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This Chicago Photographer Makes It Hard to Decide Between Iceland, Antarctica, and Africa

Dean J. Tatooles regularly travels the world in search of the perfect shot. We hopped on the phone to chat with Tatooles more.

A Pacific white-sided dolphin approaching the S/V Maple Leaf   Photo: Dean J. Tatooles

Dean J. Tatooles of Chicago-based Southern Cross Galleries gets around. A professional photographer focused on panoramic landscapes, wildlife and indigenous portraiture, the Chicago native and resident regularly travels the world in search of the perfect shot. And when he gets it, it can show up anywhere from private collections and Picture Us Galleries around Chicago to billboards and National Geographic Adventure.

In recent years, Tatooles has been leading photography safaris, where he takes amateur photographers to exotic locales and teaches them how to up their game. “I find myself wanting to bring people back to the places that are special to me and to share that experience with them,” says Tatooles. “To see their faces and to be able to teach in an environment that I love is really rewarding.” This winter from December 17 to 28, Tatooles will be partnering with Polar Latitudes to lead a photo safari to the Antarctic Peninsula.

We hopped on the phone to chat with Tatooles more.

Q. You’ve been to seven continents. Do you have any favorite destinations?

A. Antarctica is up there, but also Kenya and Uganda, which is a completely untouched wilderness. Africa is so culturally diverse, and to experience wild animals in their natural habitat is something I think everybody should see. And if you can’t make it to Africa, find another place where you can experience animals in their natural habitat. Seeing animals in their natural habitat is something that will change your life.

Q. What would you say is one of the easiest exotic locations to get to from Chicago?

A. Believe it or not, Iceland. You fly direct to Boston or New York, and from there it’s only a five-hour flight. Many people go in summer, but in winter, there are frozen waterfalls, beautiful snowscapes, and the Northern Lights, which are really something. Seeing them in a photo or movie is one thing, but to actually witness the lights before you—eerie, surreal, and literally swirling and dancing across a dark sky—and to see the excitement that people have right next to you is magical. It had a huge impact on me.

Q. Tell us about the picture above from your recent trip to British Columbia.

A. This is a great story. Last August, I was on a trip with Maple Leaf Adventures. They own the restored wooden schooner in the picture, the S/V Maple Leaf. We were sailing from Vancouver Island and about a day or so out of Bella Bella when we encountered not a pod, but what they call a “stampede” of Pacific white-sided dolphins. Dolphins number in the 100s in a stampede. They circled the schooner and were riding in the wake. It was dolphins as far as the eye can see. We hopped into the smaller Zodiac boats behind the schooner, and that shot was taken coming back towards the Maple Leaf. I put a wide-angle lens on my camera and held it out of the Zodiac to get a picture of the water, and got lucky: just as I hit the shutter, the dolphin came up.

Q. So luck can play a role in capturing a great picture. Beyond that, any simple tips you can share to help travellers take better photos?

A. Get closer to your subject and think about what it is you’re trying to capture and why. Here are three different ways to do this. Get low in the subject’s environment. For example, with kids and animals, people often capture images from above by shooting down. Or try shooting your subject frame-to-frame. Frame a herd of zebras with no negative—or blank—space. You should also offset your main subject. Rarely should you ever put it in the middle of the frame.

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