Susan Seubert Photography in 2014 : An Amazing Year, in Pictures

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!!!

 

Behind the Scenes with Susan Seubert and National Geographic Traveler

Aloha!  While I was on assignment last August in Honolulu for National Geographic Traveler Magazine, I was fortunate enough to have a few things that had to be photographed either from or in the water.  One of the images I thought would be interesting to make is the classic photo of the traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe rides with Diamond Head in the background.  This has been an iconic image of Waikiki since the early twentieth century as evidenced by a story that ran in the New York Tribune in 1908.  Honolulu has changed enormously since then, however the ocean and the waves, along with the geologic feature of Diamond Head, remain intact.  When I arrived on Oahu, I decided to head down to the beach and try to figure out a way to get in the water on a surfboard with a giant water housing and surf alongside the canoe.

How Did You Get That Shot?

Outrigger Canoe rides are one of many attractions for tourists on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, HI.  Waikiki is one of the only places where anyone can ride waves in traditional outrigger canoes.

Outrigger Canoe rides are one of many attractions for tourists on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, HI. Waikiki is one of the only places where anyone can ride waves in traditional outrigger canoes.

The locals are one of the most invaluable resources to a travel photographer.  We, the photographers and journalists, get our names placed in the magazine, but I’m of the opinion that we all owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the people who are open to sharing their knowledge and expertise with us, the interlopers.  Waikiki turned out to be no exception.  I surf – a little – but not nearly enough to be able to safely operate a surfboard and camera in the crowded line up at Waikiki.  When I got to Waikiki Beach, I stood in the middle of the crowd and hung around, watching to see who was the best stand-up paddle surfer.  One man stood out immediately.  He could easily navigate the crowds, he caught wave after wave and it was clear that he knew his way around the ocean.  When he came out of the water, I asked if he’d be interested in taking me out on his SUP so that I could make pictures.  Without hesitating, he said, “sure thing,” and the next thing I knew we were off for a test run.  I had brought my GoPro with me to take a few test shots and also to see what it would feel like to sit on the front of a surfboard while making pictures.  The test shots were a success, so we made an appointment to meet up the next day and arrange with the outrigger for us to follow them while they took out their last round of tourists towards the end of the day when the light would be good.  It was a fantastic experience to ride the waves and be able to concentrate on composition and lighting while the driving was taken over by the talented local beach boy, John Paul.  Here are two behind-the-scenes pictures to illustrate the crowds and how I had to ride on the front of the board shooting with a Canon 7D in an underwater housing as JP navigated us through the crowds.

Surfing through major crowds at Waikiki, I was grateful to have a very talented driver to negotiate the waves and the surfers.

I’m sitting on the front of the paddleboard, as JP navigates us along side the outrigger canoe, all the while trying not to get into a wreck!

Me and JP coming in at the end of our photo shoot with the outrigger canoe.  Aloha!!!

JP and I coming in at the end of our photo shoot with the outrigger canoe. Aloha!!!

Travel and Editorial Photographer Susan Seubert shoots Honolulu for National Geographic Traveler

Aloha!  Last August I was assigned to photograph a story about Honolulu written by movie star/travel writer Andrew McCarthy.  This was such a fun assignment because so much of what we covered was active.  We explored places in Honolulu that are interesting and yet mostly eclipsed by Waikiki and hard core tourism, yet are part of the daily life of people who live in this sizable metropolis.  What comes to mind when thinking about Honolulu?  For me, it’s the oceanWaikiki beach is famous for it’s surfing, sand and sunbathing so that was part of our focus.  I doubt that many people choose Oahu for its hiking options, but Andrew opens the story discussing a jungle hike with soaring views of the city fronting the impossibly blue ocean.  We hiked, and photographed, the Makiki Valley trail which at one of it’s highest points terminates at a beautiful viewpoint, one I visited last year when photographing one of National Geographic Traveler’sTravelers of the Year.”  It’s a great experience to do this hike and although the trail has a good deal of elevation gain thanks to its location in the Ko’olau Mountain Range, the payoff is heading back down to the ocean for a cooling dip.  The trail is lined with beautiful ficus trees, wild ginger and lots of other beautiful plants.  It’s also shaded, so even if you go during the heat of the day, it’s not uncomfortably hot, unlike in other tropical locations like Thailand or Panama.

There is a great area that is starting to be developed in downtown Honolulu in an industrial zone of the city called Kaka’ao.  Boutique shops, like Paiko, and concept restaurants such as Taste, have started to appear in this unexpected area of the city.  There’s a wonderful coffeeshop/bookstore/art gallery called R and D that was featuring an interesting interactive installation piece while we were there.  Once a month, Kaka’ao has a night market where street artists, musicians and all manner of performers demonstrate their skills along side food carts, a main stage with myriad performances, and a skate ramp where kids can demonstrate their off the lip moves out of the water.  It’s great fun and there’s not a tourist in sight.

Shooting in and on the water has been a new experience for me as of late, and I enjoyed having an assignment where I could put my newly developed skills to work.  I had two shots in mind that required a water housing for this story.  One was shooting the famed outrigger canoe of Waikiki while riding waves in the ocean just off the beach with Diamond Head in the background, a classic view that I thought might make an energetic and historically significant image.  Another was photographing George Kam, the aloha ambassador for Quicksilver, a surf and surf clothing company.  Both of these images required me to be in the water to varying degrees.  I work with a splash housing installed with a Canon 7D with an 18-22mm lens.  There are all sorts of limitations when shooting with this setup because there’s not a lot of access to the camera controls and once you’re in the water, (unless you have an escort boat, which I didn’t), you’ve got the setup that you are stuck with.

How did you get that shot?

I’d like to discuss the opener of the story, which you can see online here.

The opener for National Geographic Traveler's Aloha Honolulu Story

The opening picture for National Geographic Traveler’s Aloha Honolulu Story

The opening image is of George Kam sitting in the center seat of a 3 man outrigger canoe.  The canoe is piloted by none other than Dale Hope and the front man is George’s brother, Kent, all amazing water-men. It was thrilling just being along for the ride.  When we set sail we had perfectly calm conditions, so I brought not only my camera in its housing, I also took along a 5D Mark III with a 24-105mm lens, just in case we might be in a situation where it was going to be safe for an unprotected camera.  That camera was secured in a dry bag that I could clip to the outrigger so that even if we dumped, it would stay dry and attached.  We spotted some dolphins, so headed out to sea, the three paddling and me riding on the netting that is between the canoe and the outrigger.  We fished for a bit and had our bait stolen, so we gave up on that and headed to where we might find some waves.  That’s when things got interesting.  I photographed George paddling and timed the shutter so that it coincided with his paddle moves in order for his face to be visible.  Dale is visible in the back where he steers, as is a seldom seen view of the Diamond Head crater.  The sun was very bright, so the best shots were when all things aligned: George had good light emphasizing his face and the vibrant colors of the outrigger and his clothes, some dynamic movement with the classic paddling technique and a sense of place, courtesy of the Honolulu skyline.  I did end up getting totally drenched as we hit a wave and together threw all of our weight back so that we wouldn’t tip the canoe.  It was a blast and all of my gear stayed safe and sound, thanks to a little bit of planning. Here are a few behind the scenes shots, to get a feel of what it was like to work on this component of the assignment.  Aloha and mahalo for visiting my blog!

Meeting with Dale Hope to discuss what our options for shooting would be that morning.

Meeting with Dale Hope to discuss what our options for shooting would be that morning.

Photo courtesy of George Kam - a little down time while enjoying the ride.

Photo courtesy of George Kam – a little down time while enjoying the ride.

Kent Kam taking us down the front of a wave

Kent Kam taking us down the front of a wave

Totally stoked to have a fully waterproof water housing

Totally stoked to have a fully waterproof water housing

National Geographic Expedition in Alaska with photographer Susan Seubert

Being on board any National Geographic Expedition ship is a magnificent experience for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the incredible staff of naturalists.  It’s wonderful to be having a nice cup of tea and listening to a talk about whales, then glancing out the window and seeing the very animal being discussed in its natural habitat, just off to the side of the ship.  This type of expedition travel also happens to be fantastic for photography.  The captain and the expedition leader make it a priority to take us to the most beautiful places. Their keen local knowledge all but guarantees an enormous amount of wildlife sighting, which makes for fantastic picture-taking opportunities.

Last August, I was invited to be the National Geographic Photography Expert on board the National Geographic Sea Bird for the expedition to Alaska’s Inside Passage.  Every day was packed with great opportunities to see wildlife, such as humpback whales and bears, experience unbelievable landscapes and, using their fleet of zodiacs, get up close and personal to calving glaciers. Here are a few pictures from our first full day on board.  I hope this gives a flavor of what it’s like to travel with National Geographic and I encourage you to join us for one of our many adventures throughout the world.

The National Geographic Sea Bird docked in Juneau

The National Geographic Sea Bird docked in Juneau –  Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm

Our first glacier!  This is the South Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm Fjord.  Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm

Our first glacier! This is the South Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm Fjord. Photographed with a – Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm

The glacial ice is incredibly blue.  We were here on an overcast day and the colors were just amazing.  Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III 70-200mm lens

The glacial ice is incredibly blue. We were here on an overcast day and the colors were just amazing – Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm lens

Along the steep walls of the Tracy Arm Fjord, we were treated with a small herd of Mountain Goats with their yearlings, grazing just few hundred yards from our zodiac  Photographed with a Canon 7D and a 70-300mm lens

Along the steep walls of the Tracy Arm Fjord, we were treated to a small herd of Mountain Goats with their yearlings, grazing just few hundred yards from our zodiac – Canon 7D + 70-300mm lens

I can't think of any place else that will deliver hot chocolate to your zodiac in water filled with icebergs. Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24-105mm lens

I can’t think of any place else that will deliver hot chocolate to your zodiac while waiting to witness calving glaciers – Canon 5D Mark III + a 24-105mm lens

As we were transiting out of Tracy Arm Fjord, we came across this black bear, foraging for food along the water's edge.  The colors of the water and foliage really stand out against the black fur of this animal. Photographed with a Canon 7D 70-300mm lens

As we were transiting out of Tracy Arm Fjord, we came across this black bear, foraging for food along the water’s edge. The colors of the water and foliage really stand out against the black fur of this animal. Canon 7D + 70-300mm lens

Later that afternoon, we did a wet landing at Williams Cove to walk through the pristine rain forest and these colorful mushrooms were everywhere.  Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III 24-105mm lens

Later that afternoon, a wet landing at Williams Cove took us to the pristine rain forest.  These colorful mushrooms were everywhere – Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm lens

In a couple of weeks, I am heading next to Central America with National Geographic Expeditions, where we’ll be in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, then on board the National Geographic Sea Lion which will take us down the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and Panama to explore the parks that are filled with wildlife, and, for the grand finale, a transit through the Panama Canal.  See you on board!

Canon 5D Mark III Error Message 70 Followup

Greetings!  In an earlier post here, I wrote about a brand new Canon 5D Mark III body shutting down with an Error 70 message.  My home town camera store replaced the body because it was DOA. I then purchased a second 5D Mark III body plus the 70-200 f2.8 L Series II lens, as well as all new CF and SD cards that are dedicated to these cameras.  I chose to use the Sandisk Extreme 16GB, and those seem to work well with all of my bodies.  I have a separate set of cards for my two Canon 7D bodies and this system seems to work well.  So far, the cameras have performed beautifully.  One of the new features of the Mark III that I like the most is the silent shutter mode.  It really makes a difference when shooting in many situations.  It seems that if people are less aware of the noise of the camera, they are much more natural and relaxed.  I also like the HDR option on these bodies for when I’m shooting architecture that would otherwise require merging to HDR in Photoshop or Lightroom.  I haven’t taken the 5D Mark III cameras into any seriously extreme conditions yes, but when I head to Svalbard in June with National Geographic Expeditions, we’ll see how they hold up to the arctic.  Right now I use my 7D cameras for wildlife and underwater, which is really great.  I enjoy being able to have 8 fps when photographing subjects like sea lions or surfing.  The 5D Mark III cameras perform well for most editorial and commercial purposes.

While snorkeling at Champion Islet we encountered some very playful sea lions who had no problem posing for the camera!

While snorkeling at Champion Islet on an expedition with National Geographic in the Galapagos, we encountered some very playful sea lions who had no problem posing for the camera!  Photographed with a Canon 7D with a 10-22mm lens in an SPL under-water splash housing

Canon 7D with the 70-300 f4/5.6L IS USM at high ISO: Hummingbird in the evening

We have a summer resident female rufous hummingbird that often visits the feeders and plants that we place for them on our deck.  As their migratory season comes to an end, which sadly means we’re entering into the early throes of autumn here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought I might test out my Canon 7D with the 70-300mm that I’ve been using on assignment lately.  I bitterly complained about the auto-focus when I first purchased the camera and, as usual, it was trial by fire.  I knew that I needed to have a higher fps than my Canon 5D Mark II cameras, so I decided to go with the 7D.  Now that I’ve been shooting it for a while, (and after reading a bit of the manual :-),  I am now really loving the autofocus system and, although the camera is noisy at the higher ISO’s, it’s still pretty darn good.  The other night we were out on the deck and the female rufous came by to check out the salvia and other flowers.  She hung around long enough for me to get a few snaps.  These were all made at iso 6400 shooting in aperture priority.  I processed them in Adobe’s Lightroom using some capture sharpening and luminance noise reduction and I must say I’m impressed.  The focus is tack sharp, the shutter speed was fast enough to stop most of the movement and the colors look beautiful.   I do enjoy birdwatching and although it’s only a simple hobby that I do at home, it’s fun to use this as an opportunity to practice outside of assignment work.  I hope you enjoy these little snapshots of the wee bird.

female rufous hummingbird perched in a Western Cedar tree in the Marquam Greenspace in Portland, Oregon

Female rufous hummingbird investigating the salvia on our porch

Female rufous hummingbird investigating the salvia on our porch, showing off her diminutive gorget