Edited by Claudia Farren, Comments Under Photos are by Charles O. Slavens
This photo montage comes from Charles O. Slavens who lives near the Arthur R. Marshall National Wildlife Refuge located in western Palm Beach County. These images are frame grabs from several videos featuring fish and wildlife in the refuge. The captions are his own observations from long hours of filming. His work on the project started in November of 2013 and is on-going.
Biography of Charles O. Slavens:
I bought a camera in a pawn shop while stationed in the Army in Texas where they had a darkroom on the base. I’m completely self-taught. I bought 100-foot rolls of black-and-white film and loaded my own film cassettes. I devised little photo projects wherever I happened to be stationed. I didn’t know it at the time but I was developing an eye for street photography, which remains a major interest. Some of the photos I shot during that period are still part of my portfolio.
When I got out of the Army in San Francisco I drove across country to New York City to pursue a career in photography. Photographically, it looked like the most exciting stuff happening in the big city was in fashion.
As a fashion photographer’s assistant, when I wasn’t on the set, I was in the darkroom learning and perfecting various printing techniques and refining my sense of composition. After a while, I began to see that the culture surrounding the fashion industry was not where I wanted to be. While still at the studio I took film production courses at NYU and switched over to filmmaking. I worked for various film producers as a cameraman/editor and eventually began soliciting my own clients.
Today, I’m retired and do photo and video projects about subjects that interest me. I went digital and started shooting wildlife and nature shortly after I moved to Florida in 2004. I like to zero in on a subject and examine its habits in detail and I prefer shooting in areas that are not heavily trafficked by people just out for a walk.
The Video Project:
The fish video idea first popped up in November 2013 and it is on-going. We’ve all seen tons of footage about life in the sea with oceanic fish swimming in crystal-clear water. The problems facing a photographer in a marsh-water system are different.
Because there’s not a fast moving current, any debris that is kicked up does not quickly go away. So, you have to find another way to put your camera in the water. Over the last several months I’ve developed various rigs for doing that.
The other problem is that you cannot see what is in the camera frame. I’m using a GoPro which has a wide angle lens. In addition, you cannot judge reliably from above the surface what might be in front of the camera. So, I just turn the camera on and leave it on for various periods of time. The camera’s position in the water and the direction in which it may be pointed will be determined by which fish I’m tracking at that time.
The fish still photos [seen above] are low resolution video frame grabs. This camera is shooting at about 1/30 of a second, which is very slow for stills. When making these little photos I try to compensate for the inherent focus problems by processing the frames in Photoshop. In the video they’ll seem to be in focus because of the nature of “persistence of vision”.
The water in the swamp is heavy with particulate matter, most of which you can’t see. This is deceiving because it looks clear from above the surface. But all that invisible stuff changes the color temperature of the water drastically and the deeper you go the more monochromatic your scenes become. Depending upon the location, depth and weather, the scenery can look like black-and-white film that’s been dyed greenish-yellow.
You’ll get more Audubon-like images if you shoot with the sun behind you. The dramatic stuff comes from the sun behind the subject . . . just like above the water . . . same rules apply.
I hope to finish my fish videos by the end of summer.
Below are links to other video projects. I think there are about eight (8) nature video and some other videos on different topics. I think VIMEO is probably the least cluttered. If the links don’t take you directly to my page, just Google, in quotes: “Charles O.Slavens”.