (or) mess up.
Like there can be probably 50
or 100 things that you could have missed, mess up in this
whole process from from getting prepared to
the exposure, to the focus, to the composition, right to the color to the brighten/ darken
everything can pull away people from the attention of that
but once you realize that then it was so much fun,
righ?t When you see this kind of things right? like people who just don't know you would do that.
So well I hope you all the success, James!.
Thank you Tin Man, I really appreciate it.
Thank you for being so generous to share your time,
and I think a lot of people can learn from you. Before you post this photo,
what do you think would be the response in NANPA?
Oh, well, I was hoping I'd get a few hundred likes.
So, you know, I figured if I got 300 likes that would be real success.
So when I had that at first hour I just,
I had no idea what to expect after that. Yeah,
and I knew. I mean once
I saw that I knew that it’s going to break all the record. Awesome!
So yeah, congratulations once again,
and I look forward to talk to you more, James, and thank you. And thank you much Tin Man, I really appreciate it.
Alright! Have a good day. Talk to you soon.