Be There or Be Square

What’s the most important advice to give any photographer? Make pictures…..lots of them. You can’t produce images if you are not out with your cameras, and you also can’t improve if you are not out with your cameras.

The old adage is, be there, or be square.

We have three great pictures from three great photographer/artists today and then we will move on to a few of my own. One thing that all three photographers have in common, is that they all make a lot of pictures.

This image, at least at this quality, was impossible not long ago.  Raymond Barlow made this awesome picture of a Peregrine Falcon as it started into its dive. Peregrines of course can reach speeds up to 180 mph in a full dive. I have images of a Peregrine diving for a gull, and between the shutter speed (lack of) garnered from my whopping ISO setting of 200, the crop needed with a lesser resolution camera, and manual focus, well, you can understand why I have never shared it with you. It remains in my files for sentimental reasons but a would of, should of, could of image, is of little value for anything else. It is a technically speaking, an exciting time to be a wildlife photographer. Great job Raymond.DSC_2279 Peregrine in a dive web 1200RaymondBarlow

Ominous light that is just beginning to open up with shafts of purity as it bathes the sea and mountain, is a subject and set of circumstances we would all love to have.  Erik Dissing created this image in Norway and I am happy he did, and even happier to share it with youErikDissing Norway

Mike Moats is one of my favorite, in fact one of this countries favorite macro photographers. Today‘s image is one reason.  I think nine out of ten photographers would have moved in, or cropped in farther, to feature this stunning butterfly that is resting on a tree stump. Mike resisted temptation and instead created an artfully composed miniature scene that is intriguing and perfect. If it were me, I certainly hope the artist that might be hiding inside would have made an image somewhat similar to this, and that super close-up as well. I have a feeling that Mike did the same but he resisted a sure to be popular cliché, and chose his personal vision and art instead. That takes nerve and Mike has that along with talent.MikeMoats

Variations on a Theme

One thing that most experienced photographers know to do when they are photographing a specific subject, is to continually  make slight compositional changes, realizing that there is never only one composition. Sometimes just flipping the camera from horizontal to vertical, or vice versa makes a world of difference. We also (hopefully) wait for changes in light, changes in the movement of the sun, or the movement of animals.

There are tens of thousands of photographers today who are armed with the photographic weapons of the day, and they are making images of a technical quality well beyond what photography’s greatest superstars were able to do just a few years ago. The two issues I see with the photography produced by those photographers is that, some like to copy what they see others do, and sometimes do not make variations on the theme they are working on. They’ll wait for animals to move and change their position, but when they have to move around the land, or wait for the light to alter the mood and texture of the subject, they tend to fall flat. That is fairly normal for a new photographer, and experience will change it.

When I photographed sunrise/sunsets, even when I had a great composition laid out in front of me, I was continually making small compositional alterations to my image. These two pictures which were created where the Pike River empties into Lake Michigan here in southeastern Wisconsin, were made 3 minutes apart from each other. The river, the old log, and the clouds were realigned when I made those changes. The first image features the log and the sky. The second features the sweep of the river, the silhouetted land, and the rising sun. They are very similar yet very different.Copy of DSC_4948bbbFB

Copy of DSC_4960bbbFl

As the sun rose into the clouds I changed my focal length from 18mm to 300mm, and featured first the rim light on the clouds with the reflection in the water, then in the second shot only the rim light. They were made 2 minutes apart from each other. While I don’t truly have a favorite with the first two pictures, I much prefer the rim light only image with the second pair.DSC_4976bbb


Often there is little we can do to change our position when we are working with wild animals. These Great-blue Herons were directly above water, and the only way for me to change my vantage point would have been to put on my chest waders and walk into the marsh water and get closer. The problem with getting close is that my angle to the birds would become steeply uphill,  making an unflattering photo. You often don’t know until you try, and I did give it serious consideration, but alas, common sense won out and I decided to keep me and my camera equipment dry.

The light does change as the day wears on and so does the background via clouds, no clouds etc. In most cases your subjects will also change their position (composition for you) and when there are several of them and they cannot yet fly, they will change in their visual relationship to each other. Wildlife photography takes patience but you will usually be rewarded.





Everything is a Subject.

Anything in this world (or out) that is visually interesting, that motivates you to create and share, is a valid subject. On this morning seven years ago, this was what I found visually interesting and motivational, so today I share it with you.DSC_6615ccc

Whether we’re trying to keep pace with a quickly rising sun, waiting for changes of composition and attitude with a nest full of herons, or contemplating the meaning of a single drop of dew, the creative process that we are involved in during the act of photography always says more about ourselves than we think.  Are we patient? Do we contemplate the decisions we make or are we instinctive and reactionary?  Every step of life should be a learning experience.  Photography is no different.  Who we are applies to our photography, and our photography helps tell us who we are.

Adios Amigos,                                                                                                                                Wayne




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