I give many opinions on this blog and in life in general, but I offer just as many observations. An observation can be or at least lead to an opinion. In other words, an opinion can be formed from an observation. It is also possible that sometimes the two have nothing to do with one a another.
Often I will make a statement about an individual or a group that I like, and it will seem negative. Now maybe I have noticed something I do not like, but more likely than not, I am sharing an observation, not an opinion. Just a statement of fact as I see it.
Conversely, often I make what seems to be a positive statement about a group or individual that I do not support. Most likely I am simply making an observation.
When I share opinions, there is normally some degree of emotion involved. Not necessarily so with an observation.
Everything in life can be observed without emotional attachment, or can be written or spoken about with an opinion, which normally includes some emotion.
Photography is no different.
If I stand in front of a great scenic location, camera on tripod, and do so with 10 other photographers, all of us might possibly be making a simple observation that we want to share. Or at least some if us might be offering an opinion.
Say that the scene is front lit from the sun. We might each be simply sharing what exists. What is in front of us. Making a statement but not offering an opinion. If I decide to move to where I can capture side light or backlight, and I love it, I am most likely giving forth an opinion. It is my opinion that the more unusual light says what I want my image to say. Your opinion may vary from mine.
Photography was created to copy as best as possible, what is in front of us. That is what many photographers have as their goal. I have certainly done that. I am happy when I have accomplished the capture and sharing of what that scene, animal or otherwise, looks like.
That said, I enjoy sharing images even more that have within them, an opinion.
What do I think of the subject, or what angles of light are the most powerful?
Life is full of opinions. We often have some of the same opinions as others do,
but then there are those which are our own. Be it politics, social order, or a photo
of a mountain or a bird, the difference between a simple statement, such as the
bird is red, and the beak is yellow (a statement), and seeing how the light
caresses the feathers and brings out texture and makes the image more
powerful (an opinion), is up to each of us, as when to do one or the other.
All images regardless of the photographer, contain some opinion via what lens is
chosen, where we stand and what is contained in the composition. That said,
some photographers spend their time behind the camera, attempting to copy
what they consider to be reality, no matter what. I am only saying (my opinion),
that adding our opinions to a statement if fact, can be a good thing.
When I say I think photographs are at their best when they contain some opinion
from the image maker, I am not speaking of major alterations to what is in front
of them, such as cloning or making unnatural digital alterations. What I am
saying is that we all “see” things a bit differently from one another, and those
small adjustments can be what makes an image interesting, and what makes
each of us a unique entity. It also makes viewing photos interesting.
Most wildlife photographers want to create images that show what an animal
looks like. That is natural and I am no different. Field guides and other books on
wildlife pay money for those types of images.
How much of the picture frame is taken up by the subject is a “subjective”
decision. Whether it be by getting close or backing off, or by the size of the lens
we use and to the amount of the crop, it can be either an observation, or an
With this wild Whooping Crane with a tracking device on its leg, while the bird is
quite small in the picture frame, is really a simple observation from me. My goal
was to get a nice, publishable image of this bird to sell for a book or magazine.
Once this was photo was made, my next goal was to not only get closer images
and pictures with more behavior, but to exercise my right to share opinions by
getting spectacular angles and artistic compositions. I failed. So I took what I
could get and settled for observations.
Whether a wildlife image is a moderate close-up or very close, can depend on many things. The tolerance of the subject to your presence. How long of a lens we are using, and what sort of crop that we are willing to make, or for that matter, are able to make while retaining detail and sharpness.
I think my first image below dies a nice job in showing a profile of a pretty close Snowy Owl.
This second image is closer and was accomplished by moving closer to a subject that barely cared at all about my being there. Moving in slowly and nonchalantly, while showing no direct interest in the subject, got me closer.
This shot has more of me in it than the first. I love close-ups and details of wild things, when it is safe and practical. Therefore, the first shot is mostly an
observation, and the second an opinion.
This is a standard portrait of a Snowy Egret. I like the shot, especially the low contrast gentle feel it has via low contrast light levels. A close-up, but not an “eyeball shot”.
I would call it an observation but I like the gentle almost somber mood.
Action/behavior can most definitely be observational. With that said, if you love those sorts of pictures, they afford you the opportunity to practice giving, or better said showing your opinion.
These young Yellow-bellied Marmots, cared not at all about me, and I thanked them for their vote of confidence.
Animals such as this wild bison, can be easy to photograph, but they can be difficult to get to “pose nicely”. Asking does not help.
This bison did pose nicely but admittedly, this morning of contrast laden light, provided some difficulty. Still, most of you know, I love dramatic light even when the subject is an animal rather than say the land. This image is most definitely a mixture of highlights and shadows. The only change I would make if I could, would be to have one small ray of light, reach the eye of the subject. Eyes, “humanize” if you will, a subject like this which will then allow us to relate to it more fully. You know, “the eyes are the window to the soul” sort of stuff.
Those are of course, primarily opinions.
I have spoken of close-ups, and eyes. Well, Bull Frogs have great eyes. Why not make an image full of eyes. Especially when your subject is amazingly cooperative. The lens used, was my Nikon 105mm Micro.
Photos like this are both an observation and an opinion. Nobody could argue against sharing an observation of how cool this critter’s eyes are, yet the driving force inside of me to show something that is so unusual, is clearly an opinion.
Insects are a part of the world of wildlife too. That is apparently an opinion because I cannot tell you how many people I have come across, think they are not animals. I have questioned, are they then vegetables or minerals? Maybe a gas? They would say, neither they are insects. I guess that means that the image below of a damselfly covered in dew, is an opinion more than an observation, because I say they are of the animal world.
I have known countless photographers, who would never create a silhouette image of a critter. I mean, the image below of a Mallard duck, has no detail. You cannot do that!!
Of course I can. The fact that I am showing (so to speak) a duck in an image and it is absent of details other than shape and form, means I am clearly sharing an opinion more so than an observation. I have no problems with that.
I rarely show direct images of people in my nature photos. Oh, I have made my share of people photos. Weddings, portraits, studio, public relations, models, race drivers posing with a trophy or getting out of a car. Nature however, was not a part of those photos.
I was out photographing a Lake Michigan sunrise one morning when some swans came swimming into my picture frame. I switched my interest to the birds and then I realized that a pair of fishermen in a small boat came into the scene. I first changed my subject to the men, and then decided (an opinion) to include both of them in the picture. I metered off the most mid toned portion of the scene to retain the silhouette without making the photo so dark as to render the scene ugly.
I then continued on the theme of fishing at first light at a the nearby pier where some others were fishing.
Finally I focused on a lone fisherman.
With no details showing, these are obvious opinions as they lack any “normal” observational style details.
A fairly long lens rendered this sand dune landscape, more of an opinion and an aberration. Those dunes are over 400 feet high, but a shorter lens and a more “normal” perspective (I made several of those) would show their relationship to the foliage very differently. I chose to compose the image this way. Everything is sort of sandwiched. My decision therefore and my opinion. Beyond observation.
There were a never ending supply of autumn foliage with river scenes I could have chosen here. I wanted the image to be a gentle (not tons of riotous colors) combination of water and leaves. I think most photographers would search for more saturated colors and more river to boot.
This is a simple observation. At least it is in my opinion.
I love both waterfalls and river rapids more than I can say. To me, they are usually rendered as an opinion by most photographers, including me.
The rapids below and the waterfall after that, were capture photographically in the Smokey Mts. of Tennessee, and the northern forests of Wisconsin, respectively. In both cases, my goal was to capture them within the framework of their environment.
I would suggest they are observations mainly, although that of course is as you would expect, an opinion.
This is a Wisconsin waterfall and it is quite obvious that I cared little about making an image of only my observations. It does however take observational skills to create “opinionated” images.
A purposeful be it simple composition that left out everything but what I wanted, and a slow shutter speed said what I wanted it to say.
I loved making close-up photos more than I can say. I have spend hour after hour doing so.
This piece of ice jutting over the edge of a pond is right in my wheelhouse so to speak. Shape and form, texture, and a cool (ice) yet warm (the water color) environment gave me all I wanted for a morning of photographing ice patterns.
Except for the obvious observational skills needed to find these things, this was all about being selfish and capturing my opinions in images.
I you like macros, then flowers are your best friend. The nonstop variety of flower art that any willing photographer can create in a day with wildflowers or garden flowers, is immeasurable.
The Bluets you see below made my day I am quite sure. I would say a day with flowers from single blossoms to dozens and even thousands of such, will fulfill your artistic desires like nothing else. They just sit there waiting for you to come along, and glorify them in pictures.
Observation and opinion all wrapped up together.
Go out and observe everything, and then form an opinion and share it with the world.
May God Bless,
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep his commandments.