One of the reasons why I don’t show images from other photographers on a fulltime basis here at Earth Images, is that from time to time I like to concern myself with what Xs & Os were employed in the making of the image, or possibly what motivated the photographer in the first place. I rarely have that info when it comes to the pictures made by others, so I continue to put my own images to work.
Chiwaukee Prairie is a world-famous location for those who love wildflowers. People visit Chiwaukee from all over the U.S. and the world. It is located near the shores of Lake Michigan in Kenosha, County Wisconsin. If you’re a stock (or art) photographer looking towards making macros of rare and interesting flowers, this is a prime location. The problem is, stock photographers need overviews and images that tell the big story of a location just as much as they need images of the residents (flowers) of a place. Chiwaukee is not a spectacular place. Its surroundings are not attractive, and Chiwaukee itself is ordinary at best. In late May every year, when the Shooting Stars bloom, it does seem pretty, but even the Shooting Stars tend to grow in small clumps, with lots of open space in between the blossoms. I’ve seen large (film) format photographers there trying to stretch the scene to speak, but usually with no real success. As one photographer said to me on a rainy morning in May, “what this place needs is the Rocky Mts. in back of it”. The Rockies never showed up, so the fine art photographers left the prairie to find more fertile grounds, so to speak. Stock photographers still need their establishing shots.
One morning in May I made a few of those establishing shots, but decided to use the Shooting Stars in a way that others were not. As you can see below, I used some blossoms in the foreground to say “flowers” to anybody (editors) looking at the photo, and then lead viewers off into what is clearly a prairie with flowers, even if it does not contain “wall to wall” flowers. I was successful with an image fairly similar to this one. Sometimes the job of the photographer, is not to wow everybody, but to be a thinking professional who gets the job done, when others decide to go home. Within a week I was back at Chiwaukee creating what were hopefully artful close-ups of flower blossoms.
Some locations are so naturally beautiful that a straight forward image from a well used vantage point, will have people saying wow, and thinking you are an artist. The first shot below of Colorado’s Maroon Lake and the Maroon Bells is a standard view, and the natural beauty of this place screams at you. Maroon Lake is much luckier than Chiwaukee Prairie in that it actually does have the Rocky Mts. in back of it. Early morning light also helps in this shot. Just the same, there has to be more. I moved my location a bit to the right and walked along the shore to include a nice rock and some pretty weed flowers. We now have some framing for those mountains. I made my pictures and decided to make images of the Maroon Bells that I have never seen before. So is my third photo a picture of Queen Anne’s Lace, or the Maroon Bells? A few more moves and we have another image that says Maroon Bells, without actually looking at them. I then tired of the flowers, and decided that the mountains themselves, but upside down and backwards, were worthy of my attention.
I see a lot of creative compositions today and they prove that variety, is still the spice of life. Whether you are building stock files, or prints for a gallery, there are a thousand ways to look at any one place.
One autumn I was working my way through Wisconsin’s Chequamegon National Forest wilderness after a wonderful night of camping. I liked the reflections I was seeing in Morgan Creek, but portions of open forest kept showing through in my viewfinder. That did not say what I wanted to say, and it made my exposures next to impossible. I finally settled on a tight horizontal composition that said everything I wanted it to, except for one bit of dull gray sky that was showing through. My intention was, from before I tripped the shutter, to crop the picture into a “chubby” vertical that said exactly what I wanted to, after I got home. This is one of the very few landscapes that I ever made with intention to crop. It felt like I was committing a sin. Digital photography was new to me, and this was one of my first trips that was almost entirely devoted to digital image making. I liked that it gave me an alternative way to get the picture I wanted, even if it did mean that I would be cropping a landscape when I got home.
I have spent many a day making pictures and devoting my time, primarily to frogs and turtles. I love these creatures and I have always had above average success in getting close to them. In fact, I have made so many close-ups of frogs and turtles, that at times I had to remind myself that more distant shots are important too. For today’s pictures I have a super close-up of a frog, and a more distant shot of two turtles sunning themselves.
This picture of a Bull Frog was made on a warm spring day right after a rain. I spotted two or three frogs that left the shelter of their pond, to move about a little more. The warm weather and wet grasses were perfect for them. I spotted this fellow under a Maple tree and set up my tripod (that’s right) with my 300mm macro lens. I chose my 300mm over my trusty 105 macro, just to give my subject a little extra space. He remained motionless. That allowed me to use an f stop of f22. That guaranteed that even at this close distance with a 300mm telephoto macro, that the eyes would be in focus. I of course needed the cooperation of my subject. As I thought would happen, he did not move an inch. My shutter speed was 1/10th sec.
Quite a different scenario existed when I spotted these two painted Turtles sunning themselves on a log. I was driving in my car, and decided that my best (and driest) possibility would be to use my 500mm lens and shoot from the car. If you have ever worked with turtles that are close to their aquatic home, you know they can slide into the water in a fraction of a second. When you have them landlocked, that’s when you can take your time and move up close. Please always treat these critters with respect and if you see they are uncomfortable with your presence, back up. Anyway I got three or four identical frames of them sunbathing, before they both jumped into the water. My shutter speed of 1/80th sec. was marginal, although my f stop of f 8 was just good enough to keep them in focus.
I never turn down opportunities to make pictures of interesting animals. That’s especially true if I have no images of that species, or as in the case of this Chukar, I have very few.
This picture was also taken out of the window of my car, on my trusty and well-worn Wal-Mart throw pillow. That same pillow has held my head hundreds of time, while I slept in my car. The problem here was the light. Extreme sidelight, that was for all purposes, backlight, was indeed an issue. I flipped my metering mode from aperture priority, to spot metering immediately. I metered from the dark side of the bird, and then closed down my aperture two stops. If I would have used the suggest f stop, I would have had a mid toned bird, which is great, but with completely blown out highlights everywhere else. It does help that a small part of the bird is lit by the sun. That highlights the bird just enough, that it makes us feel that the bird is brighter than it is. When I got this file on my computer, I decided to darken the whole image just a bit in order to keep the sunny parts a little more tolerable, and then I lightened just the shadowed part of the bird, back to acceptable levels. The camera exposure was 1/400th sec. at f 6.3.
I was walking quietly with my camera, attempting to get natural light shots of dragonflies and damselflies as they perched. I was using a 70-300mm macro zoom, and I wasn’t having much success. Oh, I was getting some pictures but only with hideous backgrounds. The dappled light of mid day would light one branch or leaf, and cast the next in the shadows, and so on. I finally got this one where the background was at least reasonably simple, and primarily in the same light. I also had the bonus (stock photographer again), of a nice example of camouflage. I never got the truly artful images of insects, with clean backgrounds made up of either sky, or very distant foliage, but as was okay with me. As is usual, I left the scene as a very happy photographer.
To me, flowers are the ultimate in natural art. There are an infinite numbers of ways to compose your images, of any one flower. The image you see below, is made in one of my favorite compositional styles. The fact that I always got up early, also meant that I caught a lot of dew drops on flowers.
For you macro photographers, one of nature’s most artistic and complete subjects is on the way. Actually, late summer and early fall is the best time for dew, and for orb webs. Depending on the web, the amount of dew, and the background, every shape and design imaginable will be waiting for you to make a statement. Moving slowly is the key here.
Both of these images were made with my Nikon 105 Micro, albeit, about two years apart. Move very slowly and realize that even if you are ten feet from the web, whatever you touch is likely touching something else, that is touching something else, that is touching your web. You will knock a lot of dew from a lot of webs, before you get the knack of it. Choose your backgrounds carefully. Use your depth of field preview lever to see if the background is complimentary or destructive to the success of your final picture. Remember, if you find one dew covered web, you will likely find many.
Are there subjects, and/or photographic styles that are too corny to use? To me, there is nothing to old or cliché, or too new and unique (even bazaar) to use when you are making pictures. I (obviously) used the well-worn compositional tool of framing, with a much photographed subject, an historic lighthouse, to make this picture. From the over used, to the never used, I always chose subjects and compositions for whatever seemed appropriate at the time. That philosophy, served me very well.
Landscapes that say, the American West, were always a favorite of mine. Really, landscapes of the American West are very diverse. The common denominator in the four images below, is rock.
This mage was made in the late (or early) South Dakota light of The Badlands. It was made on one of my later trips. I featured rock formations in every way I could think of on my earlier trips. On my final visits I began understate the rock, in an effort to give viewers a sense of place. The Badlands is certainly about rock forms but it is also a national grassland. While I would never trade the images I made that showed the texture, color and shape of all of those beautiful forms, and they may be more artistic than these bigger views, I really think that theses sorts of pictures are more important.
Colorado is a beautiful state as we saw in our previous pictures of the Maroon Bells. It is also diverse, and rock forms are as much a part of this state as are mountains.
Dinosaur National Monument is in Northwestern Colorado and is not just about fossils. The Canyon drive is as beautiful as one can imagine, with many types of rock forms of all shapes and colors. This particular image is one I don’t think I have shown before, but it certainly does say, the American West. I chose with forethought, to use the hill below the rock to feature it as if it was on a trophy on a pedestal.
When I think in terms of iconic areas of the west, the state of Utah comes to my mind first. If you love rock, you’ll love Utah. Rock canyons were great places for me to play with the early morning or late afternoon sidelight that creates shadows.
This first picture was made in Utah’s Valley of The Gods State Park. What a wonderful morning as we photographically tied together light and shadow, as well as rock, flowers, and sky.
This image of Canyonlands N. P. was made on film at dusk in the early 1990s. This picture and one similar to it are well used and have been seen by thousands of people.
I always loved starting my day of photography with the rising sun, and finishing it with the setting sun. This picture was made after a very long, but very satisfying day in the mountains. That strand of clouds got between me and the sun, and worked beautifully to give me a change of pace to the images I had been making. I stood there for a long time after the sun had disappeared. I slowly made my way back through the darkness to my car, happy, but sad that the day had ended.
How fortunate photographers are. You we to make pictures of many different subjects, and the results, are something that are truly a part of us. Pictures are a way of communicating how you feel, through the simple click of a camera shutter. You can gather all of the things that motivate you, and use them to create order out of all of that chaos. You can let others see the world, the way you see it. Grab your cameras and go out and celebrate.
God Bless, Wayne