Hi everyone! My name is Jenaya Launstein and I’m a wildlife photographer based in southwestern Alberta, Canada. I’ve been a member of NPN for nearly 10 years, so when David approached me about contributing with an Ask Me Anything, I was totally on board.
When I was 10 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a wildlife photographer. After a few years of constantly talking about it, my parents bought me a new (to me) DSLR for my 13th birthday and I’ve been hooked ever since.
My dad used to be a fine art nature and equine photographer, so I guess you could say photography runs in the family! Soon after I got into wildlife photography, my dad joined me, and a couple years down the road, so did my younger brother.
In 2016, our family opened up the Launstein Imagery Wildlife Art Gallery in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. It’s been an amazing experience to say the least! If you’re ever in the area, we would love to welcome you to our gallery.
To learn more about my family and I, you can check out our website at www.launsteinimagery.com. You can also check out my work on Facebook as Jenaya Launstein Photography (Launstein Imagery for the whole family’s photography) and Instagram as @jenayalaunsteinphotography (@launsteinimagery for the whole family’s photography). If you don’t have social media I’m also in the middle of setting up my portfolio on NPN, which you can find in Member Portfolios under the Community tab.
Anyway, I’d better stop rambling on or else you’ll have nothing left to ask me! So go ahead, ask me anything photography or wildlife related. Just a heads up, I like to focus on the more creative side of photography, so I may not be the best person for super technical questions…
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Thanks for sharing your interesting bio and family background. Your sample images are wonderful. Please comment on the technique and patience needed to find your wildlife subjects and your technique of handling long lenses both on tripod and handheld. Thanks so much.
Hi Jenaya, I am a proud owner of the 2016 Launstein family wildlife calendar, which featured some of your photos:grinning:. I’m wondering how much time you spend in the field to get some of your shots. I know wildlife doesn’t suddenly appear whenever you go out . Thank you for doing this!
Thank you for the kind words, Larry! I will often sit in an area where I know there’s activity, and wait for something to happen. I was treated to quite the show from two muskrats earlier this winter by just sitting and waiting. As for shooting, I shoot handheld pretty much 90% of the time. I just find it easier, especially for birds, but I have gotten bitten a couple times for refusing my tripod, haha. Most of the time I like to get a really low angle, so will often rest the lens on my knee or a nearby rock.
That’s awesome, Jim! Thank you for buying one of our calendars! I try to go out every day, but sometimes this isn’t possible. When I do go out, I drive our local backroads for hours in hopes of seeing something. While I was in Yellowstone earlier this year, I often spent 10hrs in the field every day just driving and then waiting for something to happen. That trip sure paid off!
Jenaya, I couldn’t even dream of taking the plunge to run my own gallery. How has that experience been for your family, and what are some of the (many, I assume) challenges involved… also, how much work do you kids put in at the gallery itself, aside from providing the “wares”?
I also use a 200-500 f/5.6 on my Nikon D500 for bird photography. I prefer birds in flight more than portraits…i love the energy and motion so I always try to pan and use a slow shutter speed to show some wing blur and background blur. For panning birds in flight with a slow shutter speed, do you also mostly go handheld? I think I have better luck with my tripod and gimble head, but maybe my handholding technique (even with VR on) needs improvement!
Hi Max! It’s been pretty exciting! My mom and dad run the gallery, and my brother and I will work there helping with sales and such. Knowing what to stock and what will sell is probably one of the biggest things. We’ve been very fortunate to sell cards and calendars to shops around Alberta, so that helps with us figuring out what people most like. It’s funny though, some of my very favourite images won’t turn anyone’s head. Just shows how everyone has such different taste, haha.
I love panning shots. I’ve tried several times handheld for panning birds, but it’s never QUITE worked out because of the inevitable up and down motion from moving the lens. For that, I would most likely switch to a tripod.
One of the biggest surprises for us was we ended up in the black on our first year and have grown appreciably ever since. We were also surprised about the fact we sell more larger pieces than say 12x18 prints for example which we expected to be our bread and butter category. We’ve also been really surprised by the demographics of our collector base–we anticipated the gallery’s success would be dependent on our ability to tap into the tourism market here in the Canadian Rockies, but that segment doesn’t account for even 25% of our sales each year! Our local community represents the largest percentage of volume with people who have vacation homes in the region coming in second and still well ahead of tourists (who are more likely to buy greeting cards and calendars, etc).
I’ve actually never used a blind. A lot of the big mammals in my area tend to be traveling through at different times and locations, so it’s hard to pinpoint an exact location for a blind. There are a couple areas I know bears frequent, and I’ll sit outside for a bit waiting. I have had more luck just happening upon animals during my hikes and drives, but I’m hoping to try a couple different things this year. The same goes for birds, but I find you have to be even more still for them, haha! I was fortunate to find a very cooperative Western Meadowlark two days ago who let me photograph him for a while. He stayed in the area after I left him, too, so I like to think I didn’t stress him out!
Hello, I am hooked on photography and have accumulated a decent body of work over the last 15 years. I want to know how I go about trying to make money off of my photos! I have hard drives full of Raw files, and some good photos already processed. I don’t have a website, nor have I done ANYTHING to try to sell. I’m starting from ground zero! What steps should I take? Just yesterday I signed up with “Fine Art America” to upload images to sell. What’s next?
Well, that’s a hard question for sure! There’s no tried and true formula, unfortunately, but I’ll share a bit of what I did. When I first started, I joined NPN. This gave me lots of advice and ways to keep my photography different and creative. I started entering a lot of photo contests. Some had cash prizes, and some got my name out to potential buyers. I also started selling some images to my local paper and nature magazines that I liked. With our gallery and website, it’s nice to have a range of products so there’s something at everyone’s price point, from greeting cards to large prints. If you go into prints, make sure you go with someone that provides consistent and high quality prints. There’s nothing more frustrating than having several colour variations being printed from just one file where everything looked perfect.
Hi, Michael! Welcome to NPN. I’m glad to hear you’ve been to our gallery. That is actually one of the most asked questions I get from friends and visitors to the gallery, haha. While I have run into bears on the trail, the majority of the bear photos I currently have in my portfolio were taken from the safety of inside, or beside, my vehicle with long lenses and sometimes a tele converter as well.
As for mothers with cubs, I absolutely take extra precautions. Since we are often photographing as a family, one of us will ALWAYS have our eyes on the mom to make sure we are not stressing her out. Bears, and especially black bears, are quite unpredictable. The first thing we do when we see a young bear is think “Where is the mom?”.
In my experience, if you keep a respectful distance, and aren’t doing something you shouldn’t be doing, you should be fine. We keep count of the bears we see every year, and our all time count is well into the hundreds (one year, we almost cracked 300!). Out of all those bears, I have never once been charged. That’s why I’m so adamant on respecting wildlife.