The Aurora Team receives a “New Images” email every week with the new images that have been added to our web site, auroraphotos.com. Week in and week out, I am consistently astounded at the quality of the work. Aurora, founded in 1993, more than 20 years on still remains a group of individuals who regard excellence with the utmost regard. The photographers who contribute their work to our collection form the foundation on which our brand stands. Even in today’s flood of imagery, with it’s software filters and digital enhancement, our photographers’ work rises to the top through it’s authenticity and their dedication to their craft.
It is an honor to represent these photographers and a pleasure to bring you a small representation of what they provide us each and every week.
Summertime is almost here, and with it comes the chance to have great adventures. Unfortunately, the season is rife with pitfalls: biting mosquitoes, sunburns, huge crowds, and even animal attacks. Luckily, Aurora Photos has some of the best outdoor, adventure, and travel photographers in the world, and we turned to them to give some tips on how to have the most fun this summer.
1. To preserve memories of summer adventures, keep your camera handy. The best camera is the one you have with you. You don’t need the newest gear either; work with what you have until you’ve outgrown it. –Ethan Welty
2. Think twice about taking a super expensive camera or lens to the beach that is not sand proof. Sand WILL find the inside of your lens and camera body, and cause damage – Scott Goldsmith
3. Sleep in beautiful places. That way you are already in position when sunset and sunrise roll around to capture beautiful photos. –Ethan Welty
4. Coffee shops (NOT Starbucks) always have local event guides with upcoming shows/concerts/cool things for the locals. It’s a great way to get into the local vibe with ease! –Tim Martin
5. Just a few simple words in the local language helps exponentially and makes people much more receptive to you as a tourist! –Tim Martin
6. One of my favorite places to go in the entire world during the summer is Door County, Wisconsin. Shopping, theatre, great Lake Michigan Beaches, canoeing, awesome fishing, parasailing, horseback riding… awesome choice of activities. Also, traditional fish boils are a must and Door County has the best cherry pie you’ll ever have in your entire life. –Marc Sirinsky
7. Always pay in local currency – even if you are paying by credit card. Most hotels, shops and high end restaurants will give you the option to pay in US Dollars but the rate they charge is usually 10-15% more than the actual exchange rate. Select the local currency option and eat the 1% fee your credit card company might charge. –Tim Martin
8. When wrestling a fifteen-foot female anaconda, DO NOT let go of her throat! The males are only about three feet long — much easier to deal with. –Robert Caputo
9. I leave a bottle of sunscreen, bug spray, a basket or bag and a sharp pocket knife in the car in the summer so I’m always prepared for spur of the moment walks on the beach or in the woods that might yield wild edibles. –Stacey Cramp
10. Three things to always bring on a hike: layers, a pocketknife and snacks. The bottom of a mountain will often be much warmer than the top, so make sure your top layer is waterproof. Dry fit shirts are invaluable…even for just walking around and shopping in hot, humid weather! –Marc Sirinsky
11. White water rafting with kids can be an amazing experience, but don’t expect the first time to go without a hitch. But with the right preparation and planning, fun whitewater is on the horizon. The number one priority when rafting in general is to come prepared for the rapids and different weather conditions that mother nature can throw at you. Make sure kids have a strong swimming foundation, always wear a life jacket even when swimming, even in gentle rapids. Bring extra food, snacks and water for the kids so their comfortable and make sure to take fun breaks and engage in on and off river activities to break the trip up. A good water fight, swimming, inflatable kayaks or inner tubes allow the children to engage in river activities beyond the whitewater. – Greg von Doersten
12. As an added bonus, here are some videos from Corey Rich that will get you amazing nighttime and campfire photography AND keep you from getting burnt in the process!
There’s an immediate connection forged in a Michael Hanson image, between the viewer and the subject. Whether it’s a gaucho in Patagonia, or a child with big dreams in the suburbs of California, you always feel as if you’re there, drawn into the moment as a participant rather than an outsider. Michael’s versatility is on display with his award-winning work at Aurora, which spans the gamut from documentary to humorous moments caught while exploring the great outdoors in his adopted Pacific Northwest.
We caught up with Michael in between his travels and personal projects to ask what inspires him to tell these stories, and how he got his start.
Aurora: You were a scrappy minor league baseball player in the Atlanta Braves organization and now you’re a well known documentary photographer. What inspired that change? What lessons did you learn as an athlete that have helped you your photography career?
Michael Hanson: A ‘scrappy minor league player’ is often a synonym for a ‘not-so-talented but boy, do you work hard’ player (which is pretty accurate for me, so good intro question). I hope I have a little more talent with the camera but maybe not. The transition was easy for me. Dayton Moore, the director of player development, told me I should think of my next career. That and every time I saw my batting average on the jumbo-tron, I knew the end was near. I like to think I worked hard for a decade or more to be able to compete on the field with some really good players and maybe the same can be said about photography. Both are pretty difficult industries to really make it. Luckily, I love both. I was obsessed with baseball while playing and now I seem to be consumed by photography. When I was in the minors I was exposed to a really interesting culture and it was a conscious decision to start shooting it. That’s how I started my photography career.
Au: There’s a sense of connection to the subject in all of your images, which are candid, open and honest. How are you able to immerse yourself in a culture and be accepted by people, so that the perspective you show viewers is no longer one of an outsider?
MH: Curiosity, I guess. It looks authentic because it is. It’s more fun and fulfilling if my interaction is genuine. Some photographers might be able to get good photographs without that interaction but I like the interaction as much as I like having a good set of images. And, I know the images will be better if I can get access to the subject’s lives and they don’t look at me as an outsider with a camera.
Au: Where do you find inspiration on a daily basis to tell your subjects’ stories?
MH: It’s hard to answer. I just don’t want to list photographers I like and magazines I read and say it’s that simple. I get inspiration from my friends, other photographers, editors, people who aren’t in the art world at all. There are a handful of photographers I really like and are working on subjects or with certain styles that inspire me. Jonas Bendikson has always been a favorite of mine. Aurora’s own David McLain is another. And, lately Erika Larsen is a pleasure to see. So much of the inspiration that we find comes from the people doing what they do, whether that’s teaching or starting an urban farm or whatever it is they do. That’s the inspiration, and we just have to figure out how to tell it simply and not let production get in the way of the story. When I’m shooting in a remote location, there’s not a ton of room for inspiration. The subject is doing what they do, with or without me there, and if I set myself up correctly with good light and don’t drop the camera, all I have to do is figure out how to make a clean frame that accurately describes the subject. Of course, my research has given me an idea of what to expect in that situation.
Part of the inspiration comes from the fear of failure. I like being a photographer and I want to keep being one. I want to tell an accurate story so I better be inspired to put the work in. I’m inspired by people who are trying to use their images or work for good. That’s a wide net but I think we all admire those individuals and they inspire us.
Au: You’ve been able to get great access to the Amish community, a religion that, in your words, “shuns photography,” and capture some deeply personal and candid imagery. What was the inspiration behind shooting them, and what drives you to keep trying to get access?
MH: At first it was simply the challenge of getting images from inside a small community. After spending a few days with them, I realized how unique their lifestyle was, and it was smack right in the middle of our country. Again, the curiosity of a unique culture might be enough to drive me to get to know them more and document something that isn’t often accessible. I’ll still visit them and have developed some good relationships.
Au: You have a brother who is also a photographer. Do you find yourself competing with him or do you bounce ideas off each other?
MH: We still wrestle daily for assignments just like we did after I beat him in Tecmo Bowl in 1989-1993. We haven’t had too many clients that overlap. Occasionally, we do and are supportive of each other. We have different styles I think. I’m more documentary and he has a little more fine art in his work. We definitely bounce ideas off each other. And, we work together often on the video projects with our good friend Brett Schwager on ModocStories.com. Working together is a nice way to not compete.
Au: If you weren’t making pictures, what would you be doing?
MH: Well, damn, I would say playing in the big leagues, but I already went down that road and it was a dead end. Maybe some sort of research biology. I tend to like science-y work. My friend is a hydrologist, and I think that’d be cool. But probably just an A-list movie star on the side to be safe, like Eric Estrada or something. Ya know, gotta pay the bills.
Location, location, location. The richness of color in the stone and sky in this photograph coupled with the absolutely amazing location to build and settle, made this one stand out.
Renan says, “This rock house in the Uçhisar Valley, situated in the heart of Cappadocia, Turkey, was inhabited by natives in the Byzantine Period. The rock formation was used as a fortress against Persian enemies during the same period.”
To see more work by Renan Rosa, visit Aurora Photos.