Shining The Light (on our photographic purpose)

Photographers make the pictures they make for reasons. Is it for love or money? Is it to please others who may eventually view them, or is it for ourselves? I am perpetually examining why the pictures I made, and why the pictures made by others, are what they are. What did they mean at the moment of conception, and what do they mean today? Of course, many would suggest that I am thinking a little too deeply. Sometimes I do that.

Autumn is the next photographic stop on the year-long road for most nature photographers. To me, fall meant equal parts landscape and macro photography. One of my fondest endeavors during this season was to look down for interesting juxtapositions of colorful leaves. Thousands of leaves, one leaf, or one of my favorite subjects, two leaves.

I am not sure what the “giant” leaf on the bottom is in the photo below, but I loved both the similarities and the differences between it and the Maple leaf. I also love the wet, fresh autumn atmosphere that the leaves impart to viewers. A polarizing filter was employed to help keep those shiny reflections from overpowering the scene. I wanted the colors to “shine through”, so to speak, while retaining that wet, crisp feeling.

I have been asked before whether or not I create images like this. In other words, are they like a studio shot that I build and design? The answer is, that while I never find a leaf, pick it up and then find another leaf to place it on, I will however change the position slightly of the top leaf (flower petal etc.) to enhance the finished image. I do not know whether I moved the top leaf in this picture, but I suspect I did not.FallPets 030

Autumn is my favorite season. To me it is peaceful and outrageous at the same time. It is both quiet and explosive. Capturing those disparate feelings within any single image, was a challenge that I relished. What’s your favorite season, and what do the images you created during that time frame, mean to you?

The two images below are among the final Sandhill Crane pictures I ever made. They are nothing unusual or special in their nature, but they are special to me. This is where the images we make should mean more than just, did we get the “killer shot” or not. If my pictures mean no more to me than that, than I wasted 40 years on image making.

I have spent countless hours observing and photographing this species. At times I began to feel like I myself was a crane. Every image I made of Sandhills, brings back to me memories of single moments. All time is merely a series of brief moments. Using our images to “selfishly” hold those moments in time, for us and only us, is just as noble as creating inspirational work for others. I believe, that photography should be done equally for future viewers, and ourselves (and our subjects).Bong2014A 001

Bong2014B 180

Ordinary subjects like Sunflowers often times are best displayed in unordinary (not necessarily extraordinary) ways.

There is nothing wrong with the first image of a bunch of wild Sunflowers, but these flowers can be easily reduced to shape via backlight, while still retaining a signature (that shape) that lets you know what they are.01dSFlowerBug 004


One of the best uses of photography is to show the varied ways we can look at a single subject. Often those secondary looks that we uncover, say as much about us as they do the subject.

Sunrises and sunsets are about mood more than information. To me, there is no time like the moments, just before, during, and after the sun rises. Whether it’s the crisp shoreline of a tree-lined lake, or a fog shrouded view of a prairie/woodland mix, the mood imparted from the color of light, is under the sole ownership of the person examining the picture. That’s true whether that person is the photographer who made the picture, or somebody else viewing it ten years later, just as you are doing right now.DSC_0072


Getting up close to wild animals to make pictures may be a thing of the past, and that might be a good thing. With today’s equipment I am seeing eyeball shots of wildlife (crops) when the actual picture was made at great distances. I have never had the privilege to work from great distances to achieve detailed close-ups. In fact, when I was shooting with film, the minimum focusing distance of any given lens was usually the preferred distance.

The great thing about Bull Frogs is that if you locate them during breeding season, or when they are landlocked, getting close can be very easy. I shot this picture during breeding season with a zoom lens set at 195mm. The picture is a crop, but I could never have cropped all the way to the eyes because of the camera I was using.DSC_8629

I have always loved amphibians and reptiles and only wish I would have devoted a little bit more time to them.

This immature Black-crowned Night Heron was near the minimum focusing distance of my Nikon 500mm lens when I made the picture.  I cropped it after I got home, and that allows us to invade its world beyond what I could have done in the field. Still I was very close. I was in the confines (and comfort) of my car when the picture was snapped.Hc5 043

My goal when I write about photography is not to make the act of doing it, or the finished picture itself, more than what it really is. If there is a goal, it is to make the creation of images everything that it “might” be, or “can” be.

I thank you for allowing me into your home to sit and chat about the act of photography. Why we do it, and what it means to us, is always worth examining.                                             Wayne



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