I am the evangelist of clean and simple backgrounds when it comes to images of birds. I have stated and shown many examples in an effort to bolster my opinions. I am however, also the same photographer who criticized a well-known bird photographer for recreating backgrounds in an effort to cleanse every picture to perfection. If you have read my words lately, you will know that I have been ranting for a world with balance. That also holds true for nature images, especially those with birds. Just because we do things one way, doesn’t mean we have to do it that way every time. The “perfect” images of that well-known photographer soon became boring to me. I knew exactly what to expect with every shot. Balance in photography and life, can be a beautiful thing.
The first four images below have that clean and simple background I speak of. They allow you to focus on the bird, and the art it creates just by its existence.
This third picture of a preening Great Egret has a little bit more going on than the first two, but the grasses are on the same plane as the bird, and the background is clean.
What if the background (and side ground), is not clean, but adds to the rhythm and emotion of the image? What if the tells us something about our subject, but doesn’t distract from the beauty? Most pictures of Egrets are in the water, on the land, or in the air. That makes the two pictures below, mildly unusual. The season here is obviously spring or summer, and the image remains pleasing, not distracting. Sometimes unclean (dirty?) backgrounds can actually add to what you see….in a pleasing way.
This picture is of a Sandhill Crane and it has wood chips and debris in the picture frame. With that having been said, that debris is uniform in size, color and shape. It is softly out of focus in the both the foreground and background. Its uniformity I think, actually helps the image become a little more visually in order.
I think this picture holds a background that is still simple, but is just beginning to be distracting. It is my compromise picture for today. The background with this Black Tern is just close enough with my aperture of 6.3, to begin to develop detail that could be bothersome, but just far enough away, to keep the details soft and acceptable. If all of the tones would have been even, the background would barely be noticeable.
Since becoming a dedicated photographer, I have always made pictures, no matter where life brought me. I truly believe that every place is beautiful, or at least powerful if you are there at the right moment.
This is Whitefish Dunes State park in Wisconsin. The image was made on a bleak, stormy afternoon in February of 2006. I was cold, and the light was dreary. If you are a nature photographer that means, take the picture, it will be different from those from other photographers.
If every location is interesting, so is every subject. This abstract is that of a river rapids.
This stormy landscape was made in Monument Valley in 2006. Stormy days are wonderful for making “scapes”. I liked the way just a little sun illuminated the tops of some rock forms.
I usually preface images of captive animals with a statement on how almost all of my wildlife pictures are made in the wild. I do that because pictures of animals that are contained, are never the same to the photographer as are images made in the wild. I also do that because I have made tens of thousands of pictures of animals in the wild and I don’t want readers of this blog to think any different. That having been said, the animals that I have photographed in zoos, are special to me in their own way.
This seal is likely a Harbor Seal and was photographed in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Zoo in February, 2006. The image was made exactly two days after the stormy beach image I shared with you earlier in today’s post. Variety is indeed the spice of life.
Finally, the higher up the tree, the sweeter grow the berries. At least that’s what these two Ring-necked Pheasants seem to be saying.
While I’m on the pulpit and I’ve got your ear…..well…..better make that your eye, what a photographer does with their pictures, is just as important as the pictures themselves. We all want to share them. What’s the point of making them if you just sit by yourself and stare at them? Today everyone can share their photos with the whole world with just a click of a computer mouse. What about the pro? Getting published in actual “printed on paper” publications and paper products, is still a viable avenue for photographers. Before I quit submitting pictures for publication, I, being an (old) stock photographer, had a significant advantage. Every stock photographer worth their salt, develops, or better said cultivates, a relationship with editors, photo editors and art directors. The people in those positions change, but if you have a proven track record with a company, your legacy, good and bad, will be passed on. With all of my fears about digital photography, and the potential to lose clients to 50 cent downloads, I found that publishers remained shockingly devoted to you, as long as you remained devoted to them. When I quit stock photography, I became profoundly sad about severing my relationship with certain magazines. I was emotionally connected to these pubs and the people who allowed hundreds of thousands, in fact millions of people to view my images, in a time when that was otherwise impossible.
I have noticed on social media that most top photographers are elated to share their latest credits with their friends and followers. It still means something.
Hopefully, publications that you can pick up and feel in your hands, will go on forever. The internet just doesn’t compare, even after twenty years of popular existence. Of course, I still get exited over picking up and examining an old medium format transparency. Try to pick up that Raw file or jpeg.
Look for my next post to be published around December 7, and I will have some outstanding images from other photographers.
Have a great day, Wayne