Paul Souders’ grandmother wasn’t a woman of means per se, but she did manage to squirrel away enough scratch every year to fly off to someplace she’d never been before. Watching her slide shows was Paul Souders’ introduction to, and some may say addiction to, travel photography. Fast-forward to ‘adulthood’ and upteen journeys to places previously unknown to him – camera at side – has become Paul’s Souders’ ticket to ride.
A few years back while taking stock of all of the pictures he’d taken on previous journeys, Souders came to realize his awesome 600mm close-ups of bears, lions, and wildebeests were as awesome as everybody else’s awesome 600mm photographs of bears, lions, and wildebeests. Considering how much time, effort, and money (personal money no less!) went into his work, he started reassessing his approach to photography, and how to redefine the word ‘awesome’ on an upcoming trip to Kenya.
His solution was to have his subjects fill the frame, but not from a comfortable distance as previously seen through a lens the size of a baseball bat, but in-your-face-close with a wide-angle lens. But he still had to figure out a way to photograph what he saw in his mind’s eye without getting eaten.
His solution was the PocketWizard Plus II Transceivers* he frequently used for triggering remote Speedlites wirelessly when shooting editorial assignments. He knew PocketWizard Plus II Transceivers could also trigger cameras, but seldom took advantage of this function. Visualizing lion cubs or bears sticking their noses inches from the front element of his camera lens while taking semi-playful swipes at it was exactly what he was after. Right then and there he added his PocketWizard Plus II radio triggers, a few small tabletop tripods, and additional sets of lithium-ion AA batteries to his packing list.
(*Note: The PocketWizard Plus II Transceiver has been replaced by the Plus III.)
Paul Souders’ new vision entailed positioning cameras with wide-angle lenses at ground level along watering holes, nesting areas, and feeding grounds. A big believer in keeping things simple, Souders was careful to keep his camera as innocuous looking as a camera with an ultra-wide angle lens and radio transceiver mounted on it can be.
When shooting on the plains, Souders’ typically scouts out promising camera positions, sets up his cameras – each with a PocketWizard Plus II set to its own channel, and retreats to a safe, non-confrontational distance away. Once out of the way, he sets up a second camera with a long telephoto for capturing the action from a more traditional point-of-view.
On a more recent trip to the Canadian Arctic to photograph bears catching salmon making their way upstream to spawn, Souders’ sealed his camera and lens into a waterproof housing mounted on a heavy-duty studio tripod submerged just below the waterline in order to capture the grace of these great beasts as they dive after schools of fish below the surface of the water.
The type of photography Paul Souders’ specializes in requires patience, perseverance, and the ability to endure punishing environments, not to mention the realities of being a potential snack for a host of predators.
Another reality is the toll these projects take on his cameras, which are often poked, pawed, mauled, sometimes trampled, and inevitably smattered with mud and/or dirt. On a recent trip to Alaska “one and a half out of seven cameras’ were functioning by the time he came home. And don’t ask him how many cameras and lenses met their demise after being crushed, chewed to bits, or knocked overboard. (Trust me… the numbers are painful – SR).
The payoff for his efforts are pictures he never would have dreamed possible before he incorporated PocketWizard radio triggers into his workflow. Thanks to his PocketWizard triggering system, he now has the ability to capture penguins leapfrogging over his camera with inches to spare as they rocket out of the water onto land, or to see exactly how long and sharp a bear’s claws could be from uncomfortably-close distances and perspectives.
When Paul Souders originally purchased his first PocketWizard transceivers, they were merely a means of moving his Speedlites off his camera and out of the way. Little did he know they would some day radically change the way he views the world and photographs it.
To see more of Paul Souders’ work, check out his website.
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