Maybe, that’s not the case, when you practice, practice, and hone your skills for years. The most overlooked capability is evaluating a nature situation, and thinking about what would make a great image. What angle, what viewpoint will capture interesting behavior from the animal or bird, and ultimately tell an exciting visual story.
I must admit that I am getting better at this; over the years I really have improve in this aspect of my nature photography.
Putting yourself at the right place at the right time, then, executing with the right technical skills already mastered, so you can let your eye and mind create art. Creating art with a Zen like focus: that’s in harmony with your inner divine self, as well as with the outer photographic world—like considering the quality and direction of the light, and the spiritual connection with the living being you are photographing.
Yes, I used a six by seven format and cropped the image to this size. In this case, with the diagonal line of the beak, all the focus goes to this little minnow that you know is in the last moments of life. A beautiful, tragic, and powerful story; yet presented so visual simple that it grips and tugs on strings of your heart and emotions.
What do you think about the creative process; is it luck or experience that gets the great image. What about this image, was I lucky or not. Maybe a bit of both? Yes or no?
Here is another image from that morning, involving more anticipation and preparation than luck.
For three or four years now, I have been photographing the birds of Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward, CA. My friend and fellow photographer, Oliver Klink, has been running photography workshops there to photograph these birds in captivity. All of these birds are unable to be return to the wild and live normal lives; some of them are missing an eye, and/or have a broken or missing wing. They only live through the grace of man, yet it was man himself that caused and ended their wild lives.
With the backgrounds being very difficult even in somewhat of a control situation, I have used my 600 mm lens to capture mostly their faces, rather than showing the whole bird without clutter and a chaotic background. This way I could look into their eyes, and show you their true hunter spirit. These raptors and owls live by their eyes, and it’s their remarkable vision that stirs our souls.
Here is a collection of some of my best images: haunting, fierce, and incredibly strong sense of life—a hunter gaze. Look into these images, and what do you see? Something mysterious and other worldly that tucks at something in the deep recesses of your soul.
PS: If you would like to capture images like these, or with your own particular photographic style and vision, please sign up on my friend Oliver Klink’s, mailing list, at http://www.incredibletravelphotos.com so you can receive a preview of the next workshop at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center, something a nature photographer wouldn’t want to miss.
I have also add a poll at the end of this post so you can vote for your favorite “face”!
I have been thinking about birding and bird photography a bit. Especially since, I hosted some birders recently on a trip down Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing, and to Point Lobos to photograph birds and wildlife. They are avid birders, yet learning to become better bird photographers.
At different times in my life I have been both, a birder first, now a professional bird photographer. After giving up hunting and killing birds during my teenage years, I then cultivate to looking at birds through binoculars, identifying them, determining what species they were, learning all I could by looking and observing. I still do this. I also make species list for my ranch and other places I have visited.
I still get really excited when I see a new species, like most birders. I know a lot of birders take pictures to share and identify birds. For me though, bird photography is about art, creating an image of a bird that speaks emotionally to the viewer, sings with soul and spirit.
I am an artist, who also loves nature, and birds. Through my photography, its style and vision, I hope to convey to others my love of birds. I just don’t what to id them; or document what kind they are, or count how many species are in a given area, even though these are admirable endeavors; I want to go beyond that. I want to show their beauty, and have my images sing a song of a bird spirit, a song of aliveness, a song of life.
Getting close, very close, is necessary to create beautiful bird images, by doing this, you see more, more behavior, more beauty. Ultimately, you learn more about birds, about different species, even the idiosyncrasies of individuals.
At some point, I think if you pick up a camera and buy a big lens, you want more than just to document and record, you want others to see what you see, what you feel when you look at a bird closely. Nature and life has a soul and spirit, and through your images you want that to come through. A camera with a telephoto does this equally or better than any pair of binoculars. Memories can be fleeting; pictures are more enduring.
Male Red-necked Phalarope Twist Body As He Prepares to Preen
Secondly, birding is more of an observing activity, recording and documenting what you saw; where as bird photography is about creating. Your photographic style and vision comes from how you visually see, and is different than anyone else’s. This creativity comes from deep inside, from the essence of your being; this is what makes you an artist. Not everyone can be a great artist, but each of us can learn and develop our photography eye and skills, get better, create images that improve over time. Learning about nature and birds is great, nothing can replace that excitement of seeing life enfold and develop before your eyes.
Yet, sharing that “nature moment” with others, telling this story visually is what the medium of photography is all about. It is an art form. It’s translating that moment of life into a picture—an image that looks into window of a bird’s behavior, its life, and describes a living moment.
It’s worth doing well, like all photography, because a picture is worth a thousand words; it’s an evocative art. Great photography timelessly reaches hauntingly into the soul and connects that momentary experience of life and makes it enduring–communicating what you felt at the moment.
On this particular trip I was excited about some phalaropes, because I haven’t had many chances as a bird photographer to photograph them, so I wanted to get close. As a result of trying to get close, I took a dive into the mud of the Moon Glow Diary. (Another adventure tale for another blog post) Thankfully, I can laugh about it, and it made things interesting, but it didn’t stop us from having a great photographic day.
Speaking of phalaropes, here are a few phalarope images I took at Radio Road…This is what I am trying to achieve in my photography, it’s different than birding, it’s getting close and creating art.
Red-necked Phalarope Ruffles Feathers Along The Shore
I am not saying that you should give up birding or that birding is any less of an activity or passion than bird photography, but if you carrying a camera, and you get excited at seeing your hummingbird or bluebird image on the back of the camera or on your computer screen. Then, why not do photography the best you can, learn and grow, and become a better photographer. Recording, viewing, observing, and documenting is fine, but art stirs the soul, and very good and great photography is art.