The Language of Photography…Finding Your Voice

Photography is the act of capturing a likeness of something that is literal and tangible. It mirrors what’s around us. Eventually, the way you visually interpret those tangible subjects with your camera, will become your own photographic “language”.

As in life, you first mumble want you want to say. Then you learn to communicate in the language that those around you speak, and finally you learn how to customize that language to say what you want it to say. It’s your own language, but formed from what you hear around you. Sometimes they will understand you, sometimes they will not.

The images below are mine and were selected in a completely random fashion. Most are pretty obvious. Some carry my own accent, or my own pronunciation. While the subjects may be clear, they may require understanding my personal photographic language to completely know what I meant, when I said it.

I’ve had a lot of success with sunrise/sunset images in my life. I am happy to say that quite a few have found there way into calendars and magazines. The one you see below would have been unlikely to ever meet one of those ends. The language is not universal. My own accent and flavor dominate it. To me, it speaks more than many of my more successful images of that genre. There is a bit of confusion there, but that confusion is dramatic. It’s a lot like me. Of course, sometimes we wind up “talking to ourselves”, and that’s okay.  I always keep the ones that say what I want them to say, and how I want it said.1Cranes Bong 096

The fall season is beginning to wind down a bit in these parts, but it is generally well into November before most photographers give up the ship so to speak.

Remember in autumn, to first look up, then straight ahead, and finally look down.2DSC_0031

3Egrets, fall 095


Flowers are not only the domain of spring and summer. Asters are one of several autumn of flowers and the New England Aster is my favorite.

I was always willing to make pictures for books on flowers and such, but my personal language of photography meant that I was pushed to find something just beyond the norm. Some warm early morning light, the remnants of last night’s dew, and a New England Aster provided the ingredients for a story written in my own language.5

This is a story that can be understood by everyone. The language is that of family, and taking care of business. You will have to look close but you will see that on the back of one of these two Eared Grebes (in Colorado), are two babies getting a free ride.6GSDunesANWR 035

Both family and survival are understood in any language.

I always spent a fair amount of my photographic life looking for compositions (language?), that were just a bit different than what the photographer next to me might make. I am not talking about being driven to be different, but to say (language again) what I wanted to say, not what everybody else seemed to be saying.

This very common female Mallard was at the shoreline absorbing the surf as it crashed in. A common bird that most wildlife photographers ignore. Breaking with the compositional norm. Nothing exceptional but when I made the shot, I was speaking in my own language.7DSC_7996

I spent years without the common (western) White-tailed Jackrabbit occupying space in my pictures files. That despite the fact that my western travels brought me within sight of these critters regularly. Finally on a trip with Ron, while in western South Dakota, we took a little time off from photographing the Badlands to search for Jackrabbits. We first asked two locals where was the best place to find some. They looked at us seemingly thinking, why would anyone care where there are Jackrabbits? We were not speaking the same language. They said maybe out that way, pointing down the little road. We went that a way. 20 minutes later we found this cooperative little fellow.8DSC_3347

There’s nothing quite like portraits of wildlife that are up close and personal. It is a universal language.

The Polar Bear and Elephant below were photographed in zoos, the rest are wild.9Copy of DSC_1259


The Bison was photographed in South Dakota, the image of the bull Elk in velvet was made in Colorado, and the Rocky Mt. Bighorn Sheep ram was back in South Dakota again. The Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel with a peanut (not from me) was once again in Colorado. The Clarke’s Nutcracker photo was made near the ground squirrel. The bird was almost as cooperative as the squirrel because this is a location where tourists regularly stop and feed those squirrels.

10Slides4 048



13StellarClarke 149b

14StellarClarke 108

Well, winter is the next season on the agenda. Winter may be the most unique season of all, with plenty of opportunities to use your own language to tell the story.

That first picture is not that of snow, it is Hoarfrost. I had driven the 90 miles to Horicon Marsh NWR to photograph winter hawks but could not resist the blue sky and this new frost. I have spent a good deal of my life photographing wildlife in scenic places, and things like frost in wildlife refuges. There are endless pictures to be made wherever you are.Frost and Branch

These last two winter images were made at a county park near home, and they say pretty much what I wanted them to say. What do they say to you?

Winter Pets 053

Winter Pets 058

Find your own voice and your own language. Make your pictures say what you want them to say.


Are You Washed in The Blood?

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb? Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
Oh, be washed in the blood of the Lamb

Elisha A. Hoffman

Have a great day,                                                                                                                         Wayne


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