Visual Opinions

Among today’s pictures  the swan photo was made from my car.  A pillow was used for support and the remainder of the photos were made while they were planted firmly on a tripod.

I love traveling to our national parks and monuments but every once in a while, the photographer in me struggles with a certain park.  I often had only one day or less in the park and sometimes that is just not enough.

In early 2006 while I was on one of my favorite trips I drove into (while still dark) Big Bend N.P. in Texas.  I loved this place immediately.  Still I struggled all day to make pictures that I really liked.  I tried too hard to make landscapes with cactus and other plant life in the scene and seemed to miss the visual contrasts that were provided within the rock forms.  Deserts provide many different “looks” but the art is always there somewhere.  Oddly enough at Big Bend my midday images were better than the pictures I created at the edge of light.  I think the often white rock of Big Bend contrasting against a blue sky was my personal vision for BB.  For you it might be very different.  ISO 200 was the lowest available with the camera that I used for the Big Bend shot below.  I would have gone as low as ISO 25 for this shot if my camera allowed it.  ISO 200, f 22, 1/200 sec with an 18-70mm lens set at 18mm.  I do believe I used a polarizing filter to arrange those rays of scattered  blue light and produce separation (contrast) between the sky and the clouds as well as the rock.  If I did use that filter I must have been very careful with my comp.  I say that because a wide-angle lens like the one I used will usually produce uneven polarization and that is not apparent here.

I actually enjoy making pictures of bird species that are ignored by most photographers.  Sometimes they are viewed as too common and other times they are just disliked.  The Mute Swan falls into the latter category (here in the U.S.) because it was introduced.  I am sure that is not the bird’s fault and this is a majestic and beautiful bird.  I enjoyed the play of light and shadows that was occurring when I made this photo. This image was made in a Lake Michigan harbor in Racine, Wisconsin. ISO 200, f 7.1, 1/250 sec with a 75-300 mm lens set at 90mm.

The Brown-headed Cowbird is another disliked bird.  This species is not introduced but they do not fall into our perception of how a bird should go about the business of nesting.  In other words we place our human values on the bird. The females (this is a male) will lay their eggs in the nests of other (usually smaller) birds species.  I think we can agree we would not approve of this technique in the human world but I am quite sure that someone greater than I decided that this was the path for Cowbirds.  This picture was made in my backyard.  ISO 200, f 6.3, 1/5oo sec with my trusty Nikon 500mm lens.

Today I continue to push the coming of our most visually powerful season.  For all of you nature photographers out there, I cannot stress enough how the landscape and macro photographer inside of you will soar if you make an appointment with autumn.  You will make great pictures and your artist will escape and breath.  The winter can be long for those of you who do not (and those who do) make serious wildlife photos and the fall season will satisfy you like no other.  ISO 200, f 13, 1/15 sec. and my 75-300 mm lens set at 95mm.  This was made at Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha, WI.

There is nothing like the natural world up close.  This Monarch Caterpillar chewing on Milkweed leaves was an easy shot.  They are the easiest caterpillars to find in this area and are of course very slow.  I know people who do not like caterpillars of any kind but I find them enjoyable to photograph.  They make me smile.  ISO 200, f 14, 1/125 sec. and my Nikon 105 Micro lens.

I’ve used the fox pictured below several times to illustrate my philosophy of photographing both beautiful, perfect specimens in nature and also the stressed and not so perfect.  At one time this was only important if you were involved in stock photography.  Today everyone shares their pictures in public forums so everybody is in a sense getting their pictures published. This was the second summer that I found this Illinois male Red Fox appearing full of ticks, seemingly carrying the start of Mange and bothered by Sand Fleas and mosquitoes.  He was in such misery this time that I am not sure that he survived.  Nature cannot always be pretty.  Top photo. ISO 200, f 8, 1/250 sec. and my 500mm lens.  Second shot was made at f 7.1 and 1/500 sec.

It’s funny how sentimental I can become when I am browsing through my nature images.  There are tens of thousands of them and that is a lot of sentimentality.  It’s not so much the pictures themselves that get to me.  A remembrance of those subjects, be they animal, vegetable or mineral brings to me powerful visions.  I have loved and enjoyed so many of those subjects.  Then there is the camaraderie.  So many pictures made with friends like Ron, Darlene and others.  That chokes me up as I write this.  Then there are the memories that are revived of those precious moments when I stood as a living part of nature alone at the edge of some great scene, or in front of a wild animal.  There are also so many memories of unplanned adventures.   A few that should have ended my time here on earth and others that bring laughter to my lips.

My hope for you is that being a nature photographer will add as much to your life as it has to mine

God Bless

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