What sort of images you make and how you make them, has everything to do with future use. You shoot today for tomorrow. I was always a happy camper when I created a picture that served many purposes, but I never wasted a chance to create an image that fulfilled a single purpose. There was always another day for another picture.
I write a lot about composition and acceptable backgrounds, including when the subject is a living animal. Everything in the image area counts. Just the same, with wildlife, including insects, you can’t always choose the background. What do I do when I find a subject I want pictures of, and I don’t like the “whole image”. I make the picture anyway. Such was the case with a moth I found on the side of an administration building at a state park. It was chilled and going nowhere when I first found it. At one time in my life I would have carefully picked it up and moved it to a more photogenic location. If you are careful not to pick a location where a bird or some predator is likely to consume your subject, there is probably nothing wrong with that. Somewhere in the mid 1990s I just made a decision to not do that. It was a personal decision. I always make the image no matter what the background/foreground. Somewhere down the road a photo of this first moth could prove valuable regardless of the setting. I also found a Tiger Moth and Luna Moth on the side of the same building. They were in more photogenic spots, although my images of them are pretty ordinary. Both the Luna and Tiger moth are potential stock images. The best approach I always figured I could make, was one of both a stock photographer and an art photographer. You can’t always (like here) combine those disciplines in the same photograph but there is nothing to stop you from moving back and forth between the two.
You may ask why is my subject (1st moth) so much in the center of the frame as we travel east to west? Because I wanted both wall signs to be obvious in the picture with an intent to crop it if and when it might become necessary. I still wanted to keep the moth reasonably large in the picture frame.
I believe this is an Oak Moth, but in some respects it looks like it is in the Hawk or Sphinx category. Notice those fancy antennae. Below that moth are the images of the Tiger followed by the Luna Moth.
I was able to get very close to the Tiger Moth and therefore used my trusty Nikon 105 Micro lens. I struggled to get my tripod in a good position with the Luna, due to some shrubs that were in the way. I used my 70-300mm macro zoom set at 195mm to solve the problem. With the mystery moth I fiddled around trying to figure out a composition with those signs, and wasted so much time that the moth was beginning to warm and move. I once again use the zoom set this time at 240mm in order to not bother my subject.
Some images are naturally more artistic than others. There are some opportunities to sell art images for stock, but they need to be pursued independent of traditional stock. Magazines and books that are about the subject of art come to mind first. Religious and health and healing publications often like the soothing qualities of more abstract images.
The image below was made of a Lake Michigan sunrise. It was shot in November of 2004 with my old Nikon D100 camera, a zoom lens set on 70mm and f29, with a shutter speed of 1 second. The f stop was chosen not for depth of field, but to slow my shutter speed down. The blurred waves and the color of the sunrise melted together
This image shows a very different result with water that was also blurred with a slow shutter speed. The front light of daytime brings different results than the backlight of pre-sunrise. This picture was created long ago with medium format Pentax 645 camera, and then copied with a digital camera.
Some pictures easily fill the bill as both stock and art. You can figure that a semi-abstract, shadow filled picture of a sand dune, is naturally artistic. There are publications that advertise locations like national parks and monuments, that prefer more interpretive renditions of the subject they are advertising. Such is the case with images like the one below. It is an afternoon shot from White Sands New Mexico.
This picture was captured by using a 300mm lens to compress the sand dunes. I shot at f22 and 1/400th of a second. Manual spot meter was used and there is a slight intentional under exposure here in an effort to keep the shadow fairly deep and dramatic. I wanted the multiple layers of light and sand, to be obvious.
There is nothing quite like birds in flight to capture the attention of a viewer.
The images below were made not only on different days, but in the case of the geese, in different years. They were all shot on blue sky days, and the technical information is very similar. The pelicans and the geese were made by careful panning. In other words my camera lens was being moved in the same direction, and in sync with the birds. The Forster’s Tern is hovering. My camera was pointed at the bird and I simply fired. I used my Nikon 500 f4 lens for all of the pictures.
The American White Pelicans bursting into flight image was shot at f6.3 and 1/800th of a second with an ISO of 200. The tern image was taken at f6.3 and a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second, also using an ISO of 200. The final close quarters flight shot of the geese was made at….you guessed it, 6.3 and a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. My ISO was 100 this time. I am not surprised that my f stop was identical for all three. For panning and for hovering, f 5.6 to f 7.1 is normal for me. One might think that because there are multiple birds in two shots, that those images might need more depth of field, or an f stop of f11 or so. The truth is that the group shots are made at a greater distance than the image of a single tern. The 6.3 F stop was equally correct for multiple distant birds and a single bird up close one.
The American White Pelicans bursting into flight image was shot at f6.3 and 1/800th of a second with an ISO of 200. The tern image was taken at f6.3 and a shutter speed of 1/640th of a second, using an ISO of 100. The final close quarters flight shot of the geese was made at….you guessed it, 6.3 and a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. My ISO was also 100. I am not surprised that my f stop was identical for all three. For panning and for hovering, f 5.6 to f 7.1 is normal for me. One might think that because there are multiple birds in two shots, that those images might need more depth of field, or an f stop of f11 or so. The truth is that the group shots are made at a greater distance than the image of a single tern. If anything, the close distance to the single bird would make that the preferred picture for more depth of field.
All three images were made using aperture priority. Whether I am making a macro of a flower, creating a grand landscape, or photographing birds in flight my first thought is always depth of field. It is a part of your composition. It matters in the majority of the images you will make. Of course with action photography, be it birds in flight, or falling water, shutter speed also matters and is adjusted accordingly. Right after I have chosen my aperture.
Group flight shots in particular have potential use as a metaphor in advertising. Ad usage with your imagery will be the top end of stock photography as far as money is concerned. The pelican photo and especially the picture of the geese, are perfect symbols of teamwork, or operating in tight quarters. The tern shot could represent the “going it alone” philosophy, or maybe the ability to see what is beneath you. Stock photographers are always thinking of future use.
I made these images with my super sharp Nikon 500 f4 prime lens camera…..but, that lens is manual focus. It has no VR/IS. 200 ISO is about my max with the camera body I used. If you are a veteran like me and you wonder why you are seeing so much spectacular action today, think in terms of using an ISO that will allow you to shoot at f 16 with a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second under these same conditions. With the latest auto focus modes, you would of course not need to shoot at f 16, so imagine where that will put your shutter speed. All of that with little or no noise. Due to the mega pixel size, will you will be able to make substantial crops. It is a great time to be a photographer although I am not quite sure what today’s aspiring photographers will do to get noticed and separate themselves from the masses.
Remember when technology like computers, cell phones etc., was going to make our lives simpler and give us more time? It always seems that when things get easier, things get harder.
Thank you, Wayne