Q&A with Steve Gettle – Nature Photographer Extraordinaire

For the past several years, we have organized a lecture series for the local Missoula crowd … or anyone able to make the journey to Missoula. Typically it begins in October and runs through the spring. These lectures happen once a month – usually the third Tuesday of each month – and are presented by a different instructor who speaks on a distinct topic. In the past, we have had UM Professor of Photojournalism Keith Graham, former New York Daily News photographer Mike Albans, videographer Colin Ruggiero, and many others in our building. The time is here again for the lecture series to begin. While there are a few last minute details that are preventing us from posting the schedule in its entirety, we are happy to announce the first lecture with wildlife photographer Steve Gettle, who is coming all the way from Michigan. To give you a primer on who Steve is and what to expect from his lecture, we thought a quick Q&A would get the ball rolling.

Steve’s lecture will take place in the Quarry at RMSP on October 16 from 7-9 pm.  As with all of our evening lectures, it is free and open to the public. Everyone is encouraged to attend, and to bring friends and family too. If you have questions about this lecture, please feel free to get in touch with us. As soon as our last few details are written in stone, the schedule will be on our website.


Steve, you’ll be kicking off our 2012/13 Free Evening Lecture Series in just a couple of weeks. For our readers and followers who aren’t familiar with you and your work, can you introduce yourself?
I am a nature photographer from Brighton, Michigan a little town just north of Ann Arbor. I have lived in Michigan most of my life. Of course I shoot all over the great state of Michigan I also travel throughout North America. I especially enjoy exploring South and Central America visiting such places as, Costa Rica, The Caribbean, Peru, The Galapagos, Belize, and Ecuador.

I am passionate about photographing all aspects of the natural world from the intimate details of a tiny snow crystal to the mating rituals of six thousand pound elephant seals. From the quite reflections of fall foliage in a woodland pond to the raucous energy of fifty thousand snow geese exploding into flight. While of course I love being out in the field making photographs. I get a special joy from sharing my knowledge and experiences with other photographers.  I do this through the art of teaching and lecturing. I also lead custom designed field workshops and photo tours to the beautiful places of our planet.

What can attendees of your lecture expect to hear? Will you focus on your technique, your business, or is it more of an overall experience type of lecture?
The first part of the evening I will be teaching the Composition and Lighting modules from my seminar “The Art of Nature Photography.” The focus of this talk will be the process I use to design and build a photograph. We will also speak about how to use composition to more effectively communicate your message to the viewer. The second part of the evening I will be presenting my multi-media program “A Wilderness Year”, which is a visual journey through the four seasons with music and imagery.

How long have you been a full time photographer?
I have been making pictures for nearly thirty years. For two thirds of that time I have been selling my work as stock and fine art prints, as well as teaching and lecturing about photography.

What got you into the craft of photography in the first place?
I have always had a love for nature and the outdoors. In the beginning for me photography was a way to record and share what I saw in the outdoors. When I think about it, I am still doing that with my photography today!

Where did you get your training?
While I have not had the privilege of formal training in photography, I have been fortunate to learn from some of the greatest photographers in the world. I am largely self-taught through books and articles by photographers such as John Shaw, Art Wolf, Jim Brandenburg, Frans Lanting, Phillip Hyde, and Elliot Porter to name just a few. In addition, I have been studying photographs my entire life. Whenever I see an image I decide if I like it or not. If not, why not? What would I do differently if I were in that situation to possibly make it a better? If I do like it, what do I like about it? Is there an idea or technique that I might incorporate into my photography? Over the years this process has helped me to better define my own personal style and process.

You have many, many stunning images of wildlife. Do you have a personal favorite animal or bird that you like to shoot? Why?
I am very lucky in that I love to photograph everything in the outdoors. If I can get out in nature I can always find something to shoot. But if I could only shoot one subject, I would have to say it would be birds, or… macro, or well… maybe mammals. Okay if you’re going to pin me down to just one it would be birds, mainly, because they are such a challenge.  Birds have a stunning diversity of species and behaviors to photograph, as well as simply being beautiful. I am especially drawn to using special techniques to photograph the beauty of birds in flight.

You have received many accolades and awards for your work. In your eyes, how important are contests to emerging photographers or to any photographer for that matter?
It’s one thing to have your mother tell you that you have a pretty picture. It’s a whole other thing to have an esteemed panel of judges tell you the same thing. Is it nice to have that recognition, that stroke to your ego? Absolutely! It doesn’t look bad on the resume either. But in the end you have to shoot for yourself. You have to create images in your own personal style about subjects you are passionate about. If you do that, the rest will fall into place.

Is there an animal you haven’t photographed yet that you really, really want to?
I wouldn’t say there is any one particular subject because I wouldn’t be able to narrow the list down. But I am a big fan of being totally immersed in a subject. I really enjoy spending a lot of time with subjects earning their trust and getting an intimate glimpse into their lives. I spent over a dozen years photographing the same herd of white-tailed deer. I’ve had the privilege of photographing the same pair of loons over the course of six years. When you spend that much time with a subject you really get to know their individual personalities and habits you almost get a sixth sense about your subject, an ability to anticipate the really special moments. I would like to have more long term opportunities like that.

How about a location?

If such thing exists, describe the “holy grail” of wildlife images that you hope to create someday.
I’m seeing a tack sharp image of a snow leopard, frozen in mid-air as it leaps from a snow-covered rock outcropping on to the back of a yeti! Oh yea, I almost forgot, the light is perfect.

Actually, I don’t really know that there is a “holy grail” image. But I would like my photography to touch people, to show them a moment they have never seen before.  To cause them to stop and smile, or to say, “Look how beautiful that is.” or “Wow, I had no idea that worked like that.” And perhaps in the end, effect a change, one picture, one person at a time

What are your personal goals in photography?
My goal would be to continue to grow and evolve as a photographer and a teacher. I would also like to “see” better. Because in the end that is what photography is all about seeing, and then effectively sharing your unique vision with the viewer.

OK … I gotta run and catch a plan to the Himalayas I have to find that snow leopard/yeti picture.


Visit Steve’s website at: www.stevegettle.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/steve.gettle


Wildlife photographer Steve Gettle
Free Evening Lecture
Tuesday October 16, 2012 from 7-9 pm
The Quarry at RMSP
For more information call 800-394-7677


2 thoughts on “Q&A with Steve Gettle – Nature Photographer Extraordinaire


Hi- THank you for these wonderful free lectures. Have you announced the complete line-up of the dates/lectures for the series 2012-13?



Thank you so much for your kind words about our lecture series! It’s great to hear feedback.

We are very close to announcing the full line up of the lectures, dates, times, instructors, topics, etc. We fully recognize this should be available right now. There are just one or two logistical details we are working which are preventing us from having the info 100% locked down. We are planning on having this info available no later than next Tuesday’s lecture.

Again, thank you for your interest and feedback. Hope to see you on Tuesday!


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