I thought I would use today to address a few photography related topics that have been swimming around in my brain as of late.
The first group of images in today’s post have either been shown once previously, or not at all. I either published them and then looked a little closer at them and then rejected them, I or rejected them right off the bat. There was something or several things that caused that rejection.
These Caspian Tern images were posted once on my old website. I removed them because they were busier in the background than I had first noticed, and that background was also incredibly noisy. Now let me say that the busy background is a good thing in the first picture. The sharp tern is up front and the remaining birds disappear softly into the background. That is an effective image and I over reacted the first time around. The two chopped off birds in the second photo are bothersome and who needs the head of that gull peering into a scene of intimacy between those terns in the final image. Of course wildlife photography sometimes just is what it is. As the years wore on I made more and more images of Caspian’s courting, mating, and other activities, that met my standards. The better software programs available helped me to remove the background noise a little more effectively for re-showing you today.
I think the main thing that I found wrong with this young Eastern Cottontail Rabbit was the composition. I can see a vertical crop living inside this picture that would help. Just the same it’s really not so bad that it should not be shared.
Let’s talk about another issue with this rabbit picture, and with many mammal images. Let me preface this by saying that an animal needs a certain type of fur for this to happen. When you sit back from this image it looks good. When you examine it up close, it contains some strange streaks or textures in the fur. Keep in mind I intentionally did not sharpen this image. Not even a little. I see this trait in many images including some from the world’s top wildlife photographers. It bothers me although it seems most of the world either doesn’t notice it, or understands and accepts it as a part of digital photography. I bring it up because if any of you understand it, feel free to contribute an explanation.
When I recently came across this picture of a Muskrat I was not sure why I had never shown it before. It is a little busy but that is its natural habitat. The far horizon seems to be running downhill a little, but it doesn’t seem enough for me to kill the image. I thought maybe it never made the cut because I have a million others like this that seem a little better. Then when I looked more carefully I realized that while the body is tack sharp, the eyes are soft. My point of focus was on the wrong spot.
I found the RAW file from which I made this jpg resting in the same folder as the Caspian Terns pictures that you’ve seen in this post. I think I probable rejected it initially because I may have shown other pictures of displaying Red-winged Blackbirds a short time before I made this one. Then I probably forgot it existed. How many files do you have hiding in folders that you simply forgot about?
Motion Blurred Wildlife Images?
While I think intentionally blurred flight shots for creative effect will always be around, images where the wings or head of a bird are blurred while the rest of the bird is sharp, are headed the way of the rotary telephone. I think it’s just too tempting for today’s photographers to bump up the ISO and therefore the shutter speed in order to capture any movement what so ever, stopped completely sharp. Of course with film and even digital until the past few years, it was the necessary low ISO speeds that made it sometimes mandatory. Photographers like you and I made good use of that shortcoming to intentionally create images that were part sharp, and part soft. Something’s lost when something’s gained.
These are Wilson’s Phalaropes.
Some pictures imply rapid movement or violent actions. Others tell stories that grip you and hold your attention. Some images provide serenity.
Intense colors can be serene when they inhabit the proper scene. While burning hot colors stir emotions that are equally hot, when they inhabit a scene that evokes memories of calm and peace, those memories override the more instinctual feelings we get from hot colors.
Early mornings convey a sense of peace and calm. Even if the colors are intense.
Autumn colors can be somewhat riotous, but if the context of their environment is peaceful, maybe some place you would like to sit and contemplate, then those same colors become serene.
Roaring water is by its very nature, violent. Yet a slow shutter speed produces an almost calming effect. As photographers, we know that the dreamy cotton candy appearance occurs because of that slow shutter speed, yet we remain captivated enough to identify with the serenity that the finished picture imparts.
Serenity is in the eye of the beholder.
We all have a finite amount of time to do what we will do. It will happen within a specific generation. That applies to photography just like anything else. We all have a beginning and an end.
When I see what’s possible (and happening) in photography today, it’s hard not to want to be starting today instead of a long time ago. I see the cleansed images of birds and other wildlife, perfect backgrounds, clean and simple like I have always preached. It is indeed sometimes difficult not to wish I was starting today. I see common people just like me, making landscapes from every location I ever wanted to visit, and today seems like the time to be a photographer. They reach those hard to reach places, secure that their “group leader” and the GPS that everyone carries, will bring them back safely. If not, a phone call will bring a helicopter to your rescue. I guess that would be better than they way I did it. I see everyone from the mail carrier, to the short order cook visiting the “wilds” of Africa, and sipping fine wine in the air-conditioned “wilderness” lodge they inhabit. That does seem pretty nice.
I guess I should have been born a little later, than again when something’s gained, a little bit is lost too. We had no internet in 1971. You had to buy a magazine or a calendar to view the current work that was being done. You planned your trips by yourself and almost never knew what you were going to find until you got there. When I braved the wilderness I went in with a topographical (paper) map……and usually got lost. You don’t make as many pictures when you are lost in the wilderness. It is true that you created fewer perfect bird pictures when there are no “bird ranches”, or Ipods to call in those birds. No Photoshop to cleanse the image before you shared it.
Every day in the field, even right around home, was an adventure. You had to accept, if not prefer to carve your own path, and to go it alone. Nobody you knew was going to buy the equipment, spend a fortune in film and processing, and then head out on a wing and a prayer hoping to make great pictures. Then you could only share your slides with those who you might convince to come over for a slide show. Of course when you put together a submission for a publisher, using an old typewriter and a marking pen, your biggest hope was that you would some day see your precious slides again. There was no RAW file safely waiting for you on a secondary hard drive.
I guess it seems that I am griping about how good photographers have it today. Actually I am giving thanks for how good I had it back in the day. Many today will never know the adventure of living by your own wits, and the satisfaction of figuring it all out by yourself. There was almost nobody willing to do what you were doing. You were in fact, unique.
When I look at the paragraphs above, I must admit that I wonder what William Henry Jackson would have to say to me. Traveling by foot and horseback, carrying 8×10 view cameras, glass plates, a medieval portable darkroom, into a true wilderness, that no European had even seen before. We have all seen his work at some time in the history books. There were three or four like him in the entire nation. The easier photography gets, the harder it gets to not look like everybody else.
Something’s gained but something’s lost.
Have a great day, and God Bless, Wayne