Hello my dear friend,
Hope you are enjoying a nice weekend! 5 things in this newsletter with lots of info.
1. An Unexpected Message Which Took 6 Years To Happen
2. Quotes I Like And Some Must-watch Movies
4. Three Recent Pics
5. A Quick Reminder
1. An unexpected message which took 6 years to happen
6 years ago I took up wildlife photography seriously.
I spent 10 years before that on the passive side, only appreciating wildlife photos by others. Then one day I woke up and realized maybe I could do it too.
I forgot how, but I had two past issues of Nature's Best Photography magazines on my coffee table at that time. Prior to that, I didn't know there were wildlife photo contests.
I was so fascinated by the photos in these two magazines that I almost torn the pages by accident after looking at them for hours day after day.
I remember they featured the 2011 grand prize winner Federico Veronesi, a grand master of African wildlife and an expert in backlit emotional photos, receiving the top award in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, my favorite museum.
They also featured CS Ling, the grand prize winner of 2012, with a stunning shot of an endangered Southern Pig-tailed Macque sipping water in an upside-down pose showing the reflection in the water.
One particular photographer who won awards in both years caught my attention, with a winning photo of a cheetah family in the rain.
The mother cheetah shook off the rain when all the droplets of that shake fell onto her 6 cubs right next to her. The photographer was able to use a creative slow shutter speed to capture the drastic splash against a darker background, while catching the moment when each cub had a different facial expression: one with eyes closed to avoid the water, one with tongue out to taste it, two looked away, and two didn't even care.
I was blown away by the talent and creativity of that photographer, and highly admired him since then.
Fast forward to 2015, we finally met for the first time and we had a wonderful chat in a nice Thai restaurant in Hong Kong while I was preparing for my solo exhibit at HKUST. Later he would give me some fantastic tips on photographing Falkland Islands.
Then few days ago, he told me he had purchased (!) my digital workflow and thought it's really good, that he liked and agreed with my new “tension” idea, and that the best thing was he hasn't seen any other videos/books that took that new and easy-to-follow approach. We talked a lot more in details afterwards.
Actually I would not hesitate to give the workflow to him for free to thank him for all the support and inspiration over the years, but I also know that people don't tend to watch a 6-hour tutorial video if it's offered free, so I didn't say anything when he bought it, and just waited for his feedback, of course anxiously. And I was so thrilled to hear what he said.
His name is Paul McKenzie. (Instagram, Facebook) Check out his award-winning cheetah photo (that I talked about) on the cover page of his website, and his numerous outstanding blogposts with brilliant images and his thought process in depth. Definitely check out his blogs on Africa, midway Atoll and Japan. He's now a multiple-time Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International and Wildlife Photographer of the Year award winner.
2. Quotes and movies that I like
I was listening to a podcast recently which peaked my interest to watch an old movie The Legend of Bagger Vance. The story was written by my favorite author Steven Pressfield. (my fav book The War of Art)
Some of the words are so beautiful and can be applied to wildlife photography:
(About life:) What I'm talking about is a game… A game that can't be won, only played…
Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing… Something we were born with… Something that's ours and ours alone… Something that can't be taught to you or learned… Something that got to be remembered… Over time the world can rob us of that swing… It gets buried inside us under all our wouldas and couldas and shouldas… Some folk even forget what their swing was like…
Put your eyes on Bobby Jones… Look at his practice swing, almost like he's searching for something… Then he finds it… Watch how he settle himself right into the middle of it, feel that focus… He got a lot of shots he could choose from… Duffs and tops and skulls, there's only ONE shot that's in perfect harmony with the field… One shot that's his, authentic shot, and that shot is gonna choose him… There's a perfect shot out there trying to find each and every one of us… All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us… Can't see that flag as some dragon you got to slay… You got to look with soft eyes… See the place where the tides and the seasons and the turning of the Earth, all come together… where everything that is, becomes one… You got to seek that place with your soul Junuh… Seek it with your hands don't think about it… Feel it… Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be… Now I can't take you there Junuh… Just hopes I can help you find a way… Just you… that ball… that flag… and all you are…
Two other movies I have been enjoying are AlphaGo (free in Netflix) and Loving Vincent (which I watched on my flight from HK to LA). If you haven't read this book “The letters of Vincent Van Gogh“, you must. It's one of the most important books you can learn about art and nature.
Getting close up photos of wild wolf is the dream of most wildlife photographers. Usually it takes 10 years of visiting Yellowstone National Park to get one such encounter because wolves are very smart and elusive. You may only be able to see a tiny dot of them miles away.
I heard that one time some famous photography crew set up numerous trail cameras in the park, hoping these wolves would trigger the infrared beam at night to get some photos. Turned out the wolves destroyed all the cameras (from behind the cameras) and the crew got zero pic. (info not confirmed)
But, about 20 years ago, the famous Druid wolf pack conquered the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone, with 37 members strong, rumored to be the biggest pack in history. They would take down bison once every few days. Photographers could get once-a-lifetime shots without waiting for 10 years. But that was the film day.
Well, finally, it happened again. Druid pack is no longer here. But now the Wapiti pack of Hayden Valley has over 20 wolves, and are taking down elk very frequently near the road.
If you are planning a trip to take wildlife photos, go to Yellowstone and hire a snowcoach NOW. Winter in Yellowstone is ending in 60 days, meaning you may not get snow or see the winter coats of the wolves.
For me, I have a day job, so I may have to wait for another 20 years.
Here are a few lucky souls (friends) who had some close encounters these past two weeks in Yellowstone. Now let's all get envious together…
Trent's pic (I always love black wolf)
Sam's pic (the white alpha female)
Just 4 words I want to say to them.
“I hate you guys!”
4. Three recent pics
I have revisited some of my old photos and applied my new digital workflow (DTS) to them and got some good results. As one of the members of the class told me “Tin Man Lee has given new life to my old images.” Thank you!
I took this bear photo in 2011! It's not easy at all to get good light in the Alaska summer. Why? Because it has almost 24 hours of day light and we were not allowed to go out from the lodge after 10:30pm and before5:30am or something like that, while sunset is at what, 2am…! And most of the time it's cloudy and rainy there. Ever since my good friend Carl told me about Andy Rouse's “Red5” concept I have been loving this kind of light. How about you? 500mm, f/4, 1/500s, ISO 1600, tripod on mudflat.
Took this in 2013. A family of endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox. Besides Red5, I also love backlighting. 600mm, 1.4x TC, f/5.6, 1/1600s, ISO 1600, handheld.
The “Birdie and the Beast” was taken in 2011 but recently got shared a lot by different groups in Instagram. It was a nice sunny day when the bison and calves were hanging out but I was attracted by a cowbird which was picking up insects close to a bison. Way too close. The bison was grazing into her direction and not stopping. How come the bird didn't fly away? I wondered. I quickly focused on the bird and within a second, the tongue of the bison almost touched the cowbird. The bird fluffed the feather, gave out a chirp and flew away in the last moment, barely escaping the tongue bath. 500mm, 1.4x TC, f/6.3, 1/1600s, ISO 800, handheld. The shot later won a highly honored award in the Animal Antics Category in Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International.
To see these photos in high resolution, please go to the Portfolio album on my homepage.
Finally, just a friendly reminder that the special offer of my digital workflow online class is ending in just a few hours. Hundreds have taken the class and loved it, and I want to control the total number of students a little bit because I am managing a private facebook group to answer/critique on member's photos, and the number has been growing really fast and it's getting harder to manage.
I have created a mini tutorial on the basic concept behind this brand new method on my webpage. Check it out if you are interested. It's going to save you years of learning if you are ever planning to submit your photos to contests, publication and printing, and not wanting to make deadly mistakes.
Here are a few new testimonials from some award-winning photographers taking this class which I am super honored and humbled to hear:
“It is certainly worth more than what you have it priced now! It is totally a unique approach. I just love it!”
“Your revelations are fantastic! You are going to change the face of wildlife photography.”
“You’re offering to teach folks things they won’t learn anywhere else.”
“You have made me re-think my post processing so much. I owe you one. Thanks.”
Talk to you next time! Please kindly forward to any of your photography friends who may benefit from the info about the wolves, or learning from the digital workflow class. Much appreciated!
If you have problem purchasing, please go to: https://gum.co/BuBK