with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Questions About Our Photography

We get a lot of questions about our photography. Mostly, these focus on how we maintain our photography business while living on the road, but we also answer questions about the classes we teach, the style of photography we do, and more. If you have a question about our photography and how we work on the road, please ask us in the comment section below.

Do you sell your photography?

One of the few print photographs we have sold over the years, Portage Lake at sunset with icebergs, photograph by Brent VanFossenWe do sell our photography. We specialize in editorial photography which means that we sell the use of our original slide images to magazines and newspapers. We also sell our photography to stock agencies and for commercial use, but we rarely ever sell a print of our nature or travel photography work. Why? We rarely sell prints of our photographs because we want to present the very best of our work and a fine quality color print from a slide is very expensive, though there are more inexpensive high quality scanners and printers available. The process of having a slide made into a print for framing is not only costly but time consuming. Living on the road, such services are hard to find, not always trustworthy, and therefore more trouble than its worth. If you are interested in one of our nature photography images in print form, please let us know and be aware that our starting price is USD$1000 unframed.

Do you teach photography workshops and classes?

We teach a wide variety of nature photography, travel, and writing courses, workshops,and programs. We also teach other programs on communications, self-improvement, and self defense for women. We travel all over the world to present our unique programs and if you are interested in bringing us to your community, group, or association, check out the information on our Workshop page.

What style of photography do you do?

Ferns with water droplets in the early morning, photograph by Brent VanFossenWe specialize in nature photography, especially in North America with a growing inventory of photographic images from Israel and Europe. We also have a wide selection of travel related subjects. We have a good inventory of patterns and textures in nature, which we enjoy doing, along with interesting closeups in nature. A little of everything nature and travel oriented. You can find out more about our photographic inventory on our Photo Stock List page.

Do you have any favorite photographic subjects?

Birds fly at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, photograph by Brent VanFossenOur favorite photography subjects are nature-related. We love photographing mammals of all shapes and sizes from the proud elk in Canada to the tiniest pika found in the rocky slopes of high mountains. We also photograph insects, amphibians, snakes, flowers, weeds, and rocks. Brent is passionate about photographing birds. Lorelle loves travel-related subjects like historical and archeological places and old markets. In general, we love capturing the world around us, especially the natural world, in all its shapes and sizes and funkiness.

What kind of camera is the best?

Usually, the answer is the camera you are using. A camera is basically a box with a hole in it that allows light to pass through to the film. The most amazing photographs have come from the simplest of box cameras. A camera is only as good as your skill to use it.

Some of our photographic tools of the trade. For more info on buying camera equipment, click here. That said, choose a camera that best suits your needs and skills, and allow room for growth. Some people invest heavily in a sophisticated camera system and then never learn to get past how to turn it on. They use it like a point-and-shoot camera. It intimidates them, but they feel like they are getting good pictures because the camera is “good”. Others get wonderful pictures with the simplest of cameras because the camera meets their needs and they can concentrate more on the photograph and not the bells and whistles of the camera.

We’ve written a series of articles in these web pages about how to choose a camera and photographic accessories that will work for you. Please check them out for more information.

Which is your favorite camera lens? Why?

A camera lens is a tool, just like a paintbrush is to a painter. We use the right tool for the right job. Using his 500mm lens, Brent was able to isolate this group of snow covered trees. Photo by Brent VanFossenBut, we also have favorites. In general, I love longer zoom lenses which allow me the flexibility to carry less equipment and to photograph and move quickly, working the full range from closeup to scenic perspectives. Brent works slower and enjoys creating more dramatic presentations. He loves wide angle lenses, from 17mm to 35mm in range. He also loves his big 500mm lens he has, as it allows him to bring the close closer (especially with his bird photography) and to isolate a scene in a landscape. We tend to work with a wide range of lenses so we are always prepared to match our vision with the tools we have at hand.

Do you use a digital camera?

The digital camera is taking over photography, without a doubt. Unfortunately, it is still not keeping up with the quality we demand in our images, but it is getting closer all the time. Currently, we scan our original transparencies (or have a professional company do it) with a Canon high quality transparency scanner for use in our web pages and business. While they are scanned in at the highest quality, we then lower the resolution and quality level down to a size that works best with email and web pages. Soon, we will invest in a professional digital camera system, but we have to save up the thousands of dollars investment first.

What kind of film do you use?

The nature photography industry still requires slide film, though digital is making inroads. We shoot Fuji 35mm slide film usually in speeds of 50 and 100. We really love the bright colors of Velvia. We work mostly with Sensia as a good all around film, with the ability to be pushed when necessary.

How much film should you take on a trip?

More than we will ever need. Honestly. Film purchased outside of the country or your normal shopping area is expensive, and it takes time to find it, time we would rather spend behind the camera. In general, we plan for 5-7 rolls of film a day, but this is dependent upon where we are going and what we plan on photographing. If we are working with birds or wildlife, we double or triple that amount per day. If we are visiting a city or urban setting, we usually use 3-5 rolls a day. If there is a specific event we want to photograph, we can easily go through a dozen rolls of film in a few hours, capturing the event from all sides. When in doubt, bring too much. You can always bring it home.

How many good pictures do you get on a single roll of film?

As many as we get. Honestly. There are some subjects that don’t move or give us a hassle when we photograph them. We usually get a higher rate of return on those. But subjects that don’t cooperate very well, like birds and wildlife, we consider it a success if we get one or two good pictures.

Freeman Patterson says it best. “Thirty-six satisfactory exposures on a roll means a photographer is not trying anything new.”

How do you get your film processed?

filmrolls.gif - 1579 BytesWhen we know we are going to be at a location for a least two weeks, we send our slide film off to Fuji Labs in Phoenix, Arizona, with a return address to the campground. It usually returns in 5 – 7 days, but we leave some room for doubt. If we are in a hurry for film particular to an article, we will use a local professional lab.

Why do you use a tripod?

A tripod makes the difference between a good pictures and an “okay” picture. Honestly. As cumbersome as a tripod is, using one slows you down so you can concentrate and spend more time with a scene. A tripod can make the difference between a great picture and an okay picture. Photo by Lorelle VanFossenIt holds the camera steady, eliminating camera-shake, giving you a sharper focused photograph. Actually, the best answer to this question came from John Shaw. He explained that since his competition is using the same film, the same cameras, the same lenses, and for the most part, taking the same pictures, the only way he can do better than his competition is to carry a heavier tripod. So far, it makes a huge difference.

What camera system do you use?

A camera system is unique to each person’s desires and needs. If you are interested in putting your images on the web or doing computerized photo art, you need a digital camera. We carry equipment that meets our needs in the business of nature photography. While it is slowly changing towards digital, currently the editorial market works with slide film and 35mm SLR cameras, though commercial photographers often work with larger formats. Brent has stayed consistently with Nikon until recently. Lorelle has worked with just about every camera system out there from Yashica to Canon. Currently we own Canon and Nikon. While there are some things we absolutely hate about the Canon EOS system’s design, there is much to love about the high speed autofocus and the light weight camera bodies and lenses. For more information on choosing a camera system, check out our Equipment Lust section.

Do you recommend auto or manual focus?

We use both autofocus and manual focus. Both have their purposes. Autofocus is a must for photographing wildlife, especially if they are moving. There just isn’t time to catch the action and play with the focus most of the time. With autofocus, we get more successful images than without. Yet, we use manual focus a lot, especially for landscape images, macro and closeup work, and for images requiring exact focusing. With macro photography, especially extreme closeups, the difference between focus and unfocus can be millimeters, changing the entire scene and perspective. Autofocus fights to focus when there are too many choices for its sensors, so we turn it off and handle it ourselves. We recommend buying a camera that offers autofocus, but also allows you to turn it off. For more information on choosing a camera system and the many options they offer, check out our Equipment Lust section.

How do you know what to photograph?

We enjoy photographing whatever catches our fancy, but we also need to sell our images. We spend a lot of time researching what the market is buying and coming up with ideas that meet the current needs and anticipate the needs of the future. We plan our travels with our cameras to concentrate on when is the best place to be somewhere. For example, winter is excellent in Florida for the bird migration, and February and March are great for northern Israel where over 500 different bird species pass through during their migration. Fall is the best for photographing the large mammals from British Columbia to Alaska, especially when framed against the warm colors of autumn. For more on planning and selling your photography, visit our Going and Business pages.

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