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Assignments from the New York Times are always a great exercise because the turn-around time is often very short.  For most other assignments, I have at least a week or so where I can research the subject, scout the location, and get a sense of what the weather will be like on the shoot date.  Last week I was assigned to photograph for Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed about empathy.  The subject of the story had passed away, and it wasn’t possible to cover the funeral because of the deadline for the paper, so I was asked to photograph the story subject’s brother.  I arrived at the location and had a quick look around.  The first image I was asked to make was of Mr. Green holding a photo of his brother.  The best picture available was on a smartphone.  That picture-of-a-picture worked well to show a current image of the subject, but was very literal. It served to illustrate what Kevin looked like prior to his passing.

The possibilities for making a stronger image unfolded within the hour or so I had to complete the job.  The subject was a kind, gentle man who, despite his hurt foot, was willing to walk a short distance to stand in the glorious sunshine.  The idea I had discussed with my editor was to place him in the context of the family farm.  It was a bucolic Oregon scene: an old barn, some rusty farm equipment, and a very willing beagle.  These together provided the setting for our subject.  Mr. Green moved naturally into this position which suggests sadness, so all I had to do was to be sure that the focus and exposure were set properly.  I think it worked well.  What do you think?

Here is a link to the story.

The photos that were used are below.

Clayton Green, brother of Kevin Green, at his family's farm in Yamhill, Ore.

Clayton Green, brother of Kevin Green, at his family’s farm in Yamhill, Ore.  Photographed on location with a Caono 5D Mark III using a 24-105mmL IS USM lens.

Clayton Green holding a photo on a cell phone of his brother Kevin Green, at his family's farm in Yamhill, Ore.  Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24-105L IS USM lens.

Clayton Green holding a photo on a cell phone of his brother Kevin Green, at his family’s farm in Yamhill, Ore. Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24-105L IS USM lens.

 

From the North Pole to the sands of Hawaii, my cameras and I saw many incredible places.

Here are some of the highlights.

My year began in Birmingham for National Geographic Traveler for a story about the history of Civil Rights in the city, but from a traveler’s perspective. The assignment took me to the Civil Rights Museum and the inside of the 16th Street Baptist Church, both sobering experiences.  Birmingham also has a fabulous food scene from down home BBQ to some seriously delicious high-end Southern Cuisine.  The lively arts scene was a surprise, complete with small music venues and vegan restaurants.

The Wales Window at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

The Wales Window at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

The Bottletree restaurant, which offers vegan cuisine, and music venue located in the Avondale district of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Bottletree restaurant, which offers vegan cuisine, and music venue located in the Avondale district of Birmingham, Alabama.

The next great assignment came from the Smithsonian Magazine : photographing the Von Trapp children who have made Portland, Oregon their hometown. We spent time climbing trees and jumping on rooftops with umbrellas to get some wonderful images of these multi-talented youngsters.

The Von Trapp children in Portland, Oregon

The Von Trapp children in Portland, Oregon

From there, it was off to Baja, where I taught photography on board the National Geographic Sea Bird.  We traveled throughout the Gulf of California experiencing all kinds of wildlife. Swimming with sea lions at Los Islotes, Orca whales bow riding at midnight under a full moon and huge flocks of elegant terns choosing their mates at Isla Rasita are just a few of the amazing encounters we had during our eight day voyage.  The wildlife experts on board kept our shutters flying.

Snorkeling with California Sea Lions at Los Islotes in Baja California Mexico

Snorkeling with California Sea Lions at Los Islotes in Baja California Mexico Photographed with a GoPro Camera

Elegant terns and other sea birds gathering on Isla Rasa, Baja California Mexico

Elegant terns and other sea birds gathering on Isla Rasita, Baja California Mexico

After a few loads of laundry and some face time with the kitties, it was off to Maui for the month of May, where I shot a story about Happiness for Prevention Magazine.  We had fun making smiley faces on trees in the lush, tropical forests.  We did street casting to choose our lovely models who expressed joy with their smiles and their feet. :-)

A tree in the forest on Maui with a happy face made of natural materials.

A tree in the forest on Maui with a happy face made of natural materials.

pink flowers with a happy face in the grass with bare feet, Maui, Hawaii

pink flowers with a happy face in the grass with bare feet, Maui, Hawaii

From Maui, I flew directly to Quebec City for National Geographic Traveler where I spent ten days on assignment.  The European vibe and French speaking Vieux Quebec made me feel as though I had crossed two oceans.

Street scenes from Vieux Quebec, the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico, Quebec City, Canada. Rue Saint Louis lighting up at dusk

Street scenes from Vieux Quebec, the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico, Quebec City, Canada. Rue Saint Louis lighting up at dusk

Lower Vieux Quebec, also known as Quartier Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Lower Vieux Quebec, also known as Quartier Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

In June, I headed to Svalbard to work as the Photography Expert for National Geographic Expeditions on board the Explorer, a beautiful ice breaker.  We sailed among the ice sheets, spotting polar bears and photographing the most incredible blues I’ve ever seen.  The landscape around the North Pole cannot be properly captured in pictures, but we all did our best.

A polar bear with her cub on the pack ice in Svalbard, Norway

A polar bear with her cub on the pack ice in Svalbard, Norway

Austfonna Ice Cap on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, Norway

Austfonna Ice Cap on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, Norway

Ice floating in Svalbard, Norway

Glacial Ice floating in Svalbard, Norway

Teaching photography has been a focus of 2014. In July, I taught a group of aspiring young photographers through National Geographic’s Student Expeditions program in San Francisco.  We explored Muir Woods, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the streets of San Francisco and magnificent Big Sur.  Later in the year I taught two one-day seminars in L.A. and Portland for National Geographic on “The Travel Assignment.”

Our group portrait with all of the National Geographic Student Expeditions at the Sutro Baths, San Francisco, CA

Our group portrait with all of the National Geographic Student Expeditions at the Sutro Baths, San Francisco, CA

Our dusk shoot at the Golden Gate Bridge with Student Expeditions where we experimented with light writing and a group portrait

Our dusk shoot at the Golden Gate Bridge with Student Expeditions where we experimented with light writing and a group portrait

After wrapping in San Francisco, I photographed for several days on beautiful Bainbridge Island in Washington.  The subject?  Chickens.  Chickens and their coops for Amber Lotus, a calendar and card company.  Keep your eyes peeled for the 2016 edition of City Chickens and Their Coops!

Chickens and their Coops Calendar coming out in 2016, but it's not too late to get your 2015 copy!

Chickens and their Coops Calendar coming out in 2016, but it’s not too late to get your 2015 copy!

It was off to Switzerland in September for two weeks covering 1000 miles of Swiss bliss.  Every village and mountain peak was as picturesque as one would expect from this iconic country.  One of the many highlights was visiting a small creamery in the Alps that makes Alpkäse, a traditional cheese made entirely by hand.  I also hiked around the mountains, explored the country by train, car and boat, and (how could I resist?) sampled lots of chocolate.

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

What could be better than this? Crete. I flew directly there from Switzerland and was met by my husband — and my fixer.  We proceeded to spend just over a week shooting the western half of the island.  The food, people, landscape and architecture were outstanding. That story has already hit the newsstands in the Netherlands for the Dutch edition of National Geographic Traveler.

Street scenes in Chania, Crete, Greece

Street scenes in Chania, Crete, Greece

Evening street performers in the village of Paleochora on the southern coast of Crete, Greece, Europe

Evening street performers in the village of Paleochora on the southern coast of Crete, Greece, Europe

After Crete it was off to another island, our home on Maui, where we spent October and November surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding and, of course, making more pictures.  This time the assignment was for me: to explore the underwater world with a Canon 7D and an SPL water housing.  I photographed turtle after turtle, had a few octopus encounters and enjoyed a beautiful moment with a very large spotted eagle ray.

A spotted eagle ray at the reef at Black Rock in Kaanapali, Maui

A spotted eagle ray at the reef at Black Rock in Kaanapali, Maui

A large, male Hawaiian green sea turtle swims peacefully over the reef at Kaanapali, Maui

A large, male Hawaiian green sea turtle swims peacefully over the reef at Kaanapali, Maui

Thank you to all of my clients for sending me on such remarkable journeys.

You’ve made 2014 marvelous!!!

 

Zed's surf school at Surfer's Point on the South Coast of Barbados

Zed’s surf school at Surfer’s Point on the South Coast of Barbados

This past November, National Geographic Traveler Magazine celebrated its 30th Anniversary. The magazine was launched in order to ” ‘inspire members [of the National Geographic Society] to go and experience [destinations],” complementing National Geographic, “which has taken its readers to places most of us will never reach.'” This is quoted from the editor’s note in the November 2014 edition, quoting National Geographic editor Gilbert M. Grosvenor‘s editor’s letter from the first magazine launch in 1984.

The issue celebrates how photography has played an important role in the magazine’s history with a segment called,”30 Years in Pictures, The Best Photographs From the Pages of Traveler Magazine,” and one of my images was included.  Keith Bellows wrote, “In this anniversary issue we celebrate our 30th year through the camera lens, offering a chronicle of changing times. Since 1984 we’ve shot more than 3.4 million photos and published some 36,000.”

Having an image chosen from that number must be what it feels like to win the lottery. :-)

You can see the picture on my web site here or on National Geographic Traveler’s site here.

 

 

Two girls skipping stones at the edge of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana

Two girls skipping stones at the edge of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana, using a Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens on a 5D Mark III

A photograph from a story I shot about Idaho, Wyoming and Montana for the Dutch edition of National Geographic Traveler was recently named one of the top 6 images published by the magazine in 2014.  When I think of the thousands of images each photographer shoots and submits for each story, I feel humbled to have an image so honored.  I can only marvel at the editorial work needed to winnow so many images into just 6 for an entire year.

The image that was chosen is a picture of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, (shown above).  There are two Amish girls skipping stones on the lake. I remember this moment vividly. The editor and I had stopped for a break. I noticed a group of women and girls reading the interpretive signs next to the lake.  These women were so striking in their dresses and head coverings that I couldn’t resist making some images of them. The color of their clothing seemed to come out of the landscape itself, which had a very blue cast that afternoon.  I thought my timing was off as they were just leaving when I started to approach them, but luckily I had started to take pictures of the unfolding scene while on my way over to where they had gathered to admire the lake.  I had my regular, two camera set-up at the time: one 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm and a second 5D Mark III with a 24-105mm.  First, I began using a 200mm to photograph the women from the back, which made a very pretty picture.  However, I had gotten close enough to use a shorter lens when I noticed the girls skipping stones. Although I was only able to take a few frames before they darted off, I managed to get the shot. This experience was a nice reminder that it only takes one frame to capture a beautiful moment.

Two Amish women admiring the view of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana

Two Amish women admiring the view of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana, photographed using Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM on a 5D Mark III

Lower Vieux Quebec, also known as Quartier Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Lower Vieux Quebec, also known as Quartier Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada          image copyright © 2014 Susan Seubert

Public speaking, for me, was once a terrifying prospect.  Standing on stage in front of an auditorium full of strangers, lights low with maybe a dim spotlight on me, huge images projected on the screen behind me: this scenario was petrifying. Yet over the years, it’s become much easier for me to stand in front of an audience and speak.  Perhaps it’s from practice or maybe it’s simply the passing of time, but either way I am now much more familiar with myself and what I do than I was when I gave my first formal lecture.  It was to the Society for Photographic Education’s Conference at Evergreen State College in Washington.  I was 22 years old and had to excuse myself after the first sentence came out of my mouth as I thought I might pass out.

Thankfully, that was not the case these past two Sundays when I had the opportunity to speak alongside National Geographic Traveler’s Director of Photography, Dan Westergren.  I had been asked by the National Geographic Seminar program to prepare a day long talk about “The Travel Assignment”, something with which I am now familiar.  The day was broken up into several segments in order to address the subject in as comprehensive a manner as possible in under 6 hours.  Dan and I took turns speaking depending on the subject. Occasionally we would interject a relevant story or address a specific audience member’s question during the other person’s presentation.  My subjects were the following: “How Portraiture Can Inform a Larger Narrative;” “What I Carry in My Daily Camera Bags and Why (using pictures to illustrate not only the gear, but also examples using different lens lengths, hello Canon and Think Tank!! );” and finally to present two stories shot on assignment for the magazine.  Dan’s topics were: “Photos We Love and Why;” “Histogram, White Balance and Composition;” “Mirror-less Cameras;” “Using Light;” and “Essence of Place.”

A highlight of the program for me was Dan’s opening sequence of, “Photos We Love and Why.”  November 2014 is National Geographic Traveler’s 30th Anniversary, and I am humbled and pleased to have one of my images included in their 30 Greatest Travel Photos in 30 Years.  Because these were the images Dan chose to show as part of the program, I was able to explain the behind-the-scenes of my image chosen, and Dan described the criteria he and his editors use in the selection process for the photos published in the magazine, and how those criteria had changed over time.  Considering that over 30 million images have been submitted to National Geographic Traveler and of those, approximately 34,000 have been published in those 30 years, I feel very fortunate that one of mine landed in the chosen 30.

In both Los Angeles and Portland, our audiences were terrific!  Everyone was engaged, positive, asked great questions and seemed pleased to have spent an entire Sunday in a darkened room, looking at pictures with Dan and me.  In fact, one of the winners of the 2014 National Geographic Traveler Photography Competition was in attendance at our Portland seminar. One of the many benefits of attending these seminars is that we allow a good amount of time for questions where anyone in the audience can ask and we are right there to answer.  Our goal is to be there to not only provide insight and information about the world inside National Geographic Traveler Magazine, but also to tailor the day for interaction with participants.  I always dine with the guests so we can possibly continue talking during lunch. Participants also received a handout which has not only the information we address during the seminar, but also a list of resource web sites for Travel Photographers.

I look forward to my upcoming speaking engagements. I will discuss my work during Portland’s upcoming Photolucida. I am scheduled to give a talk to the students at the Pacific Northwest College of Art during one of their “Career Chat” programs and also at the Froelick Gallery where I’ll be having a show of my work in April. I will be giving another seminar for the National Geographic Seminar program this coming spring. As the schedule becomes available, I’ll be posting about it on my social network pages as well as on this blog.

Presenting my portrait images at the Skirball Auditorium in Los Angeles for National Geographic Seminars, "The Travel Assignment"

Presenting my portrait images at the Skirball Cultural Center Auditorium in Los Angeles for National Geographic Seminars, “The Travel Assignment”

Thank you for visiting my blog and have a great day!

As I was preparing for my forthcoming National Geographic Seminars, I realized that in the last 10 years I’ve photographed over 30 feature stories for National Geographic Traveler Magazine, ranging from Beaujolais to Bangkok to Birmingham. :-)

I look forward to sharing my experiences, tips and tricks of the trade for all who attend the National Geographic seminars on The Travel Assignment in Los Angeles and Portland.  For the schedule of events, click here.

Monks during prayer at Wat Suthat Thepphawararam a royal temple of the first grade, one of ten such temples in Bangkok.

Monks during prayer at Wat Suthat Thepphawararam, a royal temple of the first grade, one of ten such temples in Bangkok.

An art-light installation designed by San Antonio artist Bill Fitzgibbons called "LightRails" in the 18th Street viaduct near Railroad Park in downtown BIrmingham, Alabama. Organized by non-profit organization REV Birmingham, the lights are installed to encourage pedestrian traffic and link First Ave. North and the East Gate of Railroad Park.

An art-light installation designed by San Antonio artist Bill Fitzgibbons called “LightRails” in the 18th Street viaduct near Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

The village of Oingt, located in the southern part of the appellation of Beaujolais.  Pictured here is a Fete de Conscrit.

The village of Oingt, located in the southern part of the appellation of Beaujolais. Pictured here is a Fete de Conscrit.

One hundred years ago yesterday marked the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.  The building of the canal has a long and interesting history and represents one of the major engineering feats of modern man.  France started work on the project in 1881 but stopped work because of the high mortality rate from tropical disease.  The United States took over the project in 1904.  The canal took an entire decade to complete.  The canal cuts through the Isthmus of Panama and connects the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea via 48 miles of water and a series of locks.  Last December, I was on board the National Geographic Sea Bird as the National Geographic Photography Expert for the Costa Rica and Panama Expedition.  Our final adventure in Panama was to pass through the entire canal, including spending some time on Isla Barro Colorado at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.  Our route took us through the canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean.  It was a truly remarkable experience.  Here are some  pictures to illustrate our transit.  Enjoy!

Panama city as seen while Transiting the Panama Canal, Panama including views of Frank Gehry's colorful Bio Museum

Panama city as seen while Transiting the Panama Canal, Panama including views of Frank Gehry’s colorful Bio Museum

Entering the canal by passing under the Bridge of the Americas near Panama City

Entering the canal by passing under the Bridge of the Americas near Panama City

After being at sea and experiencing the world of tropical jungles, it was a jolt to suddenly be in the middle of an industrial area, which is itself surrounded by dense forest in some areas.

After being at sea and experiencing the world of tropical jungles, we were jolted  to suddenly be in the middle of an industrial area, which is itself surrounded by dense forest.

Panamanian officials joined us in order to ensure safe passage through the locks system.

Panamanian officials joined us in order to ensure safe passage through the locks system.

Barro Colorado Island, a site for the study of lowland moist tropical forests owned by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in the Panama Canal and is part of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument.

Barro Colorado Island, a site for the study of lowland moist tropical forests owned by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in the Panama Canal and is part of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument.

How big are the trees?  Very big. :-)

How big are the trees? Very big. :-)

You definitely will feel like swimming because of the heat and humidity, but you'll be taking your chances with the wildlife.

You definitely will feel like swimming because of the heat and humidity, but you’ll be taking your chances with the wildlife.

A very cooperative Spotted Ant bird was sitting very still for a portrait.  I quickly learned that it was because I was standing on top of its prey, which were making themselves quite at home on my shoes, then pants, then, eeek!!!

A very cooperative Spotted Ant bird was sitting very still for a portrait. I quickly learned that it was because I was standing on top of its prey, which were making themselves quite at home on my shoes, then pants, then, eeek!!!

Our ship, the National Geographic Sea Bird, tethered to one of the trains that guide the ship through the canal.

Our ship, the National Geographic Sea Bird, tethered to one of the trains that guide the ship through the canal.

Most ships that transit the canal are huge, industrial type vessels.

Most ships that transit the canal are huge, industrial type vessels.

We arrive at the Caribbean Sea!  Such an amazing experience.

We arrive at the Caribbean Sea! Such an amazing experience.

 

 

 

 

 

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