Aurora Photos: Your images are playful and amusing, how do you stay creative and inspired?
Woods Wheatcroft: I consider myself a playful and amusing person…!! So basically if i just stay in touch with myself and surround myself with positive fun loving folk while i am shooting, i usually come away with a frame or two that resonate and communicate this truth. I also keep a journal and have since i was 16. The journals are my creative sounding board. Everything from shot ideas to colors to concepts i like are all pasted and penned into one book that i refer to often.
A.P: If you could go anywhere on assignment, where would you go?
W.W: Hmmmmm…Hold on…I’m going to go look at my atlas…Currently i am inspired to shoot big wide open spaces on this planet. Dry, arid,big planetary feel. So maybe the Aral Sea in Russian Republics, Atacama desert in Northern Chile, the Gobi…or the opposite…some bubbly warm tropical island in the remote South Pacific!!
A.P: We think your bike commuters series is great. Tell us a bit about your interest in the project.
W.W: My interest spawned in a collaboration with Peter Dennen. It has evolved into a nice personal project and one in which I am not out there amassing frames just for the sake of seeing how many people I can take pictures of that ride their bike. It’s has become a little more than that. I am searching out unique people, situations, and aiming to capture people who truly love their bicycle and the lifestyle that comes with it. And the fact that they use it as a substitute for an automobile is an added bonus…However, I do hope to continue to build the numbers and have the project increase the influence and importance of alternative transportation. With gas prices rising again, I think the timing for pushing this idea out there is fine. Also, National Bike to Work Week is the last week of this month…
Aurora Photos: You were recently featured in PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers, can you describe briefly the steps you’ve taken to get to where you are today?
Ryan Heffernan: Building my career to date has been an adventure.
Its been a combination of constantly making images, finding mentors for constructive feedback, creating portfolios from bodies of work and trying to get that work in front of the right people in the industry. I love it all and it certainly keeps me busy.
Being included in PDN’s 30 this year is a huge honor and has been a great opportunity for reaching a larger audience with my work. Aurora has also been incredibly helpful in getting my work out in the world along with helping provide a marketing outlet for strong personal shoots.
A.P: Your portfolio ranges from photographing the Kenyan marathon runners to captureing a fantastic looking English Bulldog, how do you approach each shoot? Do you have any shoot that stands out among the rest?
R.H: I’ve been extremely fortunate to make a living photographing things that I love. Running and bulldogs fall right in there. I try to tell stories with my images and am constantly looking for interesting angles, using natural and artificial lighting, and utilizing post-processing when needed to push the image to create something beautiful.
A.P: In our highlighted shot of Kenyan marathon runners in the desert of Santa Fe, NM, can you describe how the project came together?
R.H: It started off as a personal project. I was introduced to a group of Kenyan marathon runners in Santa Fe, NM through a fly fishing buddy who’s an avid runner. The Kenyans were living in Santa Fe for 8 months out of the year, training and trying to win an income by running medium and large US marathons. When winter came they would return Kenya to be with their families. They all were incredibly nice and excited about doing a photo shoot. So we scouted some great locations in northern New Mexico and pulled the shoot together. We’ve done a number of other shoots since and they’ve become good friends.
Aurora Photographer Robbie Shone has taken his camera to some of the most wild and remote places on the planet. With an overwhelming interest in capturing unbelievable, unique images, Robbie has photographed some of the world’s most spectacular caves.
Aurora Photos: What led you to your current focus on cave photography?
Robbie Shone: I have been very interested, to the point of obsessed with underground photography for almost ten years now, because of the many challenges it presents. To begin with the canvas is black, and it is your job to create a picture from the cave you descend. There are many challenges in simply getting down a cave, especially some of the larger and deeper systems around the world where only very experienced cave explorers can access. It is also this aspect that I get my rush out of. Knowing that not many other adventure photographers can achieve successful results in this harsh environment.
A.P:Can you walk us through the steps you take to prepare for a descent?
R.S: To begin with I make sure all my camera/lighting equipment is clean and in full working order. Then I charge up lots of AA batteries and camera batteries. I have several spare batteries for all my strobes. The last thing I want to happen is to run out of battery power whilst underground a long way from the surface.
Then I check that my waterproof Peli Case’s are still waterproof, lined with soft foam matting and each carry a clean towel to dry my hands on before I pick out my strobe or camera/lens.
If we’re on a big shoot in a vast underground chasm, I would hand pick a team of dedicated, trust-worthy, capable cavers who I know will perform underground and help me make the photograph. If we need to use PMR Radios to communicate, then I check that they all work, set to the same frequency and are clean and ready to go. Enough to go around. Failing that, I would brief everyone before we descend to check everyone is happy with the cave and happy to help.
A.P:A lot of people find caves frightening, yet you spend much of your time underground. What motivates you to explore such foreign landscapes?
R.S:Simply ‘Discovering the unknown’ and walking/climbing/abseiling(rappelling)/swimming into totally new and un-touched worlds where you know it has never seen light before. You have absolutely no idea what you are going to find, because no-one has been there before. Forget Mount Everest where hundreds summit each season; cave exploration is the final frontier of exploration on Earth
A.P:What was the most thrilling experience you’ve had while being under ground?
R.S: Hanging 300m off the floor and 200m below the roof of the second deepest pit in the world. Photographing Miao Keng, in China’s Wulong County (Chongqing) was very exposed and very challenging. We (the dedicated team) flew out for one month simply to make one photograph of this shaft looking straight down the heart of the blackness. It took us all over 2 hours to rappel down it and 4.5 hours to climb the 32 ropes to get out.
A.P:In our Highlighted Photograph of the Gaping Gill in Flood, can you tell us what it was like that day?
R.S: The day we shot Gaping Gill in Flood was a very wet day. There were half a dozen rescues out of caves in the Yorkshire Dales of people who had got trapped in flooding caves or had been caught out by the rapidly rising water levels. We ran in and rappelled down the ropes as quick as we could and made the panorama of the main chamber just as the waterfall was is total flood. I was unable to communicate with anyone around me. Forget radios, they didn’t work. Mark Richardson (the guy in the shot) had to run back to me after each shot to warm up and get out of the heavy spray that blew around him. I had to wipe my lens every six seconds and after every exposure. It was a real challenge and people soon got very cold (January this year).
Aurora Photographer Bridget Besaw has been involved in environmental issues since an early age. Her photography tells the stories of our environment and the impact of how humans effect their habitat. We recently interviewed Bridget about her book From the Land and her upcoming projects.
Aurora Photos: You spent a great deal of time working to capture the images that are now published in From the Land, what was it like to be a part of a project like this, and what did you hope to accomplish in this project?
Bridget Besaw: It was a privilege to be able to spend so much time with people who have dedicated their lives and livelihood to creating healthy, local food. My goal was to create images that brought the viewer to the farm, to the soil, and to the people who tend it. I set out to make imagery that illustrated how closely connected we actually are to the soil and the seasons and the cycles of nature–if we choose to remember this connection.
A.P: You have focused your work environmental photography, when and how did you spark an interest in this?
B.B: I have been an environmental activist since I was a kid fishing in streams in my back yard with my dad…wondering about the health of the rivers and the fish, asking questions about wildlife and how humans were effecting their habitat from the tree-fort we made out back. After years of newspaper and magazine photography on a variety of issues that didn’t interest me, I began to develop large-scale projects that nurtured my love of nature and my desire to protect it. I realized that for me, an in-depth body of work for a conservation organization had more power to raise awareness than a single magazine article, and the creation of the work, the relationship with the organizations and the stories, was just more fulfilling all-around for me.
A.P: Is there one particular conservation project you have a deep passion for, or are you involved in any and all that you can be?
B.B: Thats a great question! One I’ve never been asked before! I recently decided to focus on stories that have a component of food/nutrition in them. I believe that the health of our bodies is directly related to how functional our relationship to the planet is. To be healthy, we must have an understanding of our delicate connection to the planet’s natural resources. So I am interested in projects that address this reality like the comparison of large-scale, high-impact agriculture vs local & organic farming, sustainable fisheries vs unsustainable ocean harvests, and ultimately–in the necessity to adapt our food consumption practices that humans must accept now in order to live in health– on a healthy planet.
A.P: What advice do have you for amateur photographers looking to break into the environmental and conservation side of photography?
B.B: Take one of my workshops! Ha! Just kidding…but I have created the “Conservation Photojournalism” workshop that I teach at the Maine Media Workshops and now I have created similar ones here in Patagonia, that pair up students with organizations and give them an assignment for the duration of the workshop. The feedback so far has been tremendous in that it gives students a safe, nurturing environment to tackle an environmental story for a “client” and then to deliver it by week’s end.
Otherwise my best suggestion is to seek out a story or an issue in your area, in your backyard, that you care about and then find the organization that is working on this issue. There most certainly is one, and they most certainly need photography to help them in their efforts. The relationship may at first be one of a simple trade of access to their people and their story in exchange for your photographs, but often those relationships build into long-term fulfilling client situations, all the while creating a portfolio and demonstrating a commitment to telling conservation stories.
A.P: Do you have any new and exciting upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
B.B: I just finished the filming of a short documentary on the salmon farming industry in Chile. I hope to enlighten American consumers about the levels of antibiotics and other chemicals this food is produced with, and to also raise awareness among Chileans about the environmental effects of the industry on Chilean waters. This will be released in both the US and Chile.
Also this summer I begin a multi-year project for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust documenting the removal of 3 hydrodams from the Penobscot River–a globally significant river restoration project that will open up 1000 miles of fish habitat and restore recreational and traditional fishing opportunities along the river.
Aurora Photographer Nick Hall was recently featured in PDN’s 30 2011 here is a brief question and answer with Nick about his Photography and work.
Aurora Photos: Your series Seasons of Subsistence on the Yup’ik Eskimos in Alaska has been an on going project. Can you shed some light on where the idea came from and how the project continues to unfold?
Nick Hall: I have been spending my summers in Bristol Bay, Alaska for several years now, I suppose I would say it has become my second home. In the summer of 2009 I spent a week at a traditional Yup’ik summer fishing camp. It was the first time I had ever witnessed the traditional subsistence activities of Yup’ik Eskimos first hand and I was utterly captivated. There was a lot of down time in between fishing for me to chat with all the people there and I was overwhelmed by what I was learning about the Native Alaskan subsistence lifestyle. I promised myself then and there that I was going to develop a personal project to explore this story. The story is made even more compelling to me as a former environmental scientist by the fact that a British (I’m originally a Brit) mining corporation is proposing to build the world’s largest open-pit mine right in the heart of Bristol Bay and the headwaters of its salmon rivers, which I must add are the most productive salmon rivers left on Earth. I called the project Seasons of Subsistence and I have been visiting Bristol Bay every season for the past two years.
The project has evolved a lot since I first imagined it. Last summer, 2010, I took a bunch of location lighting gear up to Bristol Bay and created a series of environmental protraits. My intention was to capture the people I had been photographing perviously and also the immense landscape of Bristol Bay. I think the results are pretty dramatic and there has been a great response from them. On my last trip to Bristol Bay, just this past March, we went even further with the project and shot a short documentary film. We are hoping to release the film in the next few weeks. I have teamed up with a super awesome Producer/Editor and I am just so excited about the convergence of still and motion technology right now. There are so many cool ways to blend the media (stills and motion) and develop seriously rich narratives.
A.P: Your portfolio showcases editorial projects, photo essays and commercial work. Can you share what the transition has been like moving into a more commercial realm?
N.H: This transition is something I have been working on and is still a work in progress. I think it is important to have a diversified business model that incorporates commercial and editorial clients. Also from a creative point of view I love the diversity of challenges one faces on editorial projects compared to commercial. I can’t imagine not doing a mixture of both.