No, today’s post is not a documentary about how someone survived an
avalanche or a flood. It is not about how we harness nature in order
to “tame her” and make her do what we want. It is about photography
and how we, or at least I, photographically treat the things we humans
have created, in comparison to the “God Made”, or natural subjects.
Turns out, not much differently.
To begin with, I am not referring to how we differ artistically
between the two groups of subjects. I am speaking of the rudimentary,
fundamentalist compositional approach to subjects, manmade verses God
My photographic instincts often found me compositionally treating old
buildings and other manmade structures, a lot like mountains or rock
forms. I usually instinctively begin photographing when they
(buildings or mountains) are small or at least “normal” in
relationship to their surrounding environment.
Then I often move on quickly to compose my subject full frame and
therefore more powerful within the picture frame. Eventually, I almost
always reach the point where I am photographing the subject, be it a
building or a mountain, piecework. Little bit by little bit. I sort of
compositionally dissect the building or the mountain. That physical
dissection can of course be accomplished by moving in closer to the
subject while you are in the field making the image, by changing to a
narrower field and magnified view via a longer lens, or by cropping
your file after you get home. I have used all of the above.
Piecework, as opposed to “whole subject” photography, leaves us with
a more precise view that often does not give power to the whole
subject, but instead notices the details and the power of the design,
be it natural or manmade.
Antique sailing ships are indeed functional, but to me, they are all
about detail. Whether that detail is about ornamentation as in the
first picture, or functionality as in the second, both can provide a
penetrating look at these old vessels. Intended art, or art born of
necessity, it is all art.
Natural creatures are also both functional, and artistic. Whether it
is a swan or a toad, both have a purpose and both have design and
style. Getting up close literally, or by lens choice or crop, is the
way to visually exploit both the design and the style, whether the
subject is manmade or a gift from God.
I love photographing things that fly. Whether they are built by man,
or created by God, they impart a sense of freedom to me, and they seem
to defy the natural laws by which you and I live.
Photographing airplanes or birds is a fairly similar act. You can pan
left to right (or the reverse), or you can catch them coming at you at
least to some degree. I prefer, be it a bird or a plane, to have them
coming at me (and the viewers), or even going away from me. A good
tracking auto focus system can save you, but I will confess, almost
every flight shot I have ever made, has been with manual focus.
Planes that are coming at you verses across your plane (the clever
wording is an accident) of view, actually slow down as far as crossing
that field of view is concerned. Airplanes just fly, but eagles can
glide very slowly. It is indeed easier to capture a subject that can
slow to a crawl while in flight.
I have never photographed a helicopter in flight. I would suspect
that they are the easiest of the flying machines to photograph.
Staying in one spot obviously gives us time to make the picture.
Hummingbirds are “sort of” nature’s helicopters. That said, I would
suggest that this little fellow, which was photographed with a 500mm
lens on manual focus, and rarely spends more than two seconds in one
place, is more challenging than any manmade copy. This was also done
without high speed flash, and in fact with only ambient, natural
From basic composition to technical questions, photographing manmade
subjects as compared to natural subjects, tend to present the same
obstacles. What’s inside of us, and what we truly “see” when we look,
is different for each of us. I loved making images of everything, but
to me the natural subject just seems to carry more art with
I have a web friend who occasionally comments to me on my photography
articles here at Earth Images. I always welcome comments on the blog
or to me personally.
He suggests that I over think photography. Maybe, maybe not.
It is certainly the case, that at times creating photos should be
instinctual and serendipitous. It is just as true, that sometimes the
creating of a photograph should be meticulous, and agonized over.
When I dissect the meaning of one of my old images for an article on
this blog, I am at times remembering my thoughts bit by bit, second by
second from when they were created. You know, the “meaning of it all”.
At other times, like today, I am newly discovering a thread or two
which can run through a series of pictures. I may not have
intellectualized them when they were created, as I do in the article,
but upon their rediscovery, I noticed something that I can share.
Sometimes it is technique, sometimes it is what is running through my
fertile brain when I begin “seeing” those old photos.
Either way, as per usual, I share with you the discoveries of my mind.
That is what having a blog is about. At least for me.
Have fun and keep on shooting.