I love looking at trends in every walk of life. In this world of the internet, including social media, it becomes easier to see those trends than ever before. I have studied trends in photography by studying imagery, including that of specific photographers, from its inception (old books, prints etc.) up to and including today. It always pays to remember that photography was invented with the idea of capturing reality, as to share that reality with the others.
If you look at early examples of photography, you can see that the more life like people thought a photo was, the better they thought the photography was. Photography was meant to accurately reproduce subjects, and it was subject driven.
Initially, an image of a person, perhaps a President or a General, or maybe even Aunt Emma, should look like them. The image was about the person, not the photography. The same was true of animals, landscapes, flowers, birds, buildings and so on.
When you look at the second generation of photography as it existed, the same continues to be true, accept the subject can be as mundane as a book, or a tool. Same principal……..an expanding list of subjects. An expanding world you might say. Still, the subjects were those that everybody could identify with.
Eventually, especially as we moved into the 20th century, some photographers began to experiment with different ways of looking at those subjects. They were still based in reality, and they were still known subjects, but individual visions from individual photographers, left room for interpretation, and even abstraction. Some photographers proved, that the same subjects, with the same cameras, but from different photographers, could produce vastly different pictures. The literal, was now open to a different kind of examination. Light (direction, tone or color, quantity and quality), shadows, shape, and more was fair game. The invention of color image making first stifled creative visions, and then enhanced them.
Another photographer might see this flower from a different angle, creating a very different lighting, and a very different take on the same flower (scene). I have always loved back/side light and shadowy backgrounds.
With all of that being said, was still about subjects. The more obvious the subject the better. Even if your interpretation was abstract, you at least needed to tell us that it was something we could relate to. Something we’ve seen before.
I was fortunate in that when I came to photography in the 1970s, macro or close-up photography was becoming a new form of communication, and even art, unto itself. I joined in immediately. Seeing the world up close allowed us not only to photograph very small subjects, but to photograph very small portions of large subjects. Still, the subject remained the essence of the photography.
Somewhere in the 1980s and 90s, the subject you chose to photograph, often became somewhat irrelevant. I mean, the finished image and what it conveyed, regardless of subject, was sometimes more important than what the subject was.
I’ve noticed recently, that we have been going back to the seeming necessity of having an important, or well known subject, although the interpretation of that subject, is often accepted regardless of the style or technique. Even the birds have to be spectacular. No Robins and so on.
Thankfully, there are still backyard photographers who make images of the common birds. Photo by Brenda Williamson
One of the truest joys and most fruitful exercises in nature photography, is to “look down. Not just so we can find a great or interesting subject, but so we can find the beauty in the ordinary. Subjects that are so ordinary, they have been ignored for all these years.
I have shown dozens, maybe hundreds of images of ordinary nature subjects, captured in macro. This old picture of a bade of grass with some dew and a sun star keeps coming up, because it can’t get any more ordinary than this. I mean come on, it’s just a blade of grass and some water.
Most (not all) of the photographers I have worked with in my life, would never see this. It would be stepped on. It’s a subject, but who cares, it’s just a blade of grass.
I have enjoyed, my time walking in/on ordinary meadows, or woodlands, or beaches, just looking for ordinary little subjects to photograph, as much as I have enjoyed pursuing landscapes in national parks, or photographing wildlife in NWRs.
Below is an excerpt from my farewell to nature photography article that I wrote for my old website several years ago.
“Many years ago when I made the decision to focus primarily on nature as my subject, I had some trepidations as I knew I could make more money with commercial and sports subjects. I have never regretted that decision. God was surely smiling at me when I was guided in that direction. I will forever find fascination with a drop of dew hanging precariously from a blade of grass. Attempting to understand why a spider does what it does. Observing a fox or a heron as they go about their daily life.”
Making unique images of overly photographed locations often pays off for photographers. The concept of a well-known spectacular place, but unusual picture, is very popular (trending) right now. John Hallett made this black and white, abstract vision of a slot canyon in Antelope Canyon and it is a great example of doing just that.
I have to admit, that for the first time in my life, I am failing to notice camera ads and written revues on new equipment from photographers. I see them, but they sort of pass right through me. I had a friend post a picture and some tech info about the picture on social media the other day. I was familiar with the camera, filters and all that stuff but she referred to some sort of technical update that had been done to the camera. I didn’t even understand what it meant. I know I can look it up and figure it out, but I am not sure it serves a purpose.
The question that needs to be asked, will I remain qualified to comment on photography if I do not know the technology behind the image? Time will tell. One thing my not keeping up with technology trends as done for me, it has driven the finished image (as I see it) much further into the realm of art.
It’s very rarely I take issue with Art Wolfe, and this a very minor disagreement. His description of “magic hour” as used on Facebook, is a time being at sunset. I can assure everyone that the time around sunrise has just as much magic. The real magic of working at sunrise is firstly, if you are working in non-wilderness areas, nocturnal animals will still be out and about from the night before. One of man’s busiest times is around sunset and animals remain very secretive during this time at locations around home (we cannot all be in remote areas of the world). Then when you are out at sunrise, there will be a sunset to follow. I have worked sunrise and sunset on the same day, too many times to count. I have however, met precious few photographers who specialize in sunsets, who were out again at sunrise the next day.
I am sure Art will tolerate a little disagreement from a fan such as myself who wants to get up early.
A new day by Sean MacEntee.
When we view the photography of others, the only thing that should truly matter is the image, and possibly the intent or thoughts of the photographer. Whether the photographer makes money, be it a lot, a little, or none at all, is irrelevant when it comes to enjoying all of the great photography that’s out there for our viewing pleasure. Just the same, so many photographers that I see, truly believe they are going to be full-time pros soon.
With the exception of some photojournalists, some commercial photographers, and a small number of stock photographers, it is rare that any photographer is earning a complete living from it. If they are primarily outdoor/nature photographers, it is even more true.
Most “fulltime” outdoor photographers either have someone else in their life with income or money who is really paying most of the bills, or have a lot of non-photography acquired money themselves. The true pros will be steeped in workshops, tours, and/or seminars. That is the only way that the vast majority of outdoor photographers make their living. That is why I taught workshops until I no longer could. Well, that and the fact that I loved it.
Some true fulltime nature photographers that am connected to on Facebook, lead/teach workshops almost nonstop. As many as 40 a year. I am sure they love what they do, but it is a job not a hobby.
My point is. Don’t beat yourself up for not seeing a way to earn a full living at this, almost all of the “fulltime” photographers you see, are not really fulltime pros at all.
God Bless, Wayne