I was channel surfing on my TV the other day and stopped briefly on a PBS
station, and was thrilled to see that Art Wolfe’s show, Travels to The Edge is still
on the air and was coming up next. It was an episode I never saw before and I
enjoyed watching him as he covered wildlife, landscapes and abstracts in one
location and right before my eyes. After my own heart.
Art and other versatile all encompassing types of nature photographers (John
Shaw would be another) were always my favorites. Art and I are, or maybe I
should say were, “friended” on Facebook. I imagine he left me as did
countless others over my political views
Beyond that, my purpose for mentioning Art and his show is that much can be
learned from him and his nature photography. It is based on reality and
truth, but the truth as his mind and heart see it. In other words, he cares little
what the rest of the world sees, he creates what he sees and how he sees it.
The truth, as displayed through our own personal vision, is all we owe to those
who view our images.
What a boring world it would be if we all made photos, or wrote, or for that
matter sang, sculpted, painted or walked and talked like each other.
Photograph what you see honestly, but make those photos be your
very own statement about that subject. At least for that moment in time. Most
images are made in somewhere between a couple of seconds and maybe
1/500th sec. We should use that time to fulfill how we see the subject.
I have little patience for business’s which change what they do and how they
do it every week, without explanation. I speak of banks and such. That’s
because their business is doing our business. As a photographer, what you
create is yours much of the time, and others can take it or leave it as they wish.
Photographing physical subjects, and interpreting what we see
and deciding how we will display it, in our own way, is in some respects a right
and even a responsibility. Changing what others do, to meet our supposed
standards, is dishonest.
Wildlife is what it is. A chipmunk is a chipmunk, a Robin is a Robin etc. Still, we
can use our own vision in how we capture them in photos.
Birds and other animals are a favorite subject of outdoor photographers. I enjoy
creating unique images of them, but with rare or unique birds which are new to
my files, I admit that my first goal was usually to capture an image which showed
what the bird looked like.
That’s about all I ever got with my one and only opportunity with a Crested
Caracara. I would have loved to have gotten a full study of this bird with not only
great poses, but with beautiful variations of light or behavior.
Sometimes you just take what you get.
With common birds like Herring or Ring-billed Gulls, I usually looked for
something unusual to capture in my images. When unusual behavior was not
exhibited, I often searched for less seen plumages to photograph. Those
plumages that only last a short while. If nothing else, it showed that all critters
can be unique and interesting at some point in their lives.
With an entire group of common Ring-billed Gulls, what’s to do that’s
interesting. Maybe an image of top to bottom, edge to edge, gulls. Maybe you
would not have done this, and maybe you would have, it’s to each his own,
Share your own personal vision.
A female Golden-eye Duck is a bit more interesting than a common gull. With
that said, I was far more interested in photographing this small duck as she
bobbed and weaved within the rolling waves of Lake Michigan, than I was
for her species.
You may have seen something different, and better than this, but this was
what I saw and decided to capture.
I have made my fair share of images of Muskrats. Some that show nicely what
this critter looks like, and some that shows them exhibiting their natural behavior.
Here, I was taken by the pose, and you guessed it, the light. The overall tone of
this image was what I most wanted to share through pictures. For you, it might
have been something else.
I treated photographing flowers much the same way. I made my fair share of
such images where the most important thing I did, was make a sharp, pretty
picture that exhibited just what a given specimen looked like. There is money in
flower (and birds and other wildlife) field guides that give others a nice example
of what this or that flower looks like. I use those guides myself. I cared little
about that here. In fact, I know not what this flower is, or whether it be domestic
or wild. My vision, was all about the beautiful journey that these petals took me
Our individualism, is what makes each of us special. It when used correctly, is a
gift from God that each of us has.
Most of you have seen the many of the images I made at White Sands New
Mexico. Most of those shots are about the amazing texture and patterned
designs that were created as those sands shift in the wind. There are no furrows,
designs, or sweeping valleys of sand in the image below. It is white sand against
blue sky, and one of the only plants that can live there, the So Tall. My personal
view shifted like the sand when I spotted this scene on the edge of a dune.
Your vision might have been different, and that is just as it should be.
Sunrises and sunsets are a very popular subject with photographers. There are
many effective ways to capture them in pictures. They are without a doubt,
interpretive in nature. No pun intended. Whether it is a distorted (by using a
telephoto lens) sun at the horizon with a lake, or a western rock formation in
silhouette, or some hills and a dead tree stump which was once again
silhouetted, each is a personal statement. You and I, could stand side by side
and create very different images. That’s the nature in which we were created.
Many times in my life when I created an image, I was doing so for somebody
else, and I remained cognitive of the fact, that what they wanted came first. Just
as is should be. The rest of the time I made “my” images. More often than not, it
was that personal work that wound up in art prints.
Learn from others, be it in photography or otherwise, but find your own voice and
make your own statement.
May God Bless,