Being Non-Technical

I had a comment directed to me recently, in which it was stated that in my photography related articles, it seems like I do not discus and/or teach the Xs and Os of picture making anymore. I think that is somewhat true. I still occasionally include a bit of tech stuff, but my direction over the past few years has been to share the esthetics of an image, as well as make comments on how we view things in life, and how that crosses over into photography, or for that matter any creative endeavor.

Most people who view my photography posts here, are well beyond needing detailed discussions about what exactly depth of field is, or how shutter speed can be used creatively to freeze frame, motion blur, and other such things.

It has been a while since I have actually created an image, and no, in general I do not make photos with my phone. I am not against it, it is just not me. I think those who are in the field regularly and are in the business of teaching tech photography, are the ones to follow for tech advice.

These days I am much more interested (hopefully you too) in discussing light and color contrasts and how they change the mood of an image. The time of day, and how very different a finished photo can be of the very same place at different times. How I approached wild animals, and why I did it that way. Being able to show through an image, how I felt at the moment I conceived it, rather than just what it looks like. When and why I would abstract (yes I love using the word abstract as a verb rather than an adjective) a scene or object in order to convey what I wanted. When I would do a little bit, keeping subject in a realistic world, and when I would do a lot and almost create an altered reality.

It’s certainly not that photographers, especially experienced ones, cannot make these discoveries for themselves. I have always found it is nice to find both common ground with others, and find our uniqueness as well.

The first word that comes to my mind when I think about photographing wild animals is fun. Exhilarating and fulfilling follow soon after.

Soon after I have some fun and feel exhilarated, the job of tell the story of animals with pictures takes over.

Bald Eagles are our national symbol. They make superb portraits but the truth is, flying and finding food is a major part (of every wild animal) their lives.

This mature bird soared and rode the thermal wind current high above the Mississippi River. Looking for fish from 500 feet.

This is another eagle but it succeeded at what eagle number one was hoping to do.

The eagle in the top image was hoping to do what the second one accomplished. As for my part, some fast manual focusing and panning was required. Acquiring focus in top photo when the eagle was soaring slowly was really pretty easy. In the bottom photo, that bird was “getting the heck out of Dodge” before it another bird decided to steal it, and I had to follow focus in front of the bird so to speak. Much, much more difficult.

Like any other specific subject, wild animals can be found in spectacular environments.  You might say, well the reflective water is cool but spectacular? In my visual world the reflective tiny waves are just as important to me as the bird.

A picture is a picture……….from edge to edge, and it all counts.

This is a male Northern Shoveler duck

Some animals are big, and some not so much. This dragonfly remained perched long enough for me to snap a couple of shots. I was using a zoom lens at 270mm.  I set the lens at f11 but still, that was a very shallow depth of field at this distance. The only thing in focus is a bit of the white plant, part of its feet, and the eyes. An image like this is all about the eyes. In my opinion, any less sharpness on the eyes and the picture is a total failure. With the eyes sharp, the soft wings and plant are irrelevant. The lack of dof also helped keep the background soft and unobtrusive.

I guess I have made it clear over the years, that I love photographing the sunrise/sunset. Silhouettes within the picture frame on a sunrise such as the three below, set parameters and give some sense of boundaries to the image. 

This first image was carefully composed by me, and believe it or not, there were many decisions to make. What to leave in, what to leave out. Where to place, and how much of the silhouettes to show in the image.

These next two are of one location and were created six frames apart from one another. The vertical or horizontal decision that was made by me to as often was the case, make both. They both work, although I prefer the horizontal as it is more interesting, and allows a more “comfortable” view. Notice that the horizontal is a 50/50 image. In other words, a mirror image. With the vertical, I complimented that format by putting the horizon line farther upwards in the image.  In other words, the arrangement within the picture frame is in a vertical direction.

I’ve shared a lot of autumn images on this blog. Sometimes I enjoy simply putting fall leaves against skies. Simple as that.

Photography, unless you are on an assignment, is about fulfilling your personal vision. Sometimes leaves and sky is my vision.

Photography, specifically nature photography, is about capturing what the photographer considers to be the essence of a subject. For me specifically, it is not about creating an altered reality, although oft times what I see (you too?) will seem altered to others.

Nature gives and takes away. A pretty ordinary image of a mountain is elevated just a little bit by the fact that there is a cloud that is lower than the peak of the mountain. Exposure is everything in this picture. A compromise exposure between sunlit areas and shadows, and a dark mountain and white clouds, was needed. Thankfully, digital photography allows us to review an image after we snap it, and then make subsequent photos that correct what went wrong the first time.

Technology, artistic intent, and reality, can be blended into a hybrid that has become a finished image.

Taking a picture is all about technology. Creating an image however, is about your inner photographer first, and then considering whomever will view it in the future next. Having the confidence that you can make pictures that will satisfy your inner person, and at least some others will see something special as well, is not ego, it is a matter of experience.

Happy Trails,

Our imaginary goodness is more difficult to conquer than our actual sin.
Charles Spurgeon

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