Certified Photo Instructor
“Shoot the light.”
It’s a simple tip. Dispensed from National Geographic photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins, who’s also the director of the expedition photography program for Lindblad Expeditions. But in this case it had two guests standing at the deck rail of National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska ignoring some bears playing along the shore and shooting photos of the sun setting behind the Fairweather Mountain Range. The golden hour had painted the sea, forest, and snow-capped mountains in an unearthly hue of purple and blue. And just then, a humpback whale breached right in front of them, and they got the shot of a lifetime.
Light, focus, and composition. The three elements of photography are such simple concepts, but can take a lifetime to master. Lindblad Expeditions was founded by a photographer, and photography is at the core of everything they do. Sven Lindblad spent his formative years as a wildlife photographer in Africa, guiding guests across the plains and helping them get shots of their safaris. He has published several large format photography books with Rizzoli.
As part of the Expedition Photography program, every Lindblad-National Geographic expedition sails with a certified photo instructor. This is naturalist who is specially trained to offer assistance with camera settings, the basics of composition. Their goal is to help guests become better, more confident photographers—and to help them go home with some epic shots that tell the story of their journey.
Because these photographers are all trained naturalists, they have a big advantage over an instructor who is merely trained in camera use. They understand the habits of the wildlife guests are trying to photograph, so they can coach them in preparing for the shot of a bear fishing for salmon, an albatross surfing the air currents behind the ship, or a pod of killer whales hunting.
And sometimes, a simple tip like “shoot the light” combined with being in the right place at the right time nets you an epic, magazine-worthy shot.
“Shoot the light.” ...
Meet our Photo Instructors
Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it. He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions. José has guided extensively in Panama and is a certified naturalist with Costa Rica’s National Learning Institute (INA). Aside from birding, José has led general natural history trips for leading conservation and wildlife organizations, and has recently gained experience leading soft adventure and multi-sport trips for young adults and students. Recently, José particularly enjoyed leading a group of student volunteers working in a rural community. In the off-season, he works as a photographer and pursues his passion for people and wildlife photography. José has also worked as a Photo Instructor in the Galápagos aboard the National Geographic Endeavour , in the Amazon of Peru on the Delfin II , and in the Mediterranean aboard the Sea Cloud . He really looks forward to share the experience that he has gained in Central, South America and the Mediterranean with Lindblad-National Geographic guests, as well.
David has worked for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic since 1993 on six continents and in over 65 countries. David is interested in many of the natural sciences, particularly ornithology, geology and marine biology; he most enjoys contrasting the broad perspectives provided by world travel with detailed investigations of local ecosystems on land and in the sea. David is an avid wildlife and landscape photographer and enjoys shooting with DSLRs, compact cameras and his iPhone. He particularly focuses on photography of wildlife in habitat, macro images of insects and abstracts images of patterns and textures. Before joining Lindblad-National Geographic, David worked as a staff field biologist and education coordinator at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, an independent research institution in California. At PRBO David studied songbirds, seabirds, owls and elephant seals while overseeing a broad education program, which included classes for school-children, workshops for professional biologists and interpretation for the general public. His home, which is completely off the grid, is at the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains in southern Oregon. He received his Photo Instructor certification in a multi-day training workshop. Developed and taught by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions photographers, the workshop helped him develop additional insight and skills necessary to help you better understand your camera and the basics of composition — to better capture the moments at the heart of your expedition.
Mike learned early on that the best way to escape Ohio was to become a marine biologist. During college at Wittenberg University he attended a semester at Duke University's Marine Lab — that time only confirmed his love for all things oceanic and maritime. After graduation, Mike promptly moved to Catalina Island in California where he taught marine biology to school kids. Since 1999, Mike has been working and traveling chasing his three loves: marine critters, photography, and birds. Before joining Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, Mike spent one and a half years as the resident biologist at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, a renowned vacation destination in the South Pacific. His days were filled with a great combination of guest education, research, environmental projects, and local school children education. Mike has also worked in the Amazon of Peru and Ecuador, the Pribilof Islands of Alaska, the cloud forest of Costa Rica, and the kelp forests of Victoria, Australia. When not working, Mike enjoys underwater photography, searching for endemic birds, and sunset chasing. He received his Photo Instructor certification in a multi-day training workshop. Developed and taught by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions photographers, the workshop helped him develop additional insight and skills necessary to help you better understand your camera and the basics of composition—to better capture the moments at the heart of your expedition.
Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez. Michael has since begun a new career in marine photography. He worked with National Geographic dolphin researchers in the Bahamas throughout the nineties, as well as running trips to the Silver Banks in the Dominican Republic to study and photograph Atlantic Humpback Whales. Today he is an award-winning photographer who specializes in intimate portraits of marine animals. He has traveled the oceans of the world in search of the world's most magnificent beings. His photography has appeared in hundreds of magazines, calendars, and books in over 45 countries worldwide. He currently "migrates" with the whales, spending his winters in the warmer tropical latitudes where whales mate and give birth and his summers in the cooler higher latitudes where animals migrate to feed.
Patricio, better known as Pato amongst his friends, was born in the Galápagos Island. His family moved to the islands from the mainland and settled on the island of Santa Cruz over thirty-five years ago. Pato had an enchanted childhood in the islands, where his keen interest in the wildlife of the Galápagos was born initially through catching lizards and observing how they lost their tails. His experiences in the islands have led him to teach visitors about the need to protect this rare and unique environment. Pato underwent all his primary and secondary studies in local schools on Santa Cruz, and after graduation he moved to Quito to attend college, where he studied hotel management. This was an adventure that lasted for only two years, since city life was too hectic for Pato, who missed his idyllic islands. He learned that the Galápagos National Park was opening a guide course and looking for new, fresh-minded applicants. He passed the entrance requirements and the intensive three-month course, and now finds himself in his dream job of leading visitors along the trails of the islands. He has taken such joy in this line of work that he is continuously striving to improve his understanding of the Galápagos Archipelago, to better share it with others. He is now continuing his studies, taking a new direction – a distance learning course in ecology. Pato loves music, especially Andean music, and the first time he set foot aboard a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic vessel it was actually as a musician with a local band! He received his Photo Instructor certification in a multi-day training workshop. Developed and taught by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions photographers, the workshop helped him develop additional insight and skills necessary to help you better understand your camera and the basics of composition — to better capture the moments at the heart of your expedition.
Walter was born in a very small town on the mainland of Ecuador. His first trip to the Galápagos was when he was 12 years old, visiting friends and aunt, who had moved to the islands. From the first moment he saw the Islands, he fell in love with them and knew then where his future home would be. In high school, Walter excelled in agricultural studies. When he went on to university, he combined this interest with studies in chemistry. While there, Walter focused on chemical agronomy, writing his thesis on the unique landscape of the Galápagos. After receiving his degree, Walter left mainland Ecuador and promptly moved to the Galápagos. There he held a variety of jobs before accepting a position as a crewmember aboard a tourist vessel. Soon thereafter he learned how to dive, becoming a PADI Dive Master. In 2005, Walter leapt at the opportunity to take the Galapagos National Park Service entrance exam to become a Naturalist. After much studying and hard work, he realized his dream. He received his Photo Instructor certification in a multi-day training workshop. Developed and taught by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions photographers, the workshop helped him develop additional insight and skills necessary to help you better understand your camera and the basics of composition — to better capture the moments at the heart of your expedition. Walter is author with professor Michael Weisberg of Galápagos: Life in Motion. Published by Princeton University Press in August 2018, this lavishly illustrated hardcover book features Walter’s detailed, close-up photographs of Galápagos animals in action as they feed, play, fight, court, mate, build nests, give birth, raise their young, and cooperate and clash with other species.
Eric began work with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in 2006 as a means to see the world, work with great photographers and engage his environmental studies degree beyond the classroom. His initial years with the company were spent working the waters of Southeast Alaska and Baja California. His move to the National Geographic Explore r in 2008 helped earn him the experience and knowledge needed to establish himself as a trusted boat handler, naturalist and respected photographer in nearly all the environments Lindblad-National Geographic travels. Eric’s extensive exposure to and long time passion for exploring/photographing glaciated areas has recently earned him the title “Ice Man” in media outlets the world over. While not at sea he is in the mountains searching for glacier caves, secluded vistas and other remote landscapes in which to photograph.
Jennifer Davidson has been a lifelong lover of wide open spaces. She grew up in a ranching family in remote West Texas. Her roots run many generations deep in that land, which she has always considered home. She studied marine biology on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, participating in monitoring projects in the bays of Texas’s Coastal Bend Region and the Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary. In 2005, she moved back to the drier climates, this time to the mountains of Northern New Mexico, to pursue a career in photography, which had been a lifelong source of enjoyment. Jennifer has photographed across the globe, focusing her lens on cultures, wildlife, and landscapes to tell the stories of the places she visits. Jennifer has taught photography workshops throughout the United States with National Geographic Expeditions and the Santa Fe Workshops. Her work from South America and the Galapagos Islands has been published in National Geographic Traveller (UK). As a passionate and patient instructor, she enjoys teaching photographers to see the world in new ways through their cameras. Since she began traveling with Lindblad Expeditions in 2007, she has served as a photo instructor in Alaska, the Amazon, Baja California, Cuba, Europe, Galapagos, the Mediterranean, the South Pacific, and Southeast Asia.
Jeff is an environmental filmmaker and adventure cinematographer. His passion for adventure has led him through rural Kenyan villages, atop erupting Guatemalan volcanoes and to the enchanted Galápagos Islands to film Hammerhead Sharks. Being an expedition filmmaker enables Jeff to combine his love for capturing beauty with his drive to protect the environment. In the words of Jacques Cousteau, “people protect what they love.” Inspired, Jeff created UGENA.org, the United Global Environmental News Agency, an online resource to inspire people to care about the environment. Born and raised in California, he has worked for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary filming sharks and unique fish. His current work leads him around the world on a campaign to save sharks from extinction by prohibiting the consumption and sale of Shark Fin Soup. His film projects can also be found on Google Earth. In 2008 he graduated magna cum laude from the Brooks Institute of Photography where he specialized in underwater cinematography and adventure travel filmmaking. He received his Photo Instructor certification in a multi-day training workshop. Developed and taught by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions photographers, the workshop helped him develop additional insight and skills necessary to help you better understand your camera and the basics of composition — to better capture the moments at the heart of your expedition.
Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography. Well known as a professional wildlife photographer and guide, Steve’s work has appeared in countless publications, including National Geographic magazines and books, The New York Times , and photo collections of the World Wildlife Fund. Steve has written numerous magazine articles on the subjects of travel and nature photography. He is the author of The Traveling Nature Photographer , which has been acclaimed as a must-have for anyone who travels and is interested in photography. Although now a photographer more than anything else, he stays active in the research field and is on the Board of Directors of the Alaskan Whale Foundation, where he assists on research of the whales of Southeast Alaska. Steve is also working on a new project off the coast of Peru where sustainable tourism, scientists, and local fishermen will be working together to conserve a newly created marine sanctuary.
José Guerrero Vela is an Ecuadorian permanent resident of the Galapagos. His mother was born in the islands and his grandfather was one of the first generation of teachers in the Galapagos, which has always inspired him to promote education as the main path to protect the archipelago. He became a Galapagos naturalist guide in 2008. He has since been part of the Australian Awards Scholarship program which allowed him to complete an interdisciplinary Master´s degree in Applied Anthropology and Environment at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. He has represented the Galapagos in various international events in Australia, Canada, India, Bolivia and Germany. His research on the relationship between humans and sea lions in the Galapagos achieved the prize for best master student paper at the International Symposium of Natural Resources and Society in Hanover, Germany. In Galapagos, Jose has worked with the Charles Darwin Research Station, the Galapagos National Park Service, WWF and the Galapagos Governing Council, in several projects related to sustainable development and community-based conservation. As part of the Lindblad-National Geographic team, he travelled to Washington DC to be trained in the National Geographic headquarters as a Certified Photo Instructor. Additionally, he is also part of a team of naturalists that became Certified National Geographic Field Educators, which increased his interest in outdoors learning and educational strategies to engage with families and groups of all ages.
Socrates was raised on Santa Cruz Island located in the heart of Galapagos Archipelago. After a childhood filled with swimming, scuba diving, rock climbing and volunteering in conservation projects, he grew very passionate about the outdoors and the natural world. Since an early age, Socrates has been involved in science, from tagging Pacific Green Sea Turtles to putting transmitters in sharks to track their migration around the Eastern Tropical Pacific. He was one of the few teens selected from the local schools to participate in the most successful Biological Control Agent Introduction project in the Galapagos conducted by the Entomology Department of the Charles Darwin research Station. He studied Biology at the School of Environmental Sciences at Universidad de Guayaquil and later decided to pursue his passion for nature by becoming a licensed Naturalist guide in the Galapagos, working and living there since. Socrates has been documenting the Galapagos wildlife and his extensive travels to wild places with his camera to create awareness about our planet to citizens of the world. He received his Photo Instructor certificate in a multi-day training workshop, developed and taught by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions photographers. The workshop helped him develop additional insight and skills necessary to help you better understand your camera and the basics of composition- to better capture the moments at the heart of your expedition.
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