Commercial and Travel Photographer Susan Seubert Featured on Adhesive & Co. Blog

Adhesive & Company recently interviewed me for their Sticky Sunday’s blog.

We discuss ideas about creative community, growing my business, what’s in my bag and some tips for the youngsters just starting out.

It was a fun interview and you can read it in its entirety here.

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Thank you Adhesive&Co. for the shout-out!

Susan Seubert Photographer: Learning by Observing

Four American Robin Chicks in their nest outside our kitchen window

Four American Robin Chicks in their nest outside our kitchen window

For the first time, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to watch a robin build a nest, incubate eggs and have a successful hatch just outside of our kitchen window.  The American Robin is one of the most common birds found in urban settings and will often nest near, or on, homes throughout North America.  I’ve learned a lot about the behavior of Turdus migratorius by observing, and photographing, them almost daily since the babies hatched around the beginning of this month.

American Robin, nesting in a camellia bush in Portland, Oregon with 4 chicks

American Robin, nesting in a camellia bush in Portland, Oregon feeding her chicks blueberries

I read that the the incubation ranges from 12 to 14 days, which was spot on for this mother of 4.  Now we are eagerly waiting for the babies to fledge, as it appears that they are very crowded in their nest and their wing feathers look like they are well developed.

With so many chicks in one tiny nest, I wondered how the nest stays so clean.  It turns out that in addition to feeding the babies worms and berries, the robin also “changes the babies’ diapers” by removing the waste directly from the bottoms of the chicks.  This may not be the most appetizing topic, but I was amazed at how efficient the bird is at keeping house.  Below are some photos from the last week.  I built a “blind” in the kitchen in order to keep our peering eyes mostly hidden so as not to disturb the nestlings.  There was plenty of glare which the blind reduced, but it was still challenging photographing through dirty glass.  All of these pictures were made with the Canon 7D Mark II which has a beautiful sensor and a fabulous frame rate, which is what allowed me to capture such a fast and intimate moment.  The RAW files were processed using Adobe Lightroom.

The Kitchen Window Blind: Baby Robins in their nest in a Camellia bush

The Kitchen Window Blind: Robin chicks in their nest in a Camellia bush

It has been an illuminating experience to watch how quickly these cute little birds grow and I will certainly miss them when they leave the nest.

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

 

Update on June 13, 2015

This morning, three out of the four nestlings fledged!  There is still one in the nest and it looks very ready to leave.  It’s preening and standing up to stretch its legs.  What a wonderful experience this has been.

Update on June 13, 2015

The last robin fledged this evening.  Sniff.

The last to fledge

The last to fledge

 

Travel Clothing/Make-up tips for Girlfriend Photographers

It’s that time again – the beginning of the travel year in earnest.  I’ll be traveling to 4 countries in the next three months which requires some necessities for the road.  Tomorrow, I am heading to Baja with National Geographic Expeditions.  One of the most important things  to consider in the tropics is SPF protection.  After I complete my assignment in Mexico, I’ll be headed to our Maui headquarters.  Both places require sun protection but also a little bit of dress code.  Some of my favorite pieces have been with me for a long time, so it was time to find replacements.  I hope that this blog post helps all of the women photographers out there who might be in the same boat. 🙂

The first thing I’d like to discuss briefly is skin care and a wee bit of make-up.  These are the items that I generally pack in my carry-on:

cosmetics for the camera bag

cosmetics for the camera bag

I’ve found the Neutrogena ultra-sheer SPF 55 sunscreen to be the best for my face.  It seems to adhere well, isn’t greasy and doesn’t burn my skin like so many other products I’ve tried over the years.  The absolute best sunscreen I recently discovered is the Susan Posnick brush on sunscreen.  It’s a full spectrum powder sunscreen, so you don’t have to worry about it being confiscated by TSA.  It also is very handy to carry around and apply often, particularly to the nose, and it works.  It fits in my sunglasses case for protection from crushing.  Once you buy the brush, you can buy refills as needed which saves money and packaging.  The tiny Vaseline  is the best for dry, chapped lips and although it doesn’t offer sun protection, it keeps my lips from getting too chapped by wax based products.  When I’m working on ships, wind is a factor and the Vaseline prevents wind burn and can be applied to other areas on the skin.  I prefer the cocoa butter version, but the regular does just fine.  For a quick dress-up look, BLINC mascara can’t be beat.  It washes off with warm water and doesn’t tend to flake, so you don’t have to carry any strange cosmetic cleaners to get the stuff off at the end of the day.  These mini-dental floss dispensers are about the size of a quarter and for those long haul flights, it’s a great way to keep dental hygiene on the up and up.

I’ve been buying and testing SPF clothing for several years and was disappointed when Patagonia discontinued their fly fishing tops for women.  The ones they’ve re-introduced this season aren’t nearly as tailored as the older models, but luckily, Kuhl has a top that is very similar to the old Patagonia model.  It’s tailored for a flattering fit and has two zipper pockets for whatever you want to keep on your person such as currency, identification, keys, etc.  It’s also SPF 50 and has roll-up sleeves with a blue lining.  I chose white because of the heat factor for my next few destinations.  I like to layer these over some kind of tank top to help wick moisture away from my body.  An REI tank top that breaths but is form fitting does the trick.  Not only does it add a little color to the outfit, it can double as a sports bra for those of us who are, ahem, not as endowed as others.  Hiking in the islands in the Sea of Cortez can be very hot, so I’ve found that a skirt is often more comfortable than pants if there aren’t many sticky things around, (hello, cactus).  Cargo skirts, which are my absolute favorite for hiking, are starting to go out of fashion, but Marmot has one available now.  This particular skirt is also SPF 50, but it sits just above the knees, so sunscreen or other coverage will be necessary.  The waist band is soft which is great because I’m often using a holster type camera bag and sometimes other materials can cause chafing.

The last detail for the outfit is sun protection for the ears and neck, but can also be used as a headband or other head protection.  Buff makes a 50SPF gator.  It’s pictured below and not only adds a little color to the outfit, but keeps you from getting a red neck from either the sun or chafing camera straps.

Kuhl 50 spf top with side zippers and a tailored fit for women

Kuhl 50 spf top with side zippers and a tailored fit for women

An REI tank top to layer underneath really helps to wick sweat away from the torso

An REI tank top to layer underneath really helps to wick sweat away from the torso

Marmot's short cargo skirt keeps things cool while allowing you to zip in a driver's license, keys or passport

Marmot’s short cargo skirt keeps things cool while allowing you to zip in a driver’s license, keys or passport

Buff spf 50 gator for a versatile look - either around the neck or as a head band for sun protection

Buff spf 50 gator for a versatile look – either around the neck or as a head band for sun protection

Voila!  Cute and practical outfit for warm weather shooting.  Just add whatever leg-wear is appropriate

Voila! Cute and practical outfit for warm weather shooting. Just add whatever leg-wear is appropriate

Hasta pronto and a hui ho!  Thank you for visiting my blog.

I hope that you found the information helpful.  I am not sponsored in any way by any of these companies, so the opinions of this blog are solely my own.

Susan Seubert takes over Smithsonian Magazine’s Instagram Feed This Week

Aloha from Maui, the Valley Isle!  I’ll be taking over Smithsonian Magazine’s Instagram Feed this week, featuring photos of the island’s flora and if I’m lucky, some of its fauna.  You can follow me here and read about why Smithsonian Magazine let me take the reins of their photo feed here.  Mahalo for visiting and a hui ho!

tiny shells, collected on the beach, to welcome you to the island, wherever you may be

tiny shells, collected on the beach, to welcome you to the island, wherever you may be

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

How to pack your kit : clothing for girlfriend travel photographers

Okay ladies and gentlemen, we all know how to pack our camera gear kits.  Cameras, lenses, cf cards, computers, hard drives, etc…  That’s the easy part.  Obviously, I could go on about the wonderful qualities of Think Tank’s waist belt with attachments, wax poetically about Gitzo’s carbon fiber tripod and monopod line, discuss the pros and cons of the Canon 5D Mark IIs and Canon 7Ds, discuss prime lenses, etc.  We are photographers so we should know what we need when we head out on assignment.  But for me, the question is, what to wear?  Hah!  This could turn many people off, which I completely understand. For the next few paragraphs I will address the challenges of being a city/adventure female photographer and how to negotiate sweating like a pig all day, then having to look decent to hit the finer restaurants at the top of the dinner hour – all with cameras and gear in hand.  This isn’t about vanity, it’s about trying to look professional, even when the assignments demand a lot of physical work. Lately, I’ve been covering so many different latitudes that I’ve had to shop for quite the range of technical clothing so I hope that this helps you gals out there who have to negotiate similar terrain.

Most technical clothes make one look like one is about to climb a mountain, or something, which may be the case and perfectly appropriate. What happens after a sunrise shoot on the top of a mountain, hiking and horseback riding, but then you must head directly to Spago’s to photograph sunset food at the Four Seasons? What about working in 100 degree heat?  And then there is the problem of shoes.

Thankfully, a handful of clothing manufacturers are beginning to have some tailored technical clothes for us women, and I’m not just talking Patagonia, (which I adore).  Let’s face it – men can get away with a lot more when it comes to the appearance department.  To wit:  the shaven head look.  Guys can still look handsome and well put together and have no hair.  Add some jeans and a sloppy t-shirt and voila – said man looks like an ad in Esquire.  I think that jeans and a sloppy t-shirt don’t fair so well at high end restaurants for us gals.

Here are some of my favorite clothing recommendations for working under varying conditions that are field tested!

Lolë pants:  These flared capri style pants dry quickly and are SPF 35 or better.  When I had to shoot in the Caribbean for Norwegian Cruise Lines in front of a litany of art directors, then proceed to sqat, lean over rails, stand on ladders, shoot in the fancy ship restaurants with dress codes, climb rock walls, etc… these were the perfect bottoms.  They have a tie belt which I often leave off because I usually wear it with some sort of long-sleeved top.  But it’s there if you need it to strap on a Leatherman.

Lolë Capri pants, just out of the suitcase, going back into the suitcase.  No iron necessary – the wrinkles just fall away once these are on the body.

Mountain Hardware Skirt:  This is PERFECT for hiking and then hitting the bars.  A comfortable, knee-length skirt that has 4 front pockets. Wear with a pair of tight, short bike/athletic shorts underneath and you’ve got the comfort of a skort without the skort and you don’t have to worry about unnecessary reveals when climbing ladders or squatting down. (Skorts are NOT foolproof when you’ve got several people looking up as you’re climbing a rock wall).  Two of the pockets snap shut for pocket money and a couple of credit cards, which is convenient if someone walks off with your bag.

Mountain Hardware knee-length skirt, just out of the suitcase. The fabric relaxes quickly, particularly in tropical climates.

Royal Robbins Cargo Skirt: Love this for airport travel.  Passport, wallet, and iPhone all snap/zip into the three pockets so going through security is a breeze.  No more fumbling for identification/boarding pass which I put into… uh… which bag compartment???  Same thing with the bike shorts underneath.  Doesn’t look too bad with leggings either. Plus the fabric is quick dry, so when you’re having a sip of water and hit unexpected turbulence at 35,000 feet, no fear.  The skirt will be dry in 5 minutes or less.  Same with sweating on the job.  Dries quickly and is made from a comfortable, stretchy fabric so if you sweat under the weight of your backpack or waist pack, it will be dry in time to not look like you just peed on yourself.  It’s also spf 50, so when I’m driving in hot sun, I can rely on this skirt for sun protection as well.

Royal Robbins cargo skirt. Hits just below the knee. Great for airline travel!

Patagonia Fly Fishing Long Sleeve shirt for Women:  I bought three of these from Patagonia for a shoot in the Caribbean several years ago and although it was so hot the rubber from my Domke rubber grip camera strap melted onto the shirts, I didn’t get a stitch of sunburn thanks to the SPF protection.  Since I was traveling from one country to the next in 72 hour increments, the zipper breast pocket was perfect for stashing the proper currency to pay the entry taxes for whatever country demanded a border fee.  The side pockets were large enough for my passport as well, so I could go through security checkpoints without having to let go of my documents. Sweet.  They are also tailored a bit in the waist so although the material is rip-stop, the top still has a feminine fit.

Patagonia Women’s Fly Fishing shirt with pockets and SPF material. Not sure if this exact model is still made, but I highly recommend any Patagonia product.

Stuff A Scarf In It:  Wherever you go, a simple scarf can dress up even the most lame of outfits.  I have a few, they weigh nothing, take up no space and can get crammed into the bottom of a bag all day and still look good in a pinch.  I’ve got a skinny one that I picked up at The Express that’s perfect for either a quick up-do for the hair or a nice tie around the neck for the evening.  Another is a long, golden brown that adds a touch of class for those pesky fancy restaurants.  If I lose it, fine.  You can find them just about everywhere.  If you want to take it up a notch, any Pashmina scarf in a neutral color is a good thing to have around, particularly if you’re headed into anything involving religion.  If you’re addicted to black, it can also be your color statement (!) for the evening.

Patagonia Scoop Neck Long Sleeve Capilene T-Shirt:  These are indispensable in my book.  They look good – try them on for fit first – and they: a) layer well; b) wick moisture; c) look good if you’ve got the right fit.  I own six – three white and three black.  They can be washed in the sink and are dry by morning.  They are very utilitarian because of their simplicity and work well after sweating all day.  The great part about the scoop neck style is that you can add a necklace – or the aforementioned scarf – and there.  Done.  The armpits dry quickly, which is nice after hiking and then heading into some over-air-conditioned restaurant/bar. Sadly, I’ve invested quite a bit in other fabrics that claim to have moisture wicking properties and I’ve found this top is the best.  It’s also comfortable in hot climates.  I go for the lightweight ones and use them for layering.  They look good under the Fly-Fishing tops.

Patagonia lightweight scoop neck capilene – great for layering and washing in a sink for an overnight dry.

Shoes:

I shot a story across the country about Farmers’ Markets so I packed accordingly, not knowing that we’d be having dinner at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.  When we landed, the editor arranged for our 9pm reservation, and my assistant and I dashed down Michigan Ave., looking for a quick, appropriate outfit.  We managed well, except in the shoe department.  I only had my boots, and my assistant had hers.  We both fit the restaurant dress code, ankles up, but as we were being served our champagne, I kept looking the hostess in the eye and thinking to myself, “don’t look down, don’t look down…”  I felt a little silly having on steel toed shit-kickers with my cute dress.  I don’t think they noticed and Sarah and I ended up having a meal of a lifetime.  Since then, I can safely say that boots can look good in just about any situation.  I like the Ariat Fat Baby boots for their wide toe bed, ankle and foot support, and I regularly get compliments on them.  I have a Morton’s neuroma in my left foot, which can be painful in narrow shoes, so I’m always looking for footwear with a wide toe bed, which is a difficult task in women’s footwear.  I had to throw the last pair away after a goat peed in them.  (I was wearing them in the middle of a herd of goats, when one decided to relieve herself while I was dealing with the fact that my DSLR mirror had just detached itself and cracked inside the camera body.  Oy.)

My go-to shoes for most things below 80 degree heat.

Crocs: Okay – we can dread these because they are, well a little ugly, even though they are very lightweight, comfortable and wildly utilitarian.  Lately, the company has been stepping up in the fashion department but still maintaining the lightweight, waterproof glory that make them so appealing for travel and work.  I just purchased two new pairs for an upcoming assignment in SE Asia and will cover a broad range of terrain.  These certainly won’t work in the jungle, but will definitely be perfect for puddle-jumping through the cities and hitting the high-end restaurants.

The first pair I field tested (literally) on assignment in Hawaii last week.  They were great – best part?  I can rinse them in the sink at night and they look brand new.  These are the unwashed version of a just-released Springi Flat.  Great for walking on sand, in mud or on the sidewalk.

The new Croc Springi Flats.

My second pair are the Wrapped Mary Janes.  I find these quite comfortable and for the amount of city work I have to look forward to, plus I think these will be a great alternative shoe for visiting temples and other sacred sites.  I’ll report back in a month on how these fared my assignments.  (REPORT BACK FROM ASIA: Because of the heat and the amount of time I was standing, my feet swelled and these things wouldn’t budge.  I’m now in the market for some leather flats that will spread along with my feet!)

Crocs Wrapped Mary Janes

Never underestimate a handy pair of cheap filp-flops in your bag somewhere so you’ve got something to wear to the loo if you happen to not have one close by, and recycle them when they get too gross. (I just had a shoot where I stayed in a luxury teepee, and the flip-flops were perfect for walking down to the moon-lit bathtubs and showers, not to mention the outdoor toilette!)

I will often take other technical shoes depending on where I’m headed and what activities I’m expected to perform.

I have a pair of Vibrams for rock climbing and warm-water work.  The arch support is fantastic and for surfing on reef breaks, you still have the grip you need from your toes, but you won’t be impaled by a sea urchin.  I’ve found that these are good if you’re not going to spend much time walking in sand or sandy soil as they tend to accumulate particulate which can be uncomfortable.  They will attract attention so be forewarned.

For colder wading, I’ll put on a pair of 4 mil wetsuit socks under a pair of classic Crocks.  This set-up works well for kayaking/wading in colder climates, like the inside passage in Alaska, and can easily be added to a wetsuit if necessary.  Plus they dry well and the crocks weigh nothing.  The shoes are bulky, but can be used to pack cables, small battery chargers, etc..  I’ll be taking this setup to the Galapagos in January.

Have any tips?  Feel free to post or email me at susan(at)sseubert(dot)com

Editorial Photographer Susan Seubert back on the road

Greetings!  Thanksgiving is upon us and the holiday season is beginning.  I have much to be thankful for: a wonderful family, great clients, amazing assignments and the gift of spending several months a year in Maui.  Our time in the islands is over for the time being and tomorrow we head back to the mainland.  I will be heading to New Orleans, Napa and Baja over the next two months so stay tuned for more adventure stories.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  Aloha!

photo inside the crater of Haleakala, photo © Jupiter Nielsen