Eddie Would Go

The 2009 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau -- December 8, 2009

Sitting in Brian Bielmann’s office, we were studying the weather warnings for Hawaii’s north shore. The swell coming toward us was for waves so big they would rip houses off their foundations and drag them out to sea. Brian’s brother, whose house was on the shoreline, had evacuated and boarded up his house. While there wasn’t a full-scale evacuation in effect, it was obvious that many were worried. There was a tension and excitement in the air on the north shore. Everyone was waiting to see what would happen. I asked Brian, who had lived on the north shore for the last 35 years if he had ever heard anything like this and he said no. This was going to be something to remember….To see a gallery of my images from the event check out the Eddie Aikau projects portfolio on my website.

There have only been a few times in my career that the stars have aligned as incredibly as with my recent trip to Hawaii. I had scheduled a trip over a month ago to Hawaii to shoot some stock images of surfing. Planning that far ahead means not knowing if any big swells will be coming through during my stay – hence it was a gamble. But this time around, it was a gamble that paid off big time.

While on the north shore of Oahu I got the chance to photograph two major surfing competitions, one of which was the Quicksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave surfing comp. The “Eddie”, as it is affectionately referred to, is the big wave surfing event and has only happened eight times in the last twenty-five years because it requires 20-foot plus size Hawaiian waves, which translates to 40-foot wave faces. The event is held in Waimea Bay, just south of the famous surfing area known as Bonzai Pipeline.

[Side note: Wave sizes in Hawaii are measured from the back of the wave instead of the wave face. Hence a Hawaiian wave, which has a 30-foot face, is measured buy the back of the wave as a 15-foot wave. It is a bit confusing, and I am not sure why they measure waves this way, but this should eliminate some confusion to readers who are not surfers.]

Obviously it is not every day that 40-foot waves roll into Waimea Bay. The event is planned each year but if the big waves don’t show up the event doesn’t happen. The last time the Eddie was held was 2004. It is an invitational event with only 28 competitors. This years invitees included such surfing superstars as Andy and Bruce Irons, Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Greg Long and many others. The event officially kicked off on my second day in Oahu on December 2, 2009. The event normally has a three-month period in which to run, from December 1st through February 28th. This year the event happened just a few days after the opening ceremonies. Needless to say I was blown away that it happened during my stay in Hawaii.

The swell hit on a Monday but the weather was rough and the waves weren’t very consistent. Waimea Bay was taking hit after hit by waves that were in the 20 to 30-foot Hawaiian range, with 30 to 40 foot faces. Thousands of people had clogged the roads and the beach to come watch the Eddie. This is the superbowl of surfing. To the crowds’ dismay, the event was called off for the day because the waves were not as consistent as hoped and the swell was still rising. The next day saw some huge sets rip through the bay early on and the sky was blue and crisp. At 7:30 AM the event organizers announced that the event was on.

The first heat had a few big waves, but the second heat really got things going. Kelly Slater caught a huge wave and rode it all the way into the beach, which was a considerable distance away. From our vantage point right in front of the initial big waves we could hear the crowd roaring behind us as he road into the beach break. He scored a 98 out of a hundred for that ride. While that is incredible there were three 100-point rides. Towards the end of the day, in the final heat, there was a large set of 25 to 35 foot waves, with 40 to 50 foot wave faces, that rolled in one after the other, each a bit bigger than the one before. The waves were crashing into the bay and shaking the ground on which we stood. Greg Long, who ended up winning, caught a monster wave and rode it all the way into the beach scoring a perfect 100 points. He wasn’t in contention at all before this set of waves, but his perfect timing and considerable skills put him on top – he won $55,000 for his efforts and bested Kelly Slater and Bruce Irons.

Shooting an event like this is difficult. Quicksilver, the main sponsor, had several jet skis in the water, but only a few of them were for media use and those shooters lucky enough to get on the skis were chosen by Quicksilver. The rest of us had to shoot from the shore with big lenses. As it turned out, the best shooting position was in a backyard just off the point. The going rate was $50/hour to shoot from their property and some were paying up to $200/hour. I only stayed there for two hours during the best light of the day. It was front row seating as you can see in some of the images in this blog post.

As the day progressed, I moved around finding different angles and perspectives. My gear consisted of a Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4 lens, a 70-200mmm f/2.8 lens and a Nikon D700 and D300, both with the external battery grip, which allowed me to shoot at 8 fps. By choosing the right camera for the position I essentially had a 1.5 teleconvertor if I needed it with the Nikon D300 since it has a 1.5X crop factor due to it’s smaller than full frame sensor.

Talking with Brian later that night after the event, he told me he had never seen Waimea Bay that big. Looking at the photos afterward the waves looked even bigger than we remembered. It turned out to be the biggest waves ever for an Eddie Aikau comp and the biggest waves ever for a surfing competition. The waves and the competition made national news three nights in a row. I shot over 6,000 images during my ten-day stay in Hawaii and well over 2,000 on the day of the Eddie Aikau. I have pulled a quick and dirty set of images and put them on my website in the afore mentioned projects portfolio.

I have to say thank you here as well to Brian and Shauna Bielmann. I met Brian while working on my book Digital Masters: Adventure Photography – he was recommended to me by Andew Eccles and invited me out to shoot surfing in Hawaii after we did several phone interviews for the book. Without his and his families incredible hospitality I would never have had this experience. You can check out Brian’s work on his website at www.brianbielmann.com.

If you'd like to read more about The 2009 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surfing competition and see the final results log on to the Quicksilver Eddie Aikau website.

Breaking News - Digital Masters: Adventure Photography Now on Sale

I just got word that my book Digital Masters: Adventure Photography is now available and is shipping from Amazon.com. This is a major surprise to me as the publisher told me there was no way they could get it out before January 1st. I guess they worked something out - haven't heard back from them just yet with the holidays but Amazon has the book in stock and will be shipping them today to folks that have pre-ordered the book. In fact, I heard about all of this from one of my newsletter subscribers who emailed me to let me know that he got an email from Amazon, who said the book would ship today (the day after Thanksgiving) and arrive early next week. So for those of you that pre-ordered the book, it is on the way.

Here is the book description from the publisher, Lark Books:

This beautifully produced guide by Michael Clark is the newest entry in the Digital Masters series, as well as the first book on a fast-growing photographic genre: shooting today's popular extreme outdoor sports, from mountain biking and ice climbing to surfing, kayaking, and more.

Clark is one of the world’s most respected adventure photographers, and he offers sage advice—gained from years of hard-earned experience—on equipment, techniques, and the specific skills required to get in on the action. Learn to capture fast-moving subjects and deal with harsh conditions and horrible weather—even when you’re hanging from ropes and riggings in a squall. Of special interest is the Portraiture and Lifestyle chapter, which covers increasingly in-demand techniques.

If you haven't gotten ordered a copy of the book yet, Amazon has them in stock and you can find it here.

Fall 2009 Newsletter

The Fall 2009 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you'd like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I'll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial with updates on recent assignments and upcoming trips, an equipment review of the 12 MP Nikon D3 vs. a 39 MP Hasselblad H3D, a special portfolio section detailing a recent assignment with Red Bull in San Diego, California, a perspective article on Connecting with your Audience and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to approximately 5,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Fall 2009 issue on my website at:


Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

Red Bull Illume features Michael's new book

Red Bull posted a feature article on the Red Bull Illume website which promotes a few adventure photography books including my book, Digital Masters: Adventure Photography, which is due out January 1st, 2010. In addition to promoting the book the website also features one of my images of Danny MacAskill shot for Red Bull in early October.

Lowepro Ad for Toploader Pro Series Bags

Some of you might have seen it already, but for those of you that haven't, the camera bag manufacturer Lowepro is running a full-page ad (above) in several photography magazines all over the world right now. My thanks to Lowepro for promoting me and using an image shot by Mark Watson.

The image was shot while covering the 2009 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race. Mark, Lydia McDonald (writer) and myself hiked into the last trekking section with a group of racers and we had a stellar adventure ourselves in one of the most remote and uncharted areas on the planet at the very southern tip of South America. If you'd like to see more images from that adventure please check out my images from the race.

Also, for the full story, you can download a PDF article that details our adventures from Lowepro's website.

Mentor Series Lighting Workshop in Philadelphia

I just got back from teaching a stellar lighting workshop in Philadelphia with David Tejada for the Mentor Series Workshops, sponsored by Nikon. While it was only a three day workshop most everyone felt like they had been there a week or more by the second day. We stuffed in an incredible amount of information on lighting and even digital workflow. And I have to say the participants images were absolutely incredible. I was very impressed by the caliber of photography.

Above is an image I snapped at the very end of the day with one of the participants cameras just to give you an idea of what we were working on. This image of model Lisa Versagli, was shot at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where Al Capone was once incarcerated. The prison is a ruin that is being preserved. It was originally built in 1827 and opened in 1829. Hence, it is one of the oldest prisons in the United States. It was also used as a location for the film 12 Monkeys and more recently, Law Abiding Citizen.

My thanks to Michelle Cast and PopPhoto for bringing me out. I look forward to teaching with the Mentor Series again here soon at some point.

Connecting with your Audience

Disclaimer: I am a diehard U2 fan and have been since the age of nine. My experience may not reflect what you would have felt but I’d be willing to bet even someone who isn’t a U2 fan would have felt the concert was an incredible experience.

The above video clip was shot with an iPhone (believe it or not) and gives you a 45 second taste of the light show...my apologies for the rough audio, though it is pretty amazing considering it was recorded on an iPhone.

While watching U2 perform a few nights ago I was completely awestruck by how they can capture an audience and connect with them on a level few rock bands ever have or ever will again. I was in Phoenix, Arizona, along with about 90,000 fellow U2 fans. Their stage was this lunar lander behemoth that rose pretty much to the top of the partially enclosed University of Phoenix stadium. The air was electric. The sound quality was stunning. The songs were anthems, and we were encouraged to participate in the show. In fact, I hesitate to call it a show, it wasn’t. It was an event. And Bono used every bit of his passion and fervor to include us in the mix. The songs were used to inspire and prod. It was clear that the music was bigger than just the lyrics or the band. By the end of the concert, they managed to create an emotional connection with the audience that left everyone reeling.

As an artist, who uses a camera instead of musical instruments, my mind went to work as they finished out the last encore. How do these guys do it? How do they make such a visceral, intense connection with their audience? The first thing that came to mind was that their songs are firmly connected with their beliefs and passions. It is no secret that three of the band members are Christians and that Bono’s political motivations are to help the poor and needy in Africa and elsewhere. In recent years this has been the outpouring of their faith, and that is reflected in the songs. Hence, every Christian in some way has a connection with the band far beyond the songs. Secondly, passion is infectious. There is no facade with these guys. They come out and play their hearts out for two and half hours and involve the crowd. The passion on display for their causes is real. You can hear it in the songs, in their work. In a sense, the songs serve as anthems because they encourage you to sing along and become an activist in the cause whether it’s about changing your life, coming to God, fighting oppression or poverty or helping to solve the AIDS crisis in Africa. The last part of this connection, that can’t be underestimated is the quality of their work. It is top-notch. And even more to the point, it is consistently top-notch. That can’t be understated. If the work wasn’t good then no one would be there to celebrate it. Put it all together and you have a group that can deliver real and meaningful content, not just entertainment, in a live show.

Obviously it is going to be extremely difficult, nigh impossible, to create such an emotional response with photography. Live music by its nature is a different animal altogether. For a long time now I have been thinking that in this day and age, where the profession of photography is changing at an incredible pace, it might be wise to create a following beyond the clients that hire you for assignments. Of course, the fact that you are reading this article on my blog or in my newsletter goes without saying that I already have a following of some sort and continue to cultivate that audience. Many other pro photographers have done likewise like Chase Jarvis, Joe McNally and Vincent LaForet. They have used their blogs and their work to inspire, teach and inform with incredible success. But is that it? Is it possible to create an emotional connection with a photograph, with a photographer’s work? I’d say yes, it is, but obviously not on par with a U2 concert. For example, look at the incredible images of James Nachtwey, that force one to deal with the atrocities going on around the world. Or look at the images of melting glaciers shot by James Balog and his crew at the Extreme Ice Survey. Those images show us with visual data how fast our climate is changing and hopefully motivate us to change our everyday habits that might be part of the problem.

Looking over my notes on how U2 was able to connect with their fans at that concert, there are some clear cut correlations that can be adapted for the photographer looking to connect with people through their images. First, and this is no surprise, passion reigns supreme. If you are passionate about your photography and what you photograph that will come through. Usually when people are passionate about something they are deeply committed. And this means they understand that topic extremely well - which will lead to very insightful images. Second, your work has to be top-notch. If you can’t communicate effectively with your chosen media then it is harder for the message to get through. Hence, the better the work, the easier it is for others to get excited about it. It is obvious that U2 works really hard on their craft. They don’t just sit around lazily and throw a few songs - or their tours - together. They work at it incredibly hard. If you expect to really connect with the viewer (especially photo editors who have seen it all) then you are going to have to apply yourself by working harder, smarter and longer than the next guy. This is all part of refining and pushing your craft so it can be top-notch. And it all ties into how passionate and driven you are. If you know me personally then you know I am an extremely passionate person who can’t contain himself. My newsletter alone is proof of that.

The hardest part for a photographer to convey through their images is their message - if there is one. As photographers, our voice is our images. What do they say? Do they convey our beliefs? Our Passion? Is that message one that will connect with others? As an adventure photographer, my images aren’t helping anyone avert the AIDS crisis in Africa. But, on a smaller level, I hope that my images of elite athletes help inspire others to take a few risks and get out of their comfort zone, to expand their world view and have an adventure that gives them a new perspective. During the concert, I was inspired to take my work even further by shooting for some NGOs I have worked with and believe in -- and ones that one can use my images to get others motivated and contributing to positive changes in Burma and Thailand specifically. And all of my adventure skills will be needed to create those images. More to come on that at a later date but the ball is already rolling.

The Lowepro Toploader Pro AW

Last week Lowepro put up a special section on their website highlighting the Toploader Pro camera bag series they released earlier this year. I was sent a prototype of the bag to use while covering the 2009 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race in February and put it through some serious abuse. Lowepro asked me to put together a PDF with the full story so folks could hear all about the adventures I had down there and I created a modified version of the article that I wrote for my Spring 2009 Newsletter. On Lowepro's webpage they highlight the PDF which you can download here.

This glimpse of my adventures is also highlighted on the homepage of their website. As always it is an honor to be chosen by a major manufacturer to test their gear and then be promoted by them. Lowepro has consistently impressed me over the course of the last year that I have been working closely with them - they listen to photographers and modify their existing camera bags to work for us. I have spent hours on the phone with many of the bag designers and they have thought through every feature of the bags with amazing clarity. All of their attention to detail makes my job easier and the camera bags a whole lot more durable and dependable.

Those of you that know me know that I don't endorse products unless I use them and recommend them. Before using the Toploader Pro 75 AW I had one of the previous generation Topload Zoom packs which saw occasional use but was certainly not my go to camera bag. Once I started using the new Toploader Pro 75 AW in Patagonia earlier this year I realized just how much more versatile this new incarnation of the top loading bags really is and I find myself using it all the time. It has become the bag I reach for about 90% of the time now when I need to go light and fast or find myself hanging off a huge cliff face.

Check out the PDF file listed above to read more about my adventures covering the 2009 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race and how I used the Toploader Pro 75 AW. I also have to give a shout out to Mark Watson, a good buddy and phenomenal Aussie photographer, who covered the race with me - and who shot the images of me that appear in the PDF, on the website and in a future ad coming to magazines near you this winter. Thanks Mark! And thank you Lowepro.

Nikon Mentor Series Workshop in Philadelphia

There are still a few slots available for the October Mentor Series Master Class on Lighting taking place in Philadelphia next month. Check out my previous blog post about this workshop for more details. It is sure to be a lot of fun and will help develop your artificial lighting skills using smaller dedicated flash units and larger battery powered strobes.

The workshop is sponsored by Nikon, Microsoft, Bogen, SanDisk, Mpix, and Photoshelter. I will be teaching the workshop along with David Tejada and we will have gear from Nikon and Bogen onsite at the workshop so don't delay if you want to get in on this intense and exciting workshop. If you have any questions about the workshop please don't hesitate to contact me.

Santa Fe Photowalk

Andy Biggs and I are organizing a photowalk in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 7, 2009. Since I have a workshop with Andy Biggs beginning on October 8, the next day, we figured it would be fun to organize a casual and fun photowalk of Santa Fe the day before our workshop begins.

The photowalk is open to anybody who would like to join us. Just bring along a camera, comfortable shoes, water and whatever else makes sense. We will meet up at 4 PM at the gazebo in the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe, and will go from there. We don't have a pre-determined path to walk, so please don't be late. In fact, just show up early and be ready to go by 4pm. I am confident that we will end up at a restaurant with good food and margaritas at sundown which should be a blast.

You can read the offical photowalk information on the Photowalklist.com web site:

Santa Fe Photowalk, October 7, 2009

If you would like more information on our photo workshop that starts the next day check out my earlier blog post about the Adobe Lightroom & the Fine Art Digital Print Workshop.

Bogen Cafe Webinar with Michael Clark

Just a note, the interview I did with the folks at the Bogen Cafe is now available for download from their website. The Webinar gives a lot of insight into how I construct my images, the technical aspects of shooting digitally including a bit of my workflow and what it takes to be a pro. You can find the interview, entitled Adventure Sports Photography: Roundtable with Adventure Photographer Michael Clark on the Bogen Cafe website.

Click on the presentation title to download the complete webinar. The sound quality isn't perfect but we covered a lot of ground in this seminar and I heard from a lot of photographers they they got a lot out of the interview. Be forewarned that the .WMV file is quite large at almost 65 MB. And you will need to have the Windows Media Player software loaded onto your computer to play the presentation. You can download that here.

I do have to say that this interview delves into the nuts and bolts of adventure sports photography more than any other interview I have done in the last few years. If you are interested in gear, adventure sports or remote photography I think you'll find this very interesting. Enjoy!

NIkon World Assignment Article

The Summer 2009 issue of Nikon World Magazine includes an article about the 2009 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race which I photographed earlier this year for the Assignment section. Nikon World is one of those publications that I drooled over early on in my career (and still do) because many of the photographers I admired like Galen Rowell, Joe McNally, Pete Turner and many others were featured in the magazine. It was a dream of mine to be featured in Nikon World - and it came true in the Summer 2006 issue.

Before heading down to cover the race earlier this year I thought Nikon World might be interested in an article about the race - especially since I was going to be putting their gear (and myself) into some rough conditions. They loved the idea and the Assignment article was the result. I do have to say that Nikon takes great care when they print the magazine. My images, and all of the others in the magazine, look phenomenal. The images are nice and crisp and the colors are dead on. There are not many publications out there that can match their production quality. Add to that the great writing from Barry Tanenbaum and you have a class act. Thank you Barry and Nikon for including my work and adventures in the latest issue!

And of course if you missed it, my Spring 2009 Newsletter featured an extended article on covering the race and includes a lot more info on the adventures I had in remote Patagonia.

P.S. - I do have a high res PDF of the article and will post a link to that in the future.

Outdoor Photographer: Ask the Pros

Last month's July 2009 issue of Outdoor Photographer featured an article entitled "Ask the Pros" where readers submitted questions and a bevy of pro photographers answered them. Among the pro photographers included in the article were Art Wolfe, Moose Peterson, Tom Till, George Lepp, Glenn Randall...and myself. I am honored to be included among such stellar photographers. If you'd like to see the complete article, there is an expanded version on the Outdoor Photographer website.

Here are a few of the questions that included my input:

Q. I'm looking for information or recomendations on cameras and equipment that can handle below-freezing or below-zero temperatures.
—James Chilcote

A. James,
In my experience shooting ice climbing, skiing and mountaineering in frigid conditions, all the way down to -40° F, I’ve found that modern digital SLRs do quite well, especially the pro models. When the temps are above 0º F, you’ll have no problems with most D-SLRs, save for the batteries not lasting as long as normal. Keep a spare battery with you in a warm pocket and trade them out every half-hour or so. The main problems you’ll run into below 0° F are keeping the batteries warm and the LCD from freezing, which can happen.

To overcome these issues, I usually tape a chemical hand warmer over the battery compartment—either on the bottom of the camera or on the grip. I try to keep it as far away from the back of the camera as possible since heat will increase the amount of noise produced by your imaging sensor. In super-cold environments (e.g., -20º and below), this is less of a concern. To keep the LCD from freezing, I occasionally warm it up by holding a hand warmer on the LCD. I don’t tape it onto the LCD because it would start to heat up the CMOS or CCD sensor. I’d also suggest going with one of the top-tier cameras from any manufacturer because they have better weather sealing, which should help in the cold.
—Michael Clark

Q. I am just starting out with selling my photos and am wondering about ways other than my website to get my photos viewed and sold?
—Joseph Christy

A. Joseph,
I’d suggest starting with magazines, as they are the best way to get your images seen by huge numbers of people—and drive people to your website. When I was starting out, one of my very first submissions actually was to Outdoor Photographer. I submitted a few landscape images along with an article about a local area and they published it a few months later. Getting published in a magazine is one of the best forms of marketing—and you get paid for it, as well. Many photo editors also will allow you to include your website address in the photo credit which is another great way to drive potential clients and those interested in your work to your website.
—Michael Clark

PDN Great Outdoors Photo Contest

I just got the latest issue of PDN in the mail today and found out that my image from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (above) was a finalist in the 2009 Great Outdoors Photo Contest. My image appears in the magazine and will also appear in a soon to come web gallery on PDN. Stay tuned for that - I'll put up a link as soon as it appears online. The judges in this years contest were Mark Pinsukanjana (Modernbook Gallery), Julia Vandenoever (Backpacker), Brenda Milis (Men's Health) and Krista Rossow (National Geographic Traveler). My thanks to them and PDN for choosing my image.

Summer 2009 Newsletter

The Summer 2009 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you'd like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I'll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial with updates on the newsletter and other topics, a review entitled "A few of my Favorite Things", a portfolio of recent images shot this summer in Utah, New Mexico and Texas, an article about the future of magazines and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to approximately 5,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Summer 2009 issue on my website at:


Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

Lowepro Photography Showcase

I have been working closely with Lowepro for the last year or more and they have now included me in their Photography Showcase which features images and bios of top photographers from around the world. It is an honor to be included in such talented company. I must also say, working with Lowepro has been a pleasure. In my conversations with the design team I have been very impressed with how much they have thought through their products before they bring them to market. My Lowepro packs and bags have taken an incredible beating over the years - one fanny pack even took a hundred foot fall with three lenses in it. Two of those lenses survived and are still in my camera bags. Check out my latest newsletter for more info on the Lowepro Vertex 300 AW.

Cameradojo.com Interview

Last week I was interviewed by Cameradojo.com about my adventure sports photography and what it takes to photograph adventure sports in general. As usual I delved into the nitty-gritty details of my profession in this hour long conversation with Kerry Garrison and David Esquire. Check it out on their website, it is Podcast #59 - A Conversation with Michael Clark.

Nikon Mentor Series Workshop in Philadelphia

Workshop: Mentor Series Master Class: Lighting

Workshop Date: October 30 - November 1, 2009

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Cost: $999*
* includes in the field instruction, entrance fees, presentations, digital review sessions, an Mpix photo book and transportation to each shooting location.

Workshop Description:

Pack your camera gear and join the Mentor Series as we trek to the birthplace of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” this coming fall! Philadelphia will provide the perfect backdrop to learn the rewards of using light to create an intentional effect in your photos, as well as explore the history and culture this city has to offer. Follow Nikon professional photographers and illumination gurus David Tejada and Michael Clark as they simplify various techniques and help you address lighting scenarios that will convey a desired atmosphere, while capturing unique images in both controlled and spontaneous shooting situations.

*NEW* This trek includes a Master Class on Lighting, providing an exclusive opportunity to determine how luminosity can shape the mood and color of the photographs you create. Allow our mentors to assist you in finding the best angles, interpreting natural light sources, utilizing reflectors, and understanding how to control light. By learning how to properly use light modifiers such as umbrellas, soft boxes, snoots, grids, silks and even bounce techniques, you will walk away with a solid comprehension of how easily an image can be enhanced.

Visit the stunning Longwood Gardens, one of the world’s premiere horticultural display gardens, as you gain experience directing hired models and practice using off-camera flash. Or reveal the beauty of the yellow, orange and purple trees, and the golden honey locusts, scarlet sweet gums, and ruby northern red oaks in the sunlight. Inside the Conservatory, have your camera handy as you discover a lush world of exotic flowers, with more then 20,000 blooming chrysanthemums, making for spectacular macro images. Travel on to the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary, and explore what lighting is best suited to subject and scene, as we use America’s most historic prison (open from 1829 to 1971) to shoot models and further practice learned techniques “on location”. Take advantage of the penitentiary’s vaulted, sky-lit cells to capture a particular mood in the jail that held some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone. Later, photograph along a tour of Philadelphia’s remarkable landmarks from the top of our own double-decker bus. Try your hand at making long exposure night images while you capture the Betsy Ross Bridge, the dramatic city skyline from Camden and visit the waterfront area of Penns Landing, and Boathouse Row.

Spend some time in Center City, exceptionally conveying Logan Square, or the famous Love sculpture by Robert Indiana. You will capture history with your camera at Independence Hall as you take in the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, stop in Washington Square, and pay a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Everywhere you go in Philadelphia, you’ll find a piece of America’s past, and continually discover the chance to utilize the lighting techniques you’ve learned to capture these historic landmarks. Explore “the city of brotherly love” with expert photographers by your side!


Nikon, Bogen Imaging, Microsoft, SanDisk, Photoshelter, Mpix


David Tejada
Photo District News

Michael Clark
National Geographic
Sports Illustrated

This promises to be a great workshop. For more information on the workshop and to register click here. Here is another link where you can also download the workshop itinerary. You can also download the workshop announcement ad.

Bogen Cafe Webinar with Michael Clark

Bogen will conduct a webinar with me on July 17, 2009 talking about my experiences as an adventure sports photographer. The webinar is an interactive interview with Bogen Product manager David Fisher, where participants will be able to listen in on the interview, ask questions and get answers and are also eligible to win one of three Gitzo Traveler Series 2 Carbon Fiber 6X Monopods. For more information about the webinar click here to go to the Bogen Website. If you would like to sign up for the webinar you can Register here!

The Webinar is FREE and will take place Friday, July 17th from 2 pm to 3 pm EDT! During this session David & Michael will discuss:

- Adventure photography fundamentals (light, autofocus, histograms, exposure)
- Artificial lighting
- Photo equipment
- Outdoor gear
- How to approach and shoot rock climbing, mountain biking and whitewater kayaking
- What it takes to be a pro!

Bogen Imaging, which is the US supplier for such great gear as Elinchrom strobes, Gitzo and Bogen Tripods, Avenger Light stands and many other fine products, has been an imaging partner for a number of years now. This should be a very exciting and informative webinar that I think many will find very interesting.

Nikon and Digital Photo Pro feature Michael's work

Digital Photo Pro and Nikon have put together an extended advertorial featuring photographers that shoot with Nikon gear. My advertorial originally ran in the November/December 2006 Issue of Digital Photo Pro and was featured on my blog here. For this most recent revamp of the advertorial, Nikon and Digital Photo Pro have built a web gallery including a dozen of my best images. You can check out the Inside the Photographer's Studio web gallery and the advertorial on the DPP website.

A few of the other photographers included in this web galley are Dave Black, Joe McNally, Robert Beck, Doug Meunez, Joel Sartore, and Rob Van Petten. It is an honor to be included in a group of such well known and incredible photographers.

Adobe Lightroom & the Fine Art Digital Print Workshop

Workshop Date: October 8-11, 2009

Workshop Leaders: Andy Biggs and Michael Clark

Location: Hotel Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico

About The Workshop

This 4-day workshop will be a combined classroom workshop with outdoor photographic shoots. The workshop coincides with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which is the world’s largest balloon festival and will certainly be one of our photographic destinations. All classroom instruction will be centered around Adobe Photoshop Lightroom v2.3, as well as the craft of creating a fine art digital print.

Workshop Schedule

Day 1 - Morning
Lightroom introduction. The modules: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web
Raw or JPEG (8 bit vs. 16 bit)
Exposing for Digital Capture and Histogram Camera settings
Noise/ISO sensitivity
White Balance
An overview of RAW software options
Overview of a solid digital workflow
To DNG or not to DNG? That is the question.
FIle Management
Image Editing

Day 1 - Afternoon
Outdoor shoot up in the Aspens in the Sangre de Christo mountains above Santa Fe. Early October is a fantastic time to be amongst the aspens as they change color.

Day 2 - Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning shoot at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Day 2 - Afternoon
Advanced Monitor Calibration
An In-depth look at processing Images with Lightroom’s Develop Module
Backing up your Images

Day 3 - Morning
How to select inkjet papers
Printing from Lightroom and Photoshop

Computers will not be provided but participants with laptops should bring them. Following along on your own laptop is a hands-on way of learning what is being taught in the classroom.

Day 3 - Afternoon
Landscape shoot at Plaza Blanca, an area near Abiquiu, NM that was made famous by the painter Georgia O’Keefe.

Day 4 - Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning shoot at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Day 4 - Afternoon
Hands-on printing with current large format printers on the market. Paper provided by Moab Paper and printers on loan from Santa Fe Camera Center. Participants leave with one fine art print of their own work!

About the Instructors
Michael Clark is an internationally published outdoor photographer specializing in adventure sports, travel and landscape photography. He produces intense, raw image of athletes pushing their sports to the limit and has risked life and limb on a variety of assignments to bring back stunning images of rock climbers, mountaineers, kayakers and mountain bikers in remote locations around the world. He contributes to National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, Sports Illustrated, Outside, Men's Journal, Backpacker, Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Climbing, Alpinist, Rock and Ice, Bike Magazine and The New York Times among many others.

Andy Biggs is an avid adventurer, conservationist, teacher, and outdoor photographer whose photography celebrates the African landscape and its rich wildlife, people, and culture. With a deep respect and understanding for African wildlife, Andy unfolds the world of the Serengeti onto our doorstep with striking emotional depth. His photographic safaris allow the traveler to not only enhance their understanding of photography, lighting, and wildlife, but to develop a life-long admiration for Africa 's beauty and culture. You can check out Andy's work at www.andybiggs.com.

The Cost
The cost of this workshop is $995 per person (inclusive of light breakfasts either in our teaching space or in the field). The same rate applies for each participant regardless of whether they are doing photography and participating in the workshop, or not. A nonrefundable deposit of $300 is required to secure your spot on the workshop. Final balance will be due no later than September 1, 2009.

Please note: We will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. However, certain conditions, such as bad weather, may necessitate changes in the itinerary. We reserve the right to alter any itinerary at any time, if necessary.

The classroom portion of the workshop will be held at the Hotel Santa Fe. We have negotiated a group rate that is discounted from their advertised prices if you would like to stay at Hotel Santa Fe. Please inquire if interested.

Most major airlines service Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is approximately 60 miles south of Santa Fe. Once in Albuquerque, you can take one of the many shuttles to your hotel in Santa Fe. Shuttle costs are approximately $25 - $30. Rental cars are available in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and from the hotel. The Hotel Santa Fe is located in downtown Santa Fe, within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and entertainment.

We do not provide transportation during the workshop. Please plan ahead and reserve a rental car. Of course, we will share vehicles and car pool to make life easier for all of us. We are not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets in the event of a workshop cancellation.

Workshop Materials
All participants will be given a copy of Michael’s e-book entitled Adobe Photoshop Lightroom:
 A Professional Photographer's Workflow, which details his complete workflow from start to finish.

You will need to bring the following equipment with you:
• a 35mm digital SLR camera with interchangeable lenses
• a laptop computer with a DVD burner or an external hard drive – PC or Mac is acceptable. Instructors will be using Mac.
• Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software installed on your computer (you can download the 30-day trial version of Lightroom before the workshop if you don’t already have the software.)
• Digital memory cards with a card reader (preferably CompactFlash or Secure Digital Cards)
• power adapters and cables for laptop and digital camera
• camera manual
• batteries and charger for rechargeable batteries

It is expected that you know how to download images from your camera to the laptop, know basic editing techniques using your software, and are able to organize the edited images for critique.

If this workshop has your name on it, then now is the time to register. Remember, there will be limited space available for this workshop. When they're spoken for, that's it. To register follow this link to Andy Biggs website where you can register and pay via PayPal. If you have any questions before registering, send us an e-mail with any inquiries to info@andybiggs.com.

Spring 2009 Newsletter

The Spring 2009 issue of the Michael Clark Photography newsletter is now available for download. If you'd like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I'll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial on my adventures over the last five months, a review of Nikon's D700, an article about my adventures covering the 2009 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race and a special Portfolio showing images shot on assignment for Men's Fitness and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over three thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Fall 2009 issue on my website at:


Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at http://www.adobe.com.

Lowepro Home Page

Lowepro gave me one of their prototypes to take with me to Patagonia a few months ago. My mission was to put it through the wringer and see how it fared in some very inhospitable weather. That was accomplished quite easily since it rained everyday. In particular I was working with their new Toploader Pro 75 AW, using it both as a chest pouch while carrying a backpack and also in fanny pack mode with one of the deluxe Street and Field series waist belts and a few lens pouches.

Lowepro redesigned their website recently and a rotating image of me (see above) using the pack comes up when you visit the site. I just signed on with Lowepro last fall but have already had some great conversations with them on how they can improve their gear. In the course of those conversations I was amazed to hear just how thoroughly they have thought through all of the issues we deal with out in the real world as pro adventure photographers. Over the course of my career, I have accumulated a dozen or so of the Lowepro bags. I seem to have a camera bag fetish, since certain bags seem to work very well for shooting certain sports. Among my favorites are the Vertex 300 AW, Specialist 85 AW and the new Toploader Pro AW.

If you read my earlier blog post about falling into the ocean with the Toploader Pro 75 AW and my Nikon D700 and 28-70mm lens then you know part of the story. The Toploader Pro wasn't designed as a waterproof bag so I wasn't surprised by the demise of my camera because of the accident, but in every other way the Toploader Pro is far superior to the Topload Zoom packs it replaces, especially in rainy, wet conditions.

My good friend, Tony Hoare, shot the photo that appears on the front page of the Lowepro website, shot while on the go in Patagonia. The image above of me in a deep peat bog was shot by Mark Watson, an incredible adventure photographer from Australia who was also covering the 2009 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race.

Digital Masters: Adventure Photography

Perhaps you have been wondering what happened to my Winter 2009 Newsletter or the lack of blog posts the last few months. Well, I can finally announce to the world that I have been working on a book on adventure sports photography these last five months. The title of the book is Digital Masters: Adventure Photography and it is part of a series of photography books being published by Lark Books, a division of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

It is quite an honor to be chosen to write this book as a few of the other authors include Bob Krist, George DeWolfe and Nancy Brown, who are heads of state in their respective genres of photography.

This book is a how-to type book which basically details the ins and outs of documenting adventure sports. As far as I can tell there are no other books out there that even come close to covering as much ground as this book does. In fact there are few if any books that specifically talk about shooting adventure sports at all.

I have basically downloaded everything I have learned about shooting adventure sports over the last 14 years as a full-time pro into this book. For those of you that are wondering, there is very little digital processing covered in the book. Because my Lightroom workflow e-book has become so popular and is much more detailed we decided to concentrate on the the photography and not get caught up in the digital processing. It covers in detail:

- Photo Equipment
- Outdoor Gear
- Adventure Photography Fundamentals: Light, Autofocus, Histograms, Exposure, Composition, Remote Camera work, etc.
- Artificial Lighting
- How I approach and shoot the major adventure sports - talking about each sport individually.
- Portraiture and lifestyle as they relate to adventure sports
- What it takes to be a pro
- Everything from websites, portfolios and marketing strategies
- Interviews with photographer Corey Rich and National Geographic Adventure photo editor Sabine Meyer
- And a whole lot more than I have time to list here...

At the moment, I am finishing up the last chapter and will be finalizing the book in the next week or two. It still has a long ways to go before it hits the bookshelves but it should be out this fall. Of course, I will be advertising the book in my newsletters, on this blog and others. So stay tuned.

If you just can't wait and want to be one of the first to get the book this fall it is already up on Amazon.com and is available for pre-order.

Men's Fitness March 2009 Article

Last fall, I got a call from Men's Fitness magazine to shoot the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department helicopter search and rescue squad known as Henry 1. I have been holding these photos under my hat for months and now that the article is out I thought I'd put up an extended web gallery of images from this assignment.

I have to say that this assignment was one of the most fun and exciting assignments I have had in the last year. How often do you get to go fly around with an elite helicopter rescue unit for two full days and have them tell you "whatever you want to do you just let us know." I probably won't have that ever happen again. And I have to say everyone that works on the Henry 1 squad was a rockstar. They know they have one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

Though the assignment was only two days it felt like a week's worth of helicopter time. We were flying all over the place answering calls and in between shooting training exercises on cliff bands, in the ocean and everywhere in between. I am sure some of the stunts the pilots were executing were quite a bit more dangerous than I knew. At one point Paul Bradley, the pilot with us on the first day of my assignment, slotted the chopper into a hillside with trees above the whirling blades and trees on either side only a few feet away. The next day I was hanging a hundred feet below the chopper to shoot a mock rescue. So as you can tell, this wasn't much different than every kids fantasy: to fly in a chopper with pilots who can pretty much do anything! One of the most amazing aspects of this assignment for me was just to see how they work and how incredible their pilots are. When they take off there is no "scenic cruise" mentality. You get about a foot or two off the ground and you are out of there. They turn on a dime and lay that puppy sideways when they need to as you can see in a few of the images.

You can check out the web gallery with some of the out takes from this assignment on my website here. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't say a huge thank you to Lisa Elin at Men's Fitness and the entire Henry 1 crew for being so acomadating and friendly - I had a spectacular time ripping around northern California with you guys!

You can check out the Henry 1 website at www.henry1.com. And you can download the article on the Henry 1 site here.

The 2009 Wenger Patagonian Adventure Race

I spent the last month in Patagonia, more specifically in Chilean Patagonia - at the very end of the continent, covering the 2009 Wenger Patagonian Adventure Race (and afterwards shooting stock images in Torres del Paine). Let's just say the race was full of carnage. Six people ended up in the hospital. Everyone was ok but some were in danger of losing limbs or even their life. There were some close calls out there, especially in the final trekking section. One photographer even broke his ankle so it was a rough year. And the carnage also extends to the camera gear as well with myself taking the biggest hit. One camera body and one lens took a swim with me in the ocean. It is toast. But thankfully my insurance covers it so I'll have a new one here soon enough. I also have another lens and tripod that will have to be repaired as well. Other photographers had some lenses that will have to be repaired or replaced so I wasn't alone in the equipment carnage category.

This years race was the toughest ever. The weather was wet and rainy for the entire 10 days. We did see brief, 5-minute spells of sunshine, a couple of times but they were only cruel teasers and then it was back to sideways rain. There was a lot of sea kayaking, mountain biking and trekking as well as a short rope climbing section in this years race. All in all, the first four sections of the race were pretty "casual" compared to the final sea kayaking and trekking sections. Imagine pushing off for an 11-hour sea kayak session across open ocean and into a Fjord with two meter or larger waves. Once you get to the other side, you have to exit your boat and drag it across a 30-km stretch of water soaked and densely forested wilderness, untouched by any humans in at least a century. Once you finish dragging your boat, you get back into it for another 20 km of paddling to the start of the 120-km trekking section, and all of this after five days and 400 km of racing. Sound fun so far?

The trekking section was a real killer. A team of three journalists including Mark Watson, a photographer from Australia, Lydia McDonald, a writer from the US, and myself followed the Canadian team into the trekking section. Our plan was to follow the Canadian team to the top of a pass and wait for the American team behind them. The trekking itself in that first section wasn't too bad. There were the usual suspects: turba, dense forest, high mountain passes -- and oh yeah, lots of rain, even some snow. The Canadian team decided to avoid the dense forest at the start of the trekking and instead climbed straight up a mountain to a ridge. The 1,000-foot ascent consisted of terrain covered by vegetation and in spots we climbed up 65-degree slopes pulling on whatever bushes seemed sturdy enough to hold our weight. Falling would have been a bad option. Even though this route seemed a bit strange as we climbed, in the end it saved us at least 3 hours of serious bushwhacking in the valley below.

We were geared up to do the entire trekking section, but not mentally in the same fashion as the teams. The teams that finished spent very little time sleeping. In fact, the British team Helly Hansen - Prunesco, which won the race, slept only 30-minutes in three days! The second place team slept only two hours over a four day period. That was a bit more torture than I was ready for, I admit. Plus we were waiting for the Americans, who never showed up. We later found out they got lost - several times and were barely ever on the recommended course because they chose to try and find shortcuts. They were actually rescued on the last day of the race via helicopter and that in itself is an epic story that you'll hear about soon enough.

The wilderness we were walking through was pristine. Imagine a place where nature rules and no human, other than the racers in front of us and the organizers (who checked it out months before), had ever been. It was an inhospitable place. And surprisingly we saw no animals of any kind. Apparently it was a bit too inhospitable even for them. By night fall of the first day we found ourselves in a valley with seven 2,000-foot waterfalls. It was like a little Yosemite - albeit, a very wet Yosemite.

After two days in the wilderness completely alone, Marcelo, a guide working for the race organizers, found us in a valley -- that in itself was a miracle. He was told to find us and pull us out in the bay just below us, where we would be ferried to the end of the race. When we got to the bay (which was quite a battle - it took us five hours to go 2 kilometers) there was no boat to pick us up. A small fishing boat just happened to be in an outer bay and they were kind enough to pick us up and let us relax in the dry and warm engine room until our boat arrived. We were met with fresh baked bread and coffee. It was rough I tell you! Our boat never came so the next day they even dove for sea urchins and king crab. We enjoyed a lunch of sea urchin sandwiches and fresh king crab. Race? What race? We were living high on the hog!

We finally made it to the finish and I promptly fell off the back edge of the 30-foot zodiac and had to swim to shore with my camera in a Lowepro Toploader Pro chest pouch. The zodiac had a fiberglass cap on it that left little room for feet on the slippery rubber and as I found out - being the first one to try to get off the boat (we were told to go around the outside of the boat by the pilot) - there was also nothing to hold onto for a ten foot section and I fell off trying to bridge the gap. The other dozen or so people saw me fall in and retreated to wait for a safer method. Since there was no getting back on the boat, I just swam into shore. I had been smart enough to seal my dry bags inside my backpack so my camping gear was nice and dry but I failed to put my camera, a Nikon D700 and 28-70mm f/2.8 lens, into the ziplock baggie that I used to protect it in case I fell in a river crossing. The chest pouch was under water as I swam to shore and I was pretty sure the camera was going to be a casualty. Sure enough when I got to shore, it was floating in the camera bag. Strangely enough, everyone was kind of freaking out that I was wet. It was 11:30 PM and dark but I wasn't too concerned about being wet - we had been wet for the last three days. Being wet was just the normal state of being.....

Well, I could go on and on but I think I'll cut this blog post short here. This year was even better than last year I have to say. The race organizers did a fantastic job. My thanks to them and Wenger for putting on what has to be one of the toughest and most beautiful races anywhere on the planet.

As usual, I'll have a much more in-depth article about my adventures covering the race in my next newsletter. If you'd like to see some of the images I have portfolios from the race on my website which you can view by clicking here and here.

For more in-depth reporting on the race visit Rob Howard's website Sleep Monsters. His posts, which were published every other day during the race are quite funny and very interesting.

Big Wave surfing in Hawaii

I recently met Brian Bielmann [ www.brianbielmann.com ], one of the top pro surfing photographers in the world, and he invited me to come out and shoot some surfing at Bonzai Pipeline on the North Shore of O'ahu. Pipeline, as many of you know, is one of the world's most famous surf breaks and regularly has swells that produce waves in excess of 30 feet. So last Thursday, Brian gave me the call about a large swell rolling in and I flew out the next morning at 6 AM. The waves turned out to be sizable, in the 15 to 20-foot range (in Hawaii they would be called 6 to 8 foot waves because the wave height is measured from the back of the wave instead of the front face). Regardless of the wave size, they were the biggest waves I have ever seen and it was a blast hanging out with Brian and his family, and learning all about the surfing world which is far removed from my normal shooting.

While I was there, on queue, two surfers were severely injured while surfing pipeline. One surfer fractured his femur! From the shore the waves look big but the expert surfers, who had traveled from all over the world to surf there, made it look so easy that I felt like I could go out there and play in the waves. The accidents were a good reminder that even though these weren't the biggest waves to roll in at pipeline they were still very dangerous. Next time I am out there I'll have to try shooting from the water as that seems like the next step to up the ante on my surfing images.

Also, Jamie O'Brien, who has recently been working with Vincent Laforet, was shooting video with a helmet camera while surfing Pipeline. I am sure that footage is quite spectacular.

Needless to say, I hope to return to Hawaii and shoot when the waves come up again, and if I am lucky, hopefully JAWS (a.k.a. Peahi) will rear up on the north shore of Maui and I'll be back out there in a heartbeat to shoot the biggest wave on the planet! I'll have some of the selects on my website here in the next week or so. Thanks again to my good friend Brian for having me out and for letting me pick his brain about surfing photography!