Behind the Scenes with Portrait Photographer Susan Seubert on location in Portland, Oregon

I just wrapped my first shoot for the University of Portland, featuring environmental portraits of their students to be used in their print collateral. It was a beautiful day in Portland, OR, and we were able to use the campus and the city as our backdrops.

Portland’s landmark architecture is bridges, so we chose the base of the Hawthorne Bridge as one of our locations.  Although we had to dodge cyclists and pedestrians, we were able to pull off the shoot in little time.  I like packing a fairly light kit, so I set up a Canon 580EX flash on a stand wired to Pocket Wizard radio triggers. No wires meant that I could use a long lens and shoot across the busy pedestrian path. I chose to use an umbrella as a light source but in order to get rid of the dappled light from the tree he was standing under, we had to hold up a scrim to block the sunlight.

University of Portland Student, Portland, OR

Behind the Scenes: the photographer’s perspective

University of Portland Student, Portland, OR

On location in Portland, Oregon

The end result was a success!  I’ll share the image after it goes to press.

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Susan Seubert photographs Jacobsen Salt for National Geographic Traveler

 Recently I was assigned by National Geographic Traveler Magazine to photograph the process of making salt from sea water harvested from Netarts Bay, Oregon, at the Jacobsen Salt Company. The story has been published in the February/March 2016 issue of the magazine, which focuses on water-loving getaways.  The idea for the project was to document the entire process of making salt – from sea water to the pure crystalline mineral.  The shoot was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but when I saw the awful weather forecast, I left Portland early so that I could arrive Sunday to scout, and possibly photograph.  Arriving a day early turned out to be a good decision because we ended up having a nice afternoon with sun breaks and an astonishingly beautiful sunset. The following two days were solid rain as a very large storm slammed into Netarts.  Working under an umbrella held by a heavy-duty C-stand allowed me to continue to work outside, despite the deluge. I truly enjoyed working with Ben Jacobsen and his crew.  They made it easy to get some great images, despite the typically challenging weather at the Oregon coast.  Below are a few of my favorites.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. The salt is harvested from sea water pumped from Netarts Bay in to their facility located on the shore of the bay. Jacobsen Salt was founded in 2011 by owner Ben Jacobsen. Their main products are flake and kosher sea salts available for sale in their store in Portland, Oregon. Contact Ben Jacobson sales@jacobsensalt.com or 503-473-3952. Pictured here is Jacobsen Salt.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. Their main products are flake and kosher sea salts available for sale in their store in Portland, Oregon. Pictured here is Jacobsen Flake Salt.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. The salt is harvested from sea water pumped from Netarts Bay in to their facility located on the shore of the bay. Jacobsen Salt was founded in 2011 by owner Ben Jacobsen. Their main products are flake and kosher sea salts available for sale in their store in Portland, Oregon. Contact Ben Jacobson sales@jacobsensalt.com or 503-473-3952. Pictured here is salt being sifted in order to grade and separate the salt.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. The salt is harvested from sea water pumped from Netarts Bay in to their facility located on the shore of the bay. Pictured here is salt being sifted in order to grade and separate the salt.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. The salt is harvested from sea water pumped from Netarts Bay in to their facility located on the shore of the bay. Jacobsen Salt was founded in 2011 by owner Ben Jacobsen. Their main products are flake and kosher sea salts available for sale in their store in Portland, Oregon. Contact Ben Jacobson sales@jacobsensalt.com or 503-473-3952. Pictured here is the salt being harvested from the evaporation pans using specially adapted shovels by facilities manager Tom Gibson

Pictured here is the salt being harvested from the evaporation pans using specially adapted shovels.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. The salt is harvested from sea water pumped from Netarts Bay in to their facility located on the shore of the bay. Jacobsen Salt was founded in 2011 by owner Ben Jacobsen. Their main products are flake and kosher sea salts available for sale in their store in Portland, Oregon. Contact Ben Jacobson sales@jacobsensalt.com or 503-473-3952. Pictured here is the land that divides Netarts bay from the Pacific Ocean

Netarts Bay, Oregon, where Jacobsen Salt Company harvests its sea water in order to make flake salt.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. Pictured here is owner Ben Jacobsen.

Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts, Oregon, USA. Pictured here is owner Ben Jacobsen.

All of the images were photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III with various Canon lenses.  All of the images were shot in RAW and processed using Adobe’s Lightroom CC software.  All photographs are copyright © 2016 Susan Seubert and may not be used in any form without prior written permission from Susan Seubert.

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National Geographic Photographer Susan Seubert wins Gold at NATJA

National Geographic Photographer Susan Seubert wins Gold at NATJA

I was completely taken aback when my cell phone pinged, “Congrats @susanseubert winning #NATJA gold for your photos in ‘Saving Old Bangkok’ in the Aug/Sept 2014 @NatGeoTravel.”  The North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) had held its annual competition for excellence in travel publishing and I was awarded gold in the category of Photo Essay.  Since I hadn’t entered, I had no idea I was even up for an award! I would like to thank my editors and the entire staff of National Geographic Traveler for giving me this fantastic assignment as well as congratulate the magazine for winning the grand prize for Travel Publications!  Go Team NGT!!!!

The opening spread for the award winning photo essay, "Saving Old Bangkok," for National Geographic Traveler Magazine

The opening spread for the award winning photo essay, “Saving Old Bangkok,” for National Geographic Traveler Magazine

National Geographic Traveler had assigned me to photograph a story about a small group of people in the old city of Bangkok who are actively working to preserve some of the remarkable wooden houses and other structures in the neighborhoods on Rattanakosin Island, on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River.  The project is being spearheaded by architect Worapan Klampaiboon, who has a small guesthouse on Samsen 5, the Samsen 5 Lodge.  I spent just over two weeks wandering the streets photographing the people, guesthouses, neighborhoods, markets and temples that are all located in this area.  One of my favorite places to explore was around one of the guesthouses, Baan Dinso.  Everywhere, daily life spilled on to the streets.  Being able to spend time walking through the narrow roads of these areas allowed me to experience what the architect saw: an architecturally important area that had fallen into disrepair but was still salvageable. I photographed a group of old wooden homes that had been transformed into an arts center by a kindly couple who happened to be friends with my translator. This ended up being one of the opening pictures along side an outdoor bathtub at a renovated guest house, the Old Bangkok InnYou can read the story here.  Thank you for visiting!

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.

The neighborhood around the Bann Dinso Guesthouse

The neighborhood around the Bann Dinso Guesthouse

Wat Ratchanaddaram, a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Ratchanaddaram, a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Portrait Photographer Susan Seubert Shoots for the New York Times

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.

 

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!!!

 

Susan Seubert Photography’s Picture Chosen as one of National Geographic’s 30 Best Travel Pictures in 30 Years

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.

 

Photographer Susan Seubert speaks for National Geographic Seminar on The Travel Assignment

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”

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