Why we make the decisions that we do, when we are in the field..
Autumn is a wonderful time for composing colors. It is also the perfect time to layer different colors and tones over one another. Combining those principles will often lead you into the world of the abstract. My point with the image below was to draw contrasts between colors. The photo was made in Wisconsin and all of the pictures were made using a tripod unless otherwise stated.
Nikon D80, Nikon 105mm lens, ISO 100, f 32 at 1.1 sec.
When working with rock, old wood or sand, sidelight is often the key to detail. Look at where the shadows fall from the two plants in the below photo.
Nikon D 100, Nikon 18-70mm lens set at 31mm, ISO 200, f 18 at 1/320th sec.
When the opportunity arises to move in really tight on a bird, or to crop really tight, it actually allows for even more compositional opportunities. This is a chance to expand and experiment.
Female Blue-winged Teal. From car. Horicon Marsh NWR. Nikon D3, Nikon 500mm lens, ISO 200, f 6.3 at 1/320 sec.
Snowy Owl. Horicon Marsh NWR. D70, Nikon 500mm, ISO 400, f 9 at 1 /1600 sec. Normally I would not use ISO 400 and therefore I would not use such a fast shutter speed. I could use a higher ISO here because a white bird on a bright sunny day means very little camera noise. I wanted the high shutter speed because as I began my approach I considered the possibility that my feathered friend would fly and give me a nice action shot. He did not, so close portraits became my objective. I was using (as is normal) aperture priority.
Compositionally, this image of a Northern Flicker made at Illinois Beach State Park North, is closer to what you would commonly see in the market place. I think it is a bit less artistic than the above images but a serviceable picture just the same. This image was made from my car window. Nikon D80, Nikon 5oomm lens, ISO 200, f 5.6 at 1/800th sec.
There are times when you are making close portraits of wildlife and it is necessary to shoot profiles. This badger was photographed along a remote Colorado dirt mountain road. I made several of the more preferable (to me) straight on, and angled portraits. The problem was this was a cloudy day with low light levels. Badgers have long faces and long noses. Shooting from my car up close with my 500mm lens meant that I would have probably needed an f stop of f 16 to get everything from the tip of the nose to the eyes sharp. Shooting a flat (relatively so) profile meant that f 5.6 was enough. I finally did change to my 300mm lens and was moderately successful with that shorter lens at f 8. My thanks to the badger for being very cooperative and my thanks to Ron for noticing the creature as we drove by. I used a Nikon D70 at ISO 200 to make my shots.
When I made the Bald Eagle picture below, I was already in the process of capturing action shots. I once again was using a higher (400) ISO. My depth of field (f8) was still a major consideration. I was using manual focus and the likely hood that I would miss ever so slightly with the focus, meant to me that I would need somewhere around f8 to cover any mistakes that I might make. That gave me a shutter speed of 1/1600 sec. That was more than enough to stop the action. My lens choice was the usual 500mm f4. This shot was made along the Mississippi River in Illinois.
When I made this shot of a northeastern Utah canyon at sunset, I was fairly limited in my compositional choices. I had trees and rocks in my way to both the left and the right, and any step forward would have sent me tumbling down a steep cliff. I did have the choice of tripod height, and lens. I chose a high tripod position and a 75-300mm lens set at 195mm. We always have choices and our decisions should be deliberate. Nikon D80, ISO 100, f8 at 1 320 sec.
Colorful landscapes, wildlife action and pensive portraits are great. It is why we do what we do. There is still more. Images that tell stories are equally important. That is true whether those images are beautiful and exiting or not. American Bison walking down a road as car traffic has to stop and wait, is a story of the modern-day Bison, and those of us who visit the parks and refuges where they live. It is just as much a story that needs to be told as were early photographs of plains Indians hunting what we then called Buffalo. The story it tells is why I made the picture. This shot was made in Yellowstone N.P. with my Nikon D100 camera. I used my old 80-200mm lens set (once again) at 195mm. ISO 200 with an aperture of f16 and a shutter speed of 1/125 sec.
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