Photography 101

Searching for photography subjects can be fun, or it can be frustrating. Sometimes photographers put too much  emphasis on spectacular or rare subjects. When in doubt, just go out and start making pictures. Especially with nature, we are or should be, beckoned by most of what we see. Common or rare, the point is to make pictures, get reasonably good at it, and share them.  Be it for pleasure or money, getting out and doing it is really what will lead to all else. It is in fact, photography 101. It is how to get better, and how to find those special subjects that everyone is chasing.

First let’s begin with two great images of two great subjects by two great photographers. The photographers are Facebook friends of mine. I rarely ever visit social media anymore but it is nice to see all the great images that are placed there by so many excellent photographers.

This first image was created by George DeCamp and is that of a Great Egret in breeding plumage. Talk about wearing your best stuff to attract a suitable mate. Of course, add a little dance, and then you are there. Beautiful capture of a beautiful moment.

This next image was made in some desert somewhere and it has both the Milky Way and a sunrise as a part of its composite. Amazing shot by photographer/artist Jeff Sullivan.

One of the best ways to photographically warm people’s hearts, is to photograph any of the array of “cute little critters” that surround us. 

Okay, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are not everywhere but if you happened to be in a locale in which they reside, they are just waiting to pose for you. This one was found in north central Colorado. In a field of flowers no less.

Where I come from in the Midwest, the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is our version of the Prairie Dog. Just sit in the car for a while at the right location, and they seem more than happy to pose for you. You can practice on them for the times when you will find more exotic little critters, although I have found that images of these guys are quite sellable.

All sides are important. Even with a photogenic animal such the Rocky Mountain Elk, they may not always show their best side to you. While your waiting, shoot anyway. Photography 101again. This one was photographed in an exotic place called Yellowstone N.P., Wyoming. I was in the open with a tripod and camera and he did not seem to mind, but one does need to take care with such animals as they can become agitated and aggressive. Being safe is also Photography 101.

Useable and even sellable images of wild animals, including cute little ones, do not always have to be frame filling in your face photos. This cute little red Fox was on a journey (towards mom) and I caught one single fraction of a second of that journey, That’s often all you need.

Birds in flight are always sought after. Panning a flying bird can be tough but some birds, will hover for a second or so at a time. Swallows are among those that do. You can actually catch them standing still in the air. If you want sharp wings, and remember that fuzzy wing shots work too as they symbolize movement, but if its sharp you want, then wait for the fraction of a second when they ride the currants and simply use their wings like a tight rope walker uses a pole for balance.

Another way to capture flying birds sharply is when they are flying directly towards you. Away works too, but not too many buyers want a bird flying away. I know that because I have many such images in my files. 

All of my “flying at you” images were made in manual focus. Many auto focus systems get confused when subjects are coming straight at you or away. Manual focus of such subjects takes practice and the only answer is to do it over and over again.

Below is a Forster’s Tern I believe.

Detail in birds and other animal subjects is not always necessary….or even preferred.

Canada Geese on a pond on a misty mourning at sunrise can say a lot without any actual detail.

Photography, including wildlife photography, is not all about natural history. There is always a place for both art and interpretation.

Always remember that insects are wild animals too. As in animal, vegetable, mineral. Stinging critters such as bees, wasps and hornets, really never bothered me when I was making pictures as long as I moved slowly and made no direct overtures to my subject. They are fascinating to watch and I loved photographing them. In many ways, they became important subjects to my files. Knowing that, is photography 101.

I loved plant and flower photography as well. I eventually learned that pretty pictures of favorite flowers were not the only subjects that can be important to have in your files.

At this moment, I know not what this is but you can bet I was thrilled to photograph it.

With a subject like this, using just the right aperture to catch the plant sharp, but to keep a potentially bothersome background soft and dreamy, can be important. Use your depth of field preview lever a lot. 101again.

Traditional landscape or scenic locations and their traditional style images can be great and I have made a lot of them. You do not always have to be at the Grand Canyon or a Pacific island to make powerful pictures.

I love the in-between seasons where two seasons collide. Especially summer and autumn. Even when you cannot find such a set of circumstances, you will find the colors of two seasons, side by side in a wonderful color contrast. I have spent entire days searching for and photographing simply color contrasts. Warm and cool together can be powerful

Naturally abstract scenes of simple subjects like a stream of light entering a dark coniferous forest, are around us everywhere, every day. Sometimes they make more powerful subjects than do great places.

Photography 101

May God Bless,

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