Episode 34: Nature Photography with a Purpose Ft. Bill Lea

Peggy Farren 2017-04-29

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Show Notes for Episode #34: Nature Photography with a Purpose ft. Bill Lea

“Nature photographers should take up a cause that they believe in and use their photography to make a difference on behalf of the natural world.”

Bill Lea – Nature Photographer, Conservationist, Author

He always loved animals. Wildlife photography gave him an excuse to be out with the animals he loves.

The Everglades: Where Wonders Only Whisper
The Everglades is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. It is in dire need of saving.

“Let your voice be heard – you CAN make a difference.”

Creating the book took 6 years. He visited FL two to three times per year to photograph the
Everglades. Most of the time spent on the book was for research. He wanted it to be interesting and about the history of the Glades. He didn’t want his images to just document the environment, he wanted them to be artistic – to show the beauty of this place. He emphasizes that if people feel a connection, they will be more likely to take action to help save something.

His first book “Cades Cove: Window to a Secret World
This is his backyard, he spends a lot of time here photographing. Cades Cove is part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and gets about 2 million visitors every year.

He also puts out a Cades Cove Calendar every year.

Other books: “Great Smoky Mountains Wildlife Portfolio”, and “Great Smoky Mountains Wonder and Light (Wonder and Light series)” written with Jerry Greer

“There’s so much interesting history in these places. If you know the story behind the scenes, it just helps you make the scenes come alive.”

He spends a lot of time photographing and educating people about black bears. There is a lot of misinformation out there that makes people fear them. The bears are actually shy and reclusive animals that are naturally curious. They can be found in many National Parks.

Tips for Photographing Bears – “I want to change people’s fear of bears to respect.”
- You need to understand them - learn their body language and signs.
- Be out, be patient – spend time with them, learn their behaviors.
- I recommend a 200-500mm lens, although it depends on your location – it is difficult to use a longer lens in the deep woods.
- Never photograph bears on a sunny day, always try for a day that is overcast – the high contrasting light makes it difficult to bring out the detail of the dark subject.
Because you’ll be shooting in limited light, he recommends a camera body that has low noise and high ISO: Nikon D500 does well at high ISO.
- Don’t underexpose – when you try to bring out detail in an underexposed black area the noise will worsen.
- Don’t photograph “shiny bears” with sunlight reflecting on their coats, to expose the bear properly, the background will be blown out.

“Every subject has been photographed before. It’s the setting that’s going to make your subject different.”
- avoid busy backgrounds
- look for good quality, even light

Photo Tours:
- 7-8 tours per year, 6 people each (reduces impact on the environment and helps get closer to wildlife)
- Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in winter
- Everglades
- Charleston and Savannah
- Great Smoky Mountains in April
- Bear Sanctuary in MN at Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary – AmericanBear.org

He also helps to host an event with Kevin Adams:
smokymountainfotofest.com and Montreat.org/foto-fest/
- 3 to 4 day event with outings and about 6 speakers on nature and travel photography

More about Bill Lea:
Facebook – Bill Lea Photography

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