Tuesday, November 04, 2008

After 10 years of plotting and planning, he's now fully employed "just chasing the light"

Following his ten-year career as communication manager at three different national parks in Ontario, Canadian photographer/writer Ethan Meleg recently stepped into his dream -- as a full-time nature and wildlife photographer. "I took the plunge in a big way," he says. "To kick off my new career, I sold my house in Ontario, bought a VW camper van and decided to take off on a year-and-a-half road trip around the North American continent. I've outfitted the van for long-term travel and am able to run my stock photo business with a laptop and cellular internet access, which works well in all but the most remote places.

"I decided to start in one of my favorite places -- the American Southwest. Just in the past week, I've photographed some of the premier locations in southern Utah, including the famous Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Here are a few of the hundreds of photos I took at the arch.

All were taken with my Canon EOS 1Ds III. This first image of the sunbeams through the arch was made with my Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer and one of my Graduated ND filters (can't remember which one). The camera was set for ISO 200 in aperture priority mode with +2/3 stops of compensation which resulted in an exposure of 1/15 second at f/18.

"The skies in the desert are extremely clear, and the light quickly becomes harsh, so I rely on one of my Singh-Ray polarizers for almost every shot. In fact, of the several thousand photos I've taken already on the trip, every single one has been with a polarizer attached. Depending on the light conditions, I use either the LB Warming Polarizer, Gold-N-Blue Polarizer, or the LB ColorCombo. When the sky is really bright, I handhold a 4x6 Graduated ND filter in front of the lens to control the dynamic range in the photo.

"I photographed this image of the same Mesa Arch with my 17-40mm wide-angle with a Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer with the camera set up as described above. The exposure was 1/3 second at f/22. This was a fairly challenging scene to photograph because of the high contrast. I spent about 2-1/2 hours shooting the arch and had a particularly enjoyable time. Must be because I'm starting to settle into the trip and relax!

"There were some other photographers there, and one in particular cracked me up as he ran around with his camera like a chicken with his head cut off. I half expected him to trip and fall into the canyon. Ironically, he and several other photographers left the scene before the light got really good. That left just two of us photographing... me and a very nice guy (and good photographer) from northern Utah.

"I'll have a couple more weeks in southern Utah, then I'll be meeting up with friends to photograph birds in New Mexico. After that, this exciting new adventure will take me to Arizona, California, Mexico and Texas before heading back toward Canada for the spring bird migration.

"Some people may think I'm crazy to take off and live in a van for a year and a half. But I'm living my dream -- spending every day chasing great light and discovering new landscapes. I can't imagine any better way to live!"

We've asked Ethan to report back whenever he can to update us on his travels. It's certain he has many more great images ahead of him. You can also track Ethan's photo journey by bookmarking his website and blog. Ethan is also a regular contributor for Outdoor Photography Canada magazine.

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