Never forget why you starting making pictures in the first place
In the pursuit of pictures, sometimes it’s easy to forget this is supposed to be fun. I tried to never forget that I loved what I was doing, and it should be fun to do what you love. I may have gotten side tracked a few times, but in the end I always came back to where I started. Whether it be natural history documentary photography, the art of image making in nature or otherwise, simple “quick hit” photography, or complex set ups that take hours to complete, photography should be fun. I had fun with all of those photographic endeavors..
As much as I love the art of photography, regardless of the subject, I so enjoy pure natural history photography. The sort that teaches us something, whether anyone considers it art or not.
Below we find two groups of Milkweed Bugs. What’s unique about this group is that you will find six immature bugs and one mature, in the first photo, and three mature and two immature in the second. They are all out of the larvae or nymph stage. They are not like a butterfly or moth, where in the larval stage, they are one creature, then after a period of time in the chrysalis/cocoon, they experience a metamorphosis into a whole new creature. They grow from nymph to immature, and then to mature. You can see the beginning of the formation of their wings in the immature bugs.
Pictures that tell stories, will hopefully never go out of style.
For many of you in the U.S., the turtle nesting season is upon us. The easiest type of turtle to find are the Common Snapping Turtles as they often dig nests right at the roadside. If you stop to make pictures, please make sure you don’t get hit by a car, and please be cognizant of the fact that you will be calling attention to them when you photograph them. People love to kill Snapping Turtles. When possible, I would do my photography at a site away from the road, or in nature parks where everything is protected. I also moved in quickly, made my pictures and left the turtles alone. Over the years, in my zealousness to share with you my pictures and my stories, I have not emphasized enough the thousands of pictures that I have not made, merely because I refused to jeopardize the well-being of my subjects. Our subjects should always be more important than our pictures.
Another critter that often nests right at the side of roads, is the Killdeer. The same safety measures should be taken both for you, and your subject. It is easy to photograph Killdeer on the nest from your car, and that’s the best approach when possible. The mother Killdeer incubates her eggs by herself so she must leave her nest to find food. The eggs are well camouflaged but you can easily find them if you saw her on the nest. After photographing mom on the nest, I drive a little ways away. I remain close enough to see the bird. I have all my equipment ready and when she heads out to feed, I move in quickly make my egg pictures and leave.
This Barn swallow was scolding me. The frame you see in the picture is the side railings of a small floating pier at Horicon Marsh NWR. I had been making super close detail shots of the swallows as they perched on the top of the railing, when this little fellow began playing peak a boo with me. I spent a few moments making images, thanked him/her, and moved on.
How shallow is your depth of field at f 6.3 with a 500mm f4 lens at this distance? Notice that while the front parts of the bird and the bottom board are in focus, the back part of the bird (further away), and the top board (closer to us) are both out of focus.
One thing all nature photographers should do, is look down. It matters not where you are or what you expected to photograph, there is almost always a subject at your feet. This is especially true in marshes. I caught this Leopard Frog in a moment of reflection. There is no question as to the fact that the frog knew I was there. The reason critters like this will sometimes sit for you, is because they do not believe that you know they are there. Many reptiles/amphibians/insects and sometimes birds and mammals suffer this delusion. Those are moments to take advantage of. There is great fun, in finding little creatures like this.
Many sorts of wild critters, including herps, birds and mammals, have color morphs within their species. Finding them and photographing them is a blast, if you try it you just might find yourself having fun. There are these little disjunct populations of Gray Tree Squirrels in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. They range from reddish to brown and even black. I knew of one such location and spent a great (fun?) time capturing pictures. I am not against baiting animals like squirrels or Chipmunks, but I still prefer not to, so all of my pictures were made without the aid of food.
If you photograph nature, even if you fancy yourself an artist, use your images to educate. As important as art is, and I believe it is, education is more important.
As most of you know, I have done some photography in zoos over the years. I made sure to tell any photo editors if an image was made in a zoo, but I was able to photograph species that I otherwise would not have been able to. Today the most common middle class American worker seems to be going to Africa. I understand that the cost has receded somewhat do to the hundreds of thousands that now travel there. Anyway, I digress. After making many trips to our local zoo, even to the point of teaching workshops there, I began to feel a closeness to some of the animals. One of those animals was this rough-looking old lion. He felt like an old friend, and when he died, I truly mourned. That zoo was never quite the same again for me. That old lion provided me with hours of fun. Just standing (three feet) close to him waiting for different expressions and poses made my day. All in all, I guess I’m a pretty simple man.
A lot of times when I was out pursuing nature subjects, there wasn’t much happening. I would indeed look down, or perhaps up into the sky and find something. Sometimes I would look out into the lake. Human beings provide plenty of photogenic subjects and activities. A day of bird photography was not working very well, and these two World War all war birds flew over head. On another occasion, a day planned near the shores of Lake Michigan with some denning Red Foxes did not materialize, but man provided me with a sailboat. The light was very difficult for this boat scene, so I decided to go with the flow. I took my meter reading from the brighter portion of the lake, and created a semi-silhouette. I liked the mood and effect, and most of all, I had fun.
The truth is, nature isn’t the only subject under the sun. I can spend hours photographing historic architecture, and sometimes new architecture, just arranging and rearranging compositions until the finished picture showed what I wanted, and said what I wanted.
The first shot is an old 19th Century barn, the second an old workshop at the same location, and finally some old Spanish/Indian ruins from the 16th Century, in New Mexico. I had fun, and was photographically fulfilled while making each of these images.
A couple of posts ago (Simple Man), I shared with you some Bald Eagle photos that were taken several years ago on a very frozen Mississippi River. I have added four more from that location that were made on the same day. Three have never been shared before.
Just as an aside. I recently finished reading a short article by a great photographer/artist and writer. Even the best have bad days. Confidence is a necessary, and I think a beautiful thing. Elitist arrogance is always ugly. The photographer is sometimes guilty what all of us, or at least I have been guilty of as well, and that’s taking ourselves too seriously. I included this paragraph because on (rare) occasions he reads this blog.
There is a book in the Bible called Revelations. It is the Bible’s final book. My personal opinion is that we are coming to the end of what is called The Church Age. I said “coming” to the end, and no I have no idea if that’s six months or sixty years. I will say however, “it ain’t six hundred” .
When I say the end of the church age, I am speaking in biblical terms. It doesn’t mean that those brick and mortar buildings will disappear. It doesn’t mean that saved and true Christians will disappear. It means that this 2,000 year growth of the Church, mainly through the gentiles coming to Christ, will soon be ending. I personally believe, through my own reading of the Bible, that there will be one last great Move of God, to bring more people to salvation while there is still time.
I also did not say that the world is coming to an end. Biblically, this world will be changed, but it will never end.
It’s funny… or maybe not so funny…that with all the politics and social issues that I have written about on these pages, which I am sure have infuriated many, only a few have abandoned Earth Images. But this God stuff, has caused several to leave. I was told if I headed down this road, to expect ridicule, hatred, and also expect to lose many of my friends. If one person sitting in front of a computer somewhere in the world, finds this as a small beginning on the road to salvation, it will be more than worth it.
Whether you believe the Bible or not, you should read and (with help) learn to understand Revelation and other books such as Mathew and Daniel that deal with these prophesies. Some of the verses concerning these times were written over six hundred years apart.
Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
That verse was written for today. It is playing out before our eyes. If the world seems backwards, or upside down……it is, and it was written about a long time ago. You do not have to accept what you know is wrong, and you have the right to say what you believe. Do so with courage but also with kindness.
Have great day and God Bless, Wayne