I’ve known photographers who were all about the photography, and others who were all about the subject. I have always been either one, and when possible, both. I mean, I have showed more images on these pages of blades of grass, than you will see most anywhere. I have also shared images of spectacular places and animals.
Sometimes the picture (the photography) is all that matters in a photo. Sometimes the subject of natural history (and other things) is important enough to share imagery that is not that great. Sometimes you can get both in one image.
I made the picture below from a several hundred miles away. Well, maybe several hundred feet. The point is, this is an enormous crop. It was made in 2008 with a 6 mega pixel camera. It’s well worth sharing, if you the viewers, don’t mind a little eye strain.
Sometimes both Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser mothers make choices that we humans might consider less than motherly. You might call it the Cowbird syndrome. They both nest in tree cavities above the water, as well as in manmade nesting boxes. The choices for suitable sites are slim, and if they find another bird, who is nesting, even if it is of the other species, they will lay a single egg in that box, amongst the eggs of that other species. Pawning off all the duties of motherhood, along with it. Cowbirds are a songbird, that “only” does this. They neglect the duty of raising any babies and allow other songbirds to do the work.
If you look carefully below you will see a train of little Hoodies swimming along behind mom who is out of the scene. The fourth baby from the front is a Wood Duck. They seemed to coexist just fine and mom seemed to mind not at all. When it comes to feeding, most baby ducks just watch mom and mimic her. It would seem the problem here would be, Hoodies are fish eating divers, and Wood Ducks are herbaceous dabblers. Hopefully in the cases of these critters, instinct trumps schooling.
Unless you live or travel a lot in the American west, you may never see a Jackrabbit. Is a static portrait of (barely) average quality, acceptable is it allows you to view one of these critters?
I have been excited to get every Jackrabbit picture ever I made, and I was especially ecstatic to make the merganser/duck photo. I loved getting story telling images, or photos of interesting subjects, even if the photos were average or a little below. But if the subject is all I’m about, why call myself a photographer.
I lived to make compelling images. Sometimes I won and sometimes I lost, but there never was a subject I wouldn’t photograph. Countless times I have been out with photographers who said, “what the h*** are you photographing”? I would say, I am photographing what I see. He might say, it’s a blade of grass, who cares about a blade of grass? I would answer, well, me for one.
Sometimes it’s the subject, sometimes it’s the photography, sometimes it’s both. Great pictures of great subjects, are the best of all worlds. Everything in one package.
Good images of subjects that everyone loves and relates to like Bald Eagles or Monument Valley, is the goal of most photographers, and that is understandable.
There is an immense amount of satisfaction when you can bring everything together. That said, be a story teller and information giver even when your image fails to meet your highest standards. It shouldn’t be all about you. Just the same, never be ashamed to indulge yourself in the visual treasures you find along the way, even if most people don’t get it. Art, is personal.
Treasure everything you find, and get rid of the rules that so many photographers seem to need, about what subjects and what purpose is necessary for you to click the shutter. Versatile is good!!