Above The Crowd

As a photographer, I rarely went out after pictures, and came home empty-handed. If I was after birds, and those rare or spectacular birds I had hoped for didn’t show up, I photographed the most common and the least spectacular.

In my part of the world one bird that meets that criteria, is the Canada Goose. There are more Canada Geese here, or so it seems, than House Sparrows. Just the same, give me some nice light and a little preening, and I am happy.1DSC_4873-01

Geese will readily breed with other species in the goose world. I have seen dozens of cross breeds with these markings. Canada/Snow Goose? Canada/Greater White-fronted Goose? Some might say that they are a Canada (wild)/domestic hybrid, but if they are, they retain full flight capabilities.2DSC_4920-01

Cross breeds are one thing that makes bird photography so much fun. The natural history stock photographer inside of us can shine when this happens.

This picture of Red Fox kits was created on April 29, several years ago. Just a reminder for you active wildlife photographers. The time is at hand.3aFox6 140

When you photographically pursue wild animals, especially for den or nest activity, learn more about those critters. We are in the time of year for baby coyotes and foxes to start coming out of their dens, Owls, eagles and hawks should have babies that are visible in many nests now. Learn not only their reproduction habitats, but what kind of locations they choose to raise their families. As my knowledge of such things rose, so did my success rates with pictures.

Do remember to give baby animals and their parents enough space for them to remain comfortable with your presence. You will be rewarded ten fold. If they come to you, hold your ground and make some great pictures. Remember that wild canines, and some other critters (raccoons etc.) will likely move their babies when those babies become old enough to travel. That will almost assuredly happen in the dark of night.

Those foxes that you see in today’s “fox photo” and the Snowy Owl you see below (I know I‘ve shown a lot of that bird) were two of the most special wildlife memories of my life. Other fox families and several Great-horned Owl families, and Osprey families rank high as well, but some of my favorite moments were only brief encounters. I remember a Badger in Colorado, an Opossum at Bong State Rec. Area in Wisconsin, a friendly Coyote in Wyoming, Bald Eagles along the Mississippi River, a cooperative male eastern Meadowlark in Illinois, many cooperative Eastern Cottontail Rabbits at Bong, and all of my brief encounters with the little Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. I could go and on and on. Wildlife photography has been a very satisfying experience for me, even though my subjects are the artists and I just share.3DSC_0841

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit3e7DSC_4328

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel3fBbirds13 049bbb

Of course insects and other small critters are a form of wildlife. Every minute, of the thousands of hours I have spent searching for, and photographing, nature’s littlest creatures, has been worth it. You will learn more about nature exploring and making images of the macro world, than any other part of nature.4Slides7 043bcd

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All great things, are made up of great numbers of little things.

Of course the best things about photography, especially nature photography, is that it doesn’t have to just be about information garnered about specific subjects. It can be about shapes, light or whatever you decide is worthy of your time. How you “see” your subject, and how you want to present it to the rest of the world, is up to you.

Red Ripples8TSw2 033

Lichen

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Hot Earth, Yellowstone N.P.10DSC_0063

Crash. Lake Michigan11DSC_9713

Long exposure, short sunrise. Lake Michigan.12Moons 056bbbccc

I feel so honored that I was able create images one day that spoke about the subject, and then those that spoke about my personal visions of more abstract subjects the next. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Just Remembering.

As I look at my life (and images) as a digital photographer, from 2002-2014 (some film into 2006), there have been some years………and then there have “really” been some years. My picture volume in 2006 and 2007 are beyond even my belief. Then in 2009 I made over 30 trips (180 mile round trip) to Horicon Marsh NWR in Wisconsin. In 2007 I took a week-long photo trip to Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas. I also took a two-week long journey to mostly Colorado, a week in northern Wisconsin and Michigan, a several day trip to the Mississippi River, and several trips to two auto racing tracks as I said my final goodbyes to over 40 years of car racing photography. There were many other trips during those years to the west and south as well.

As I ponder my life with a camera, I realize that I never made a trip to one of America’s most photogenic states, Oregon. How strange. I have been all around Oregon to Washington State, Montana, Idaho and California but I managed to miss this gem. I have been almost everywhere else in that general region, including British Columbia and Alberta Canada, Wyoming and so on. I’ve also missed Louisiana, South Carolina, and a couple of New England states, but I am pleased to have been everywhere else in America along with two more provinces of Canada, and three states in Mexico. I don’t have images from everywhere I‘ve been, but I do have memories.

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Getting Your Head Up Above The Crowd

There are a lot of photographers in the world today. It can be difficult for you to get your head up above the crowd. When I accomplished that in the 80s and 90s, it was frankly much, much easier. Today, not only do millions of people have the equipment (and software) to accomplish world-class images, but the information on how to do that, is readily available to everyone. It certainly seems that more people also have the time to get out and make those pictures, and way more people travel the entire planet in search of them. Just the same, there are things that you cannot buy, and even some things that nobody can show you.

Never give up. Persistence can’t be bought. When I garnered success at outdoor photography, the number one ticket to that success was that I refused to give up. I Had friends and acquaintances who pursued photography seriously, who eventually failed because they gave up. Other people were getting published when they were not. I give up….was their attitude. I have no time was another cry. Those of us who had even a modicum of success, made time. So we couldn’t go to Africa, we went to a state park. When we couldn’t go to a state park, we went to the near-by prairie. Not enough time for a prairie, how about your back yard? No back yard, how about a city park? If you don’t want it, you will never receive it. It’s funny, but that’s pretty much the story of life.

It is a joy to view all of the great images that are shown today. When something’s gained something’s lost, and what’s missing are true superstars. Gravitas is on the wane. There are a few superstars (Art Wolfe etc.), and while they are still great image makers, they are an extension of the past. They will one day be gone and they will be replaced by a thousand new faces each, not by one.

In the end, “getting your head up above the crowd”, will require a unique vision, and the ability to make people look at your pictures, even when there are 1,000 images on the same page as yours. I think in a world where “photographers” travel to the most spectacular places in existence, make their pictures, and then share them at leisure, success for you will mean concentrating less on the spectacular locations, or on sought after wildlife, and more about finding your own subjects, great or small. In 2010 I wrote an article for this blog on the current state of nature photography. One suggestion I made, was when you go to those spectacular landscape destinations, ignore the iconic spots, unless you have a completely different idea of how to capture them. Find those less known places. Make your own pictures. More and more I think that going somewhere completely different, that almost nobody goes to, and then making powerful images, might be the “new secret” to selling work.

For those of you who are in the fine art world,  I think having the skill to see the world in the abstract, or better said, the line and shape, or the light and shadow of a place, will set you apart. How many people will want to buy a straight forward landscape, of an iconic location, when they have probably been there and photographed it (very well too) themselves. If not, they can likely get a download from the internet and make an exceptional print on their own printer. They might however, be willing to buy a print that has a unique vision, from a unique artist.

Other photographers have cameras, software, information, and the ability to travel. Your personal vision, is the one thing that nobody else has. It belongs to you exclusively.

Have a great day,                                                                                                                                 Wayne

Matthew 6:33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all things shall be added unto you.   Jesus Christ

 

 

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