March 2012: With more than 68 years of experience in nature photography, art, design, film-making and writing, Stanley and Kaisa Breeden are “at the forefront of digital close-up nature photography”.Emmy award-winning documentary film-maker and writer, Stanley has published about 20 natural history books and has been published in the world’s leading natural history magazines. Since beginning with film photography in the mid-50s, he has now fully embraced the digital realm. His wife Kaisa is a third generation artist and graphic designer who says she has eucalyptus in her brains. She was the one who dragged Stanley “kicking and screaming” into the digital age.
Together they combined their skills into a singular style that highlights artistic vision as much as technical innovation.The couple shared some insight to their creative process before their second book, Rainforest Country,
was due to hit the stores in April 2012 . From a short conversation, it is apparent that they are more than just a terrifically talented twosome. They live for their work and their work is part of who they are. More than that, they align themselves with nature because of their intrinsic belief that they are part of nature, just as nature is part of them.From their home in the “thick of the rainforest” in northeast Queensland, they have collected a lot of photographic material over time. In their words: “We bend our brains and our backs to produce the most luminous pictures we can of what we think are some of the world’s most beautiful and exciting subjects”. With the encouragement of publisher Fremantle Press
, they set about producing a book that would showcase the essence of the rainforest, highlighting in the best way they could the ecological significance of the area.“We’ve taken our techniques using focus stacking and macro photography and put them to good use in exploring a close up, detailed view of a dazzling part of the world,” Kaisa said.
“We were very fortunate. Things just fell into place. Some insect lands on you. That happens all the time here,” Stanley said.
The couple uses technique that is a combination of focus stacking with high dynamic range (HDR).
“We take a series of photos that all have different layers or slices of focus,” Kaisa said. “Sometimes we will take up to 20 exposures.”
The series of different exposures are combined in software that was originally designed for microscopy photography.
“As it turns out, it works really well for macro photography,” Kaisa said.
The technique means there is no need to compromise on light and shadow detail – in general, with only one exposure one or the other aspect is sacrificed. It’s a time consuming process but the couple says they know what they are doing now, so it’s all in a day’s work.
“It’s all about experimentation. We knew what we wanted to achieve,” Kaisa said. “I knew what digital cameras were capable of. We’re bleeding out every single quality of the digital camera. It gives people an idea of what’s possible and what can be done – I think it makes better photography.
Stanley added that a “really good, steady tripod” was essential for their type of photography.
The stunning photography is complemented by commentary by Stanley and Kaisa, just as each adds their own commentary in the interview, enhancing each other’s words.
“There are two voices in the book,” Stanley said. “We’re completely different as you’ll see.”
“Stan is much more natural history and literary background,” Kaisa added. “It’s like walking around with a living encyclopaedia. He draws on that. I have a more…I don’t have that; I have a more emotional response. They’re different voices, but I think they’re very complementary.”
Rainforest Country is published by Fremantle Press.