It seems that at least in my lifetime, the four major disciplines of
outdoor photography have been wildlife, landscapes, macro, and then
architecture, which is the visitor from outside the boundaries of
nature. To be sure, outdoor sports and other outdoor human activities
along with domestic animals and few other subjects have a right to be
called outdoor photography, but “the big four” are the centerpiece.
I’ve done my share of photographing other sorts of outdoor subjects in
my life, with sports, primarily auto racing, being my mainstay. I was
never fortunate enough to get jobs like swimsuit model photography.
In days of yore, landscapes were the clear number one in all outdoor
photography, followed by wildlife. With the advent of digital
photography and the ability to crop, I think wildlife photography has
the obvious lead for the greatest number of enthusiasts.
Like many photographers, landscapes, from medium to grand, received
most of my time and effort in the beginning.
Light is the essence of photography and it took me only a short time
to recognize the value in creating landscapes either early or late in
the day. This old, old image was made on film at a reservoir New
Mexico. Looking at that old picture brings back memories that are
inspirational to me.
The seasons are a perfect subject for landscape photographers. Winter
presents image makers with countless opportunities to create
landscapes that are out of the norm.
As we move in closer to our subject, visually via a longer
lens, or literally with our feet, opportunities are created to single
out specific areas of the land. With longer lenses we can compress
things like some Badland’s rock forms, prairie grasses and a flower.
The value of photographing seasons will become the most obvious to
many photographers in autumn. Of course it depends on where you are
The more riotous the colors of fall, and the more variety of colors
than can be scrunched into one scene, the more abstract our images
Abstracts, were one of the most satisfying styles of image making for
I do believe that wildlife photography is the most practiced form of
outdoor photography today. It can be amazingly fulfilling. It can also
be entertaining in a way that most other outdoor endeavors cannot.
Below we find a White-tailed Prairie Dog in Colorado, a male Eastern
Bluebird in Wisconsin, and female red Fox in Illinois.
Wildlife, especially waterfowl, presents many opportunities to create
dreamy, artistic images by photographing your subject in abstract
backgrounds. This image with a colorful male Northern Shoveler and a
soft, dreamy background of water, caused by reflections of piers,
transcends the typical information giving wildlife picture. The whole
image is important not just the bird.
The closer we get to a wildlife subject, and the more frame-filling
the subject becomes, the more the image becomes a macro image.
I do not believe in putting pressure on wildlife subjects, and the
close-up images of female Common Snapping Turtles I have made, were
all done quickly and quietly. I approached slowly but not as though I
was sneaking, clicked a few and left. This “pretty” lady, cooperated
without any stress.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
If I have a favorite form of outdoor photography, it is macro.
Macro/close-up photography presents a photographer with an uncountable
number of subjects, which can be photographed in an equally
uncountable number of ways. That said, much macro photography is
merely a form of wildlife photography.
Insects (bugs?) do things, and mating is one of the most common and
easiest things to capture. They often spend the entire chilly and wet
night in this position. You just need find them in the morning.
Plant close-ups, be they of fallen autumn leaves or flowers, are given
to a multitude of interpretations. Let your imagination run wild. Use
the design of a leaf, or the direction and luminosity of light with a
flower, or use the layers of blossoms and shallow depth of field to
create worlds within worlds.
One of my favorite macro subjects is water. Frozen water, as well as
dew and rain will all provide incredible mood and focus for artful
visions you may have (usually) already in your brain. Check the
weather the night before and go out early. It will be worth it.
To me, architectural photography can mean many things. When I began I
mostly photographed modern architecture. I changed that to the more
moody, historic architecture as the years transpired.
An abandon ranch, adobe ranch house and all, made the image of this
19th century property special. The architecture is merely a part of a
larger scene in this photo.
The 17th century San Xavier Mission in early light. This and the
previous image began their life on film.
A “popping red” old lighthouse, some blues skies, and a bunch of gulls.
An old New Mexico Mission. We don’t need to show the entire building
in every picture. Both the mood and the power of this place are
displayed in this picture.
A tighter image of another ruin. The warm red adobe and the cool blue
sky, create a 3D effect. A building does not have to be a building.
Sometimes it’s what’s in your imagination that counts.
Te me, architecture is whatever man builds that dots the landscape.
That includes old foot bridges over a river, along with some fall
Photography is about sharing information, and doing so within the
scope of our own personal vision. Certainly the big four all lend
themselves beautifully to that, each in their own special way.
Whatever preferences you have as far as subjects are concerned,
capture those subjects with your brain, your own style, and your
imagination. Make sure your personal artistic DNA is included each
and every time.
Own what you do!!