Little Animals/Big Land
Getting in close photographically to wild animals, whether that is accomplished with a big lens, a crop during editing, or by physically moving closer, is not only something that allows us to know what a creature looks like, but it allows us exist inside of their world, despite the fact we are truly on the outside. It brings us closer, and helps us understand them. Close-ups can also be very artful.
Hawks are often not so easy to get close to, but the more common ones such as the Red-tail Hawks below, become pretty accustomed to us.
There is nothing like a wild animal that is unconcerned with our presence.
I’ve dealt with the idea of wildlife images that don’t crowd the picture frame (the way those Red-tail images do) before on these pages, and I have probably used some of the same pictures as examples. It is an entirely different discipline to photographically leave some breathing space, and make the animal one part of the “big picture”. Just like us, wildlife lives in a world that is much bigger than they are, and keeping them in that context is worthy of our time, and sometimes they can be just artful as the tight shots.
This Muskrat on the water. The reflection not only creates a little art, but actually makes the subject appear twice its size. although this remains a small animal in a big world.
The Whooping Crane is an endangered species but this radio banded bird was too far for any tight images. At the time (2006), that fact probable saved me some criticism for getting too close. Their population has expanded nicely since. I viewed my photographic subject at the time as being a rich coat of green velvet, with an artful and rare wildlife figurine. My job was to decide where I wanted the figurine to inhabit the green, and how would it be posed.
Close-ups of Bald Eagles flying with a fish in its talons, are not easy to do but I have gotten a couple in my life. Those shots are powerful but what about an eagle flying through its (and the fish’s) habitat? The overall journey and the “big picture” statement can make for just as powerful of an image. Remember, little animal, big land.
If you know me, you know that I enjoy wildlife images where the subject is looking away from the camera, or even if their back is actually to the camera. Looking into a wild animal’s eyes with your camera is an incredible and photographically powerful moment. What it is not is, the only way to look at and/or photograph wildlife. Interesting photos or art isn’t always staring you in the face. I don’t know about you, but I am wondering what he is looking at. I was there and I still wonder. There’s not much to this picture, but sometimes less is more.
Urban/suburban animals sometimes provide us with a different sort of landscape.
Photo backgrounds in wildlife images, are no less valid because that background contains the hand of man. That includes the sad signs of man, but it also includes the nicer part of what man produces.
This kit fox is a “little shot walking like a big shot”. Doesn’t he/she look like it owns its environment? Cocky yet cute makes a valid statement that is worth recording. Once again, a little fellow in a big world.
I’ve shown this image of an adult Sandhill Crane several times before because I like the mood it imparts. Even large animals become small if you compose mostly sky in the picture. The image is somewhat moody and somewhat lonely.
This final wildlife image is very moody and very lonely. It makes me wonder what’s it all about. He/she is gazing out into this enormous lake at sunrise and seems to be contemplating the meaning of it all. Anthropomorphizing animals may be unscientific, but it allows us to use animals as metaphors for our own lives and it allows us to create art out of simple scenes.
The term abstract in landscape photography is often an oxymoron. Abstract really means theoretical or not concrete, while most of our abstractions are clearly made of a subject that is very real and literal, and very understandable. We use the term abstract in the photography of real, tangible things, when we depart from the traditional view that we expect, of any given subject.
A sunrise picture made along the shores of Lake Michigan at this location is unique because this spot rarely looks like this. So I call it an abstract, or usually, a semi abstract. While anybody can see this spot at anytime, it is rarely filled with golds and pinks. At the very least it only looks like this at sunrise, but probably not exactly like this ever again.
This next image is certainly an abstract in the terms we use in photography, and pretty close to the dictionary definition. This autumn scene was created in a river in a northern forest of Wisconsin, and was only intended (by me) to be literal to the extent that almost all of us have seen an autumn reflection at some point in our lives. I never intended to produce any clues here except those which would exist because of our life experiences. In other words, no shoreline or dead tree stumps and such.
I have spent hours looking at reflections and finding scenes, both abstract and literal, in there somewhere.
As this winter moves along I will leave you in the Colorado Rockies in July. Pretty inviting despite the small caps of snow on the distant peaks.
When you go out with cameras in hand, remember those little animals in a big land………and more!