Mountain Autumn. These images were made in the mountains of Wyoming about three-quarters of the way through the month of September. Ron and I were traveling along the beautiful Chief Joseph Byway and spotted this colorful meadow. It is a beautiful place to be this time of year.
Final Hours. For all of you flower photographers your final hours are not that far away. That first killing frost will drive you to search for non-floral subjects. I always loved those final days spent with the flowers of autumn. The flowers below are not from the fall season but the passion lasts all year.
To me there is nothing like sharing images from the three major artistic disciplines in nature photography, all in the same post. Wildlife, landscapes and macro. I have always enjoyed photographing all three and when I could accomplish each in the same day….well to me, that was a good as it can get.
My first commercial nature photography success came with landscapes, followed by wildlife and then close-ups of insects, flowers and patterns. I still have copies of the magazines, calendars and books that they were published in. That despite the fact that I already had much published work in the fields of sports editorial and architecture.
We’re all different and we all have our preferences in subject and style but when asked advice from aspiring nature photographers, I always suggest they do it all. Once you acquire the addiction that comes from the visual stimulation of image making, crossing borders from one subject to the next is natural. At least within the boundaries of nature if not without as well.
Compositional decisions are made the same way regardless of your subject. You should start instinctively, and then as time permits, start asking yourself questions. Where have I placed the most important part of my image? How does my negative space balance the picture? Will the viewers have a journey through this image that is satisfying and comfortable, or will it leave them empty or uncomfortable. Remember my picture from a few articles ago of the Great Egret that appears to be a neck and head mounted on a wall? Okay so your picture fits all the rules, but is it still boring? Is it uncomfortable? What rules should you break? Photography is a mixture of problem solving and self-expression. No matter the subject, the goal is the same. Of course there are limits to what you can ask a wild animal to do, but those shots are often going to be cropped when you get home. If a bird is in my viewfinder, and it is tight in the picture frame, I do everything I can to make a final composition when I click the shutter. If that same bird is a little more distant, I still compose my image before shooting, but I might leave a little extra space in a direction that might allow me a composition changing crop. If I know I will have a huge crop to make, I place my subject dead center in the frame to give myself all of the compositional options possible when I get home.
Landscape photography is my favorite subject when I want a lot of compositional options. You can move around and study the scene. The biggest issue most landscape photographers have is their unwillingness to move around once they have found a composition. Look up Joseph Rossbach’s or Ian Plant’s websites and see the benefits of not settling for and easy comp. Remember to compose the light just as you do the land.
When you are working really close to your subject such as you are in macro photography, the normal process of composition still applies, but the degree of difficulty goes up. At high magnification every fraction of an inch of movement can create an enormous change in composition. I have often said that high quality artistic close-up photography is the hardest of the three forms of nature photography. Physically and artistically. The satisfaction I get from creating a successful macro image is indescribable.
Remember that depth of field, or the amount of territory in your landscape, wildlife or macro image that appears sharp, is a major part of your composition. When I taught photography, I always began with aperture (f stop) and shutter speed. What each means not only in exposure, but in composition. Depth of field is just as important of a part of that comp, as is the rule of thirds, leading lines, use of negative space or anything else. That is true in all three disciplines of nature photography.
I am thankful that the one thing that stays the same in photography is the need to compose images. When a camera or software makes that decision for the photographer, it is time to do something else. Compositional rules make your images more acceptable and successful, and then your own personal vision make your images..….well……your images. It shouldn’t happen any other way.
Enjoy the day and may God Bless,