Soul Of The Elephant

Young Elephant Curls Trunk Over Head While Under Mother
Young Elephant Curls Trunk Over Head While Under Mother

A compelling, fascinating, and a compassionate look into the “Soul of the Elephant”, done in a very poignant way as if they were telling the story through a poem. Dereck and Beverly Joubert are my favorite wildlife filmmakers. They tell important stories of iconic African wildlife in a fresh way, with breathtaking cinematography, using innovative camera angles. Their expert bush and species knowledge comes through a narration that is just mesmerizing, so lyrical and melodic–the way they switch and weave the stories and scenes between each other’s voice.

If you love elephants, wild places, wild animals, this Nature PBS episode is not to be missed. This is natural storytelling at its best, by those closest to the wildlife, living life with them. Their passion for what they do and the compassion and love for the wildlife comes through in their presentation.

I only wished for more…like their 88-minute film the Last Lions that I saw in the theater.

The original broadcast was on PBS on October 14, 2015, somehow I missed it. However, I found the full episode online at the PBS Nature site.

Take time from your busy life and please watch this Nature episode; it will change you forever, it’s haunting. I have already seen it twice, and I am sure I’ll watch again.

I highly recommend this search for the “Soul of the Elephant”, in fact, I would love to be doing what they are–immersed in the wild: living and breathing the wild smells of Africa.

Here is the link: Full Episode: Soul of the Elephant

Please posted your comments and let me know your thoughts.

In addition, here is their Ted Talk from 2010  Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s Ted Talk

Reviewing Images

A Second and Third Look
Through Your Images

After a long trip to Africa or Alaska, where you have taken many images, and hopefully some specials ones. Upon first review, you go through your images and think you got all the best ones marked out. Sometimes you are so excited you potentially could miss an image that’s really a star. One of the best ones of your trip.

Bald Eagle In Flight
Bald Eagle In Flight

I actually flagged this one and rated it, but never did anything with it until now. Sometime a second pass, or a third pass through your images after a reflective period of time gives you some gems out of rough stones that are most of your raw captures.

This image is one of my best Bald eagle in flight images. I would not have recognized it as a jewel, if I did not go through my 2014 Alaska trip images a second and a third time.

Also, with the advance in post-processing techniques, sometimes an image doesn’t appear at first glance to be something that can be truly great. Now, I look at raw files from the point of view of what is possible and how I can make the image closer to what I saw at the moment of capture.

So it pays sometimes not to give up on an image, and to keep your raw files instead of permanently deleting them.

With storage so cheap, you can keep the rejects as long as you want. One of my friends, use to laugh at me for keeping all my slides, even the ones that were a bit blurry. She would be laughing at me now as well.

Here though I found an image that I really like. One that I could have easily deleted and been gone forever. With technology forever changing and getting better, it pays not to be too hasty in deleting images.

I am going to get a scanner soon, and scan some of my old slides, ones that have the prospects and could become great with a little post-processing miracle.

I just can hear my friend saying, “yeah, really” to this, knowing that I probably never will. We will see…

Ndutu’s Lions

The Lions of Ndutu

Compared to my 2005 trip to South Africa, we saw many more Male Lions. Here is a Male Lion in the very early morning light, gazing across the plains, checking out what’s going around him. As Lions often do.

We had many different color manes among the many different Male Lions we saw, darker in the Serengeti, a really beautiful blond Male Lion in a different area of Ndutu. This one belong to the Marsh pride, and his mane is in between, not light, not red like some, and not too dark or black.

Male Lion Intently Gazes Out Across The Plain
Surveying the Savanna

I just love the side profile with that intent look, and the light was just fantastic, just after sunrise. By the way, it was our last shooting morning, and last morning in Ndutu. What a way to send me on my journey home.

Maybe, he looks so alive, because right beside him is a lioness. He was between mating bouts with her, now waking up, and ready to begin to go again. Very visceral, especially the sounds, and the action of them mating. A picture that stays on the screen of your memory forever.  For that story, I used my 100- 400 mm lens, that’s how close we were, and yet that’s another image too…

More stories and images of East Africa to come…

Male and Female Lion Alert and Watching Something In The Distance
Alert and Watching Something

More Lions:

One of the many highlights of my trip to East Africa was lions. I saw many lions in many places: like Ngornogoro Crater, the Serengeti, and here in Ndutu. This image was taken along with the image I posted a few days ago—my last morning photographing in East Africa.

This is the female lioness that my male lion (previous image) was mating with. Here they are both greatly aware and very intently checking out what another male lion about 40 yards away is doing or is up too.

Sometimes getting two subjects sharp with a telephoto lens can be difficult. Here though both lions were close to the same plane so f6.3 aperture was sufficient to capture both subjects sharp.

Notice the noses…could it be that this young Male Lion is wooing an older female. Generally, Lions noses turn black as they age. Here the female lion has a completely black nose, while her male companion nose has some red, indicating that he is a bit younger than her…

Again, I just love the light; this early morning low angle light bathes them in a warm glow that accentuates the colors of the male’s mane and their beautiful tawny bodies.

A mating image next, should I dare!!!???

Affection: Before or After???

I haven’t dare post a mating image yet. Working up my courage. So I thought I would share an image with some affection before the violent mating act itself. We can learn a lot through observing wildlife, even the King of Beast can show affection, perhaps even kindness and love.

Male Lion Licking Or Wooing Female Lioness
Wooing A Woman

They do seem to get along better than some people, some nations. Just think of all the wars we have been through the last fifteen years. The Islamic Jihadist war against the rest of us, and the beheading of fellow human beings, man’s cruelty to his fellow man. I could go on and on…

It just seems that wildlife can teach us a lesson of learning to get along.  I know that predators eating and killing to live is violent to some and they have trouble with this. However, through death comes life, everything has a purpose, nothing breaks the strands of the web of life. There is a harmony and a balance in nature; it’s only man that can disturb the cycle of life and break the web…

Anyway, we better pay attention. It might be too late already, because if we don’t, then this beautiful planet of ours, won’t be Mother Earth; it will be something harsh and deadly.

And then, the next great mass extinction will be Homo sapiens sapiens—us!

Mating Lions at Last:

After my lion image showing affection, here is my best mating image from that morning.

Lions can mate 4 to 6 times an hour, 100 times a day, and it can go on for days.  After exhausting one male, the female will sometimes mate with other male members of the pride, to insure and protect her future cubs by bonding with all the pride’s males.

Lion mating is a violent affair, and does not last long –a few minutes at most. Usually the male will scent mark afterwards, claiming and marking the territory and the females in it as his.

African Lions Mating
Violence or Ecstasy

Other than the gorgeous early morning light, I think the success of this image is that female is looking up at her suitor engaging in communication between them, and that her eyes are clearly visible and have such a wonderful expression… Even though, there is no sound, you can almost hear it from their expressions.

Perhaps, the moment of lion ecstasy!

A Drinking Lion and A Very Thirsty Lion:

Mating expends lots of energy, and is a very thirsty endeavor. After, repeat bouts of mating, where does a Male Lion go? He heads for the river and some water. Here are some images from the previous day, when the sun had gone higher in the sky, and the heat became a little more oppressive.

One vertical, the other a horizontal orientation, one a partial portrait and the other showing the complete body. Which one do you prefer, the vertical or horizontal image of the Male Lion drinking water?

Basically, these images were taken within minutes of each other at the same place.

Pictures are ultimately are about how they make your feel. Photography is an evocative art. Most of the time your responds comes from inside, within the gut, it’s a feeling, a sense, and or an emotion.

Knowing why, and articulating the reason we prefer one image over another helps us look within ourselves, and ultimately understand ourselves better.

So tell me which image do you prefer and why!

Male Lion Laps Up Precious Water
Sustaintance
Male Lion Drinking
Finding Precious Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blond Mane Male Lion of Ndutu’s Marsh pride:

The females lionesses had just made a zebra kill in the middle of a wide low area and were eating. This male came out of the tree line, and made a beeline to where we were, coming straight at us, to get his share of the food.

Thus, he was intent and focused. I just happen to get this image toward the end of his run. It was a great behavior moment to witness! His eyes were open in this image, and I captured the movement of the leg as he strides, both help make this a special picture.

He is the most beautiful male lion we saw; his beautiful blonde mane is extraordinary!

Blonde Mane Lion Comes Running
Comes Running
Blond Male Lion Of The Ndutu's Marsh Pride
Proud and Fierce Warrior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of a Male Lion:

I will leave you with this last one image as the magnificent blond mane lion pulls up a zebra carcass. Lions have incredible strength especially male lions in their prime. They rule the Africa savanna; they are the apex predator, nothing will stand up to them, except other male lions in their prime.

Lions kill to live and eat, if they didn’t exist; the grazers like wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, and especially elephants would destroy the habitation, and degrade the environment. Lions along with the other predators like leopards, hyena, and cheetah, provided a vital function in the African ecosystem and are part of the web of life.

Perhaps, the Last lions are walking on the earth now. Down to about 20,000.00 in Africa, their numbers are under extreme threat by poaching and loss of wild places to live. As the human population in Africa grows, tremendous pressure is put on Africa’s wild habitats. The days of finding lions and wild Africa outside of the National Parks is long gone. It’s only us, man, who can save the lion, and the wild places they need to live in.

These image of this magnificent blond mane lion stir my heart and represent to me all that it is to be a lion. I want to know wherever I am or live even if it is not in Africa that Lions will still be roaming the wild African landscape. Life will be diminished knowing that they will no longer roar at night, stalk the bush, sleep under the acacia trees, and hunt to feed themselves and their cubs.

If you would like to help Lions in Africa, please donated to National Geographic’s “Big Cat Initiative” and Cause a Roar!

Here is their link: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats-initiative/get-involved/

Thank You.

Bruce Finocchio 3/12/2015

Male Lion Easily Pulls Up Zebra Carcass By The Upper Leg
Male Lion Easily Pulls Up Zebra Carcass By The Upper Leg

 

*Each of these segments were previously published in Facebook under “Dream Catcher Images” page as short post.

More images of a Male Lion from the wonderful Ndutu section within the Ngorongoro Conservation area, part of the greater Serengeti ecological system in East Africa.

Into The Eyes And Soul Of A Male Lion
Into The Eyes And Soul Of A Male Lion

 

King of Beast
King of Beast

 

Embracing Life

An Alert Young Burrowing Owl
An Alert Young Burrowing Owl

“If you have no love in your heart, you have nothing, no story, no dreaming, nothing.”* That’s why you need to follow your passion and be “in spirit”. Inspiring others, with your love and imagination, and love will come back to you a thousandfold.

I love nature and wildlife! This young burrowing owl is taking its first steps away from the home and safety that’s been its burrow. It’s alert and cautious about this strange and wider world, yet willing to embrace what life has to offer.

Are you willing to embrace life like this young burrowing owl?

*Quote from the Movie Australia.

Sometimes You Get Lucky or Maybe Not!

Within The Egret's Beak
Within The Egret’s Beak

Sometimes you get lucky!

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?

Bruce

Here is another image from that morning, involving more anticipation and preparation than luck.

Young Great Blue Heron Flight
Young Great Blue Heron Flight

Selecting A Winning Photograph

Ghost Boat, A Retrospective On The Past
Ghost Boat, A Retrospective On The Past

ANALYSIS CRITERIA

IMPACT —————COMPOSITION—————-TECHNIQUES

IMPACT — GETTING THE ATTENTION OF YOUR VIEWER

  1. COLOR — Appealing Color Palette
  2. SHAPES — Varied Size and Shape
  3. MOOD — Exposure To Match Mood
  4. STORY APPEAL — Clear Storyline
  5. CUTE APPEAL — Watch Out for Cliche
  6. ORIGINALITY — Don’t Copy Style

COMPOSITION — HOLDING THE INTEREST OF YOUR VIEWER

  1. Strong Leading Lines
  2. No Distracting Bright Areas
  3. Uncluttered Image
  4. One Prominent Subject (Ken, used to use the phrase, “Queen of Spades”, when he judged) I use the phase “Queen of Hearts”
  5. All Elements Directing Inward

TECHNIQUES — APPROPRIATE TECHNIQUE FOR IMAGE

  1. Professional Detailing — Touch-up, ETC
  2. Sharp & Diffused Areas Defined
  3. Perfect Exposure for Mood and Lighting
  4. Care in Use of Proper Filters
  5. Care in Use of Photo Manipulation
  6. Good Choice of Lens
  7. Mask (Crop) or Duplicate To Change Format

*By Ken Eugene
10-25-92

Remembering Ken Eugene

*Ken Eugene was a longtime photographer and member of Peninsula Camera Club, and saw service in WWII. The club’s award, the Parks-Eugene Service Award, for outstanding contributions and excellent service to the club is named for him. I won this award in 2000, and I have one of Ken’s sailing images frame for my contribution to PCC, gracing my walls of my apartment. In remembrance of him, I have included two of my images taken during the America’s Cup competition in San Francisco, during August 2013.

Artemis America's Cup Boat Makes An Extreme Turn In Front of Alcatraz
Artemis America’s Cup Boat Makes An Extreme Turn In Front of Alcatraz

Here is more information about Ken and his life from long time PCC member Lois Shouse.

Ken was an avid Sailor and served crew on sailing ships like the ones that competed in the recent S.F. races (the older sailboat version, not the catamaran type). He had many talents. He created parts for camera equipment – attachments to tri-pods, quick releases, etc. He was always willing to share his knowledge freely and help other photographers. He was always ahead of the times in what he was trying in photography. He was doing adjustments to slides before Photoshop came along, but he took to it like a duck to water. Ken taught Photography free at Little House in Menlo Park for years. He was always willing to give of his time to share his love of photography with others. He was truly worthy of having the Peninsula Camera Club honor him by adding his name to our Service Award. He served the club for about 20 years, and was a mainstay of our social and field trip life.

 

Birding as Opposed to Bird Photography

 

Male Red-necked Phalarope and His Reflection
Male Red-necked Phalarope and His Reflection

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
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
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.

It Has Come To Me; I Must Become a Mother

It Has Come To Me; I Must Become a Mother

It has come to me; I must become a mother to seven or eight young juvenile Merriam’s chipmunks. Their mothers are gone, passed into the fourth world–never again to suckle these seven or eight youngsters.  Was it my fault, yes and no!  Am I to blame? I ask myself?

The answer is that the mothers are gone, and I now must take the responsibility to keep these youngsters alive. Assigning blame isn’t going to keep these little guys and girls alive. Get them to adulthood, and foraging on their own.  So they too, can grow up and raise young ones of their own. That’s now my mission.

Ah, Rolling In The Dirt, Chipmunk Style

My friend Randy knows the situation; the task is a bit daunting. I must get them to be independent, but they are going to be dependent on me for a while. It is going to be a step by step process. Tame them, no! Really lead them, to the direction of being wild and able to live on their own.

I know that I am being a bit cryptic and mysterious.  I have my reasons, and they are good ones. If you want the whole or full story, you’ll have to contact me personally.

Merriam's Chipmunk On One Leg

I leave you with a couple images of Chipmunks being Chipmunks. I never cease to marvel at these little dynamos of energy. Their antics always seem to make me happy, and if I am a bit depressed they always lift my spirits. Yet, now too, I realize that even they have moments of dependency, of fright, and loneliness.

Merriam's Chipmunk Kisses Oak Branch
I am also recognizing individual personalities too. I know that some are going to make it with no problem; others are going to present a great challenge!

A mother must give the type of love that each require. All seven or eight aren’t the same; they are individuals! Not only must I be a loving mother, but a smart one too…

Sticking His Nose Into EverythingMerriam's Chipmunk Perched On A Dead Branch

A story from the Ramrod Ranch, a series of wildlife adventures…

And the Last Chipmunk Word…

Last Word

Addendum

The first, absolutely the first thing I did when I arrived at the Ramrod Ranch was to go to the bird feed. It’s all in a large garbage can. I have a plastic cup that I use to scoop it out with, so I filled this large plastic cup and headed over to the chipmunk corner, laying out the feed for them. They have been living on the thistle seed, and I put out a large pile for them. I figured that they would be starving… I was right they were!

But this mother was too late for two of them; I found one laying dead close to the area where I left out the seed. I put out a lot of seed before I left, was it not enough? Did I make a mistake? Or was this little chipmunk just too weak to survive. Later in the day, I found another dead chipmunk close by, they were so young. They just did not make it.

Sorrow was in my heart, I had failed two young lives. However, my spirits were buoyed by the flourishing four others who scamper down and came to eat the feed I had left. At least four made it, so far, not sure where the other two are, I know that last time I had counted at least seven. Maybe, the other two were off on their own; I heard at least one down by the barn when I came back from the blind midday and finished photographing.

It was a warm spring day, temperature in the low eighties, tomorrow promise to be another slightly warmer day at the Ramrod Ranch! Even with the sad deaths of the two little chipmunks, and a slight bout with heat stroke, I still had an incredible day observing all the bird life at the ramrod ranch… I just couldn’t stay sad, for all the other life up lifted my spirits!!! Nature and life just fortify the soul and sooth the heart every time. I feel like I am in heaven every moment I spend in nature…

PS: You can guarantee I am going to drink more water tomorrow, and I’ll definitely wear my baseball cap. I really need to find a type of hat that I can photograph with and that will protect me from the hot rays of the sun…

 

The Final Chapter

A week later I was relaxing in the yard one late afternoon, when a chipmunk came hopping down the yard to the base of the big oak tree by the cabin.  It started feeding on some of the grasses around this oak tree. Yet, its movements were kind of slow and not chipmunk like at all. When, it turned toward me, I could see a strange glow in its eye.  At first, I thought it might be just the light. I got up and I took several pictures of it, and then I checked the back of my camera and the images still showed this strange glow.  I didn’t use flash so that could not be it.

I gathered some food (bird seed), and gently walked over to it. I placed the food right in front of it, stepped back and watched it for a while. Eventually, the young chipmunk began eating the bird seed in front of it. The movements still were slow. I went back to my chair and watched it for a while. It seemed to get disinterested in the food. Then, it tried to climb up the trunk of the big oak tree next to the cabin, but it didn’t make it too high, and almost felled back to the ground, like it didn’t have enough energy to make it up the tree trunk. On the ground not long after, it squeezed between the cabin boards and went underneath the cabin. This is the last time I saw it.

After reviewing the images and thinking about its slow mechanical actions, I realized that the chipmunk was blind. That’s what was accounting for that unusual glow in its eyes. It never did see me as I placed the bird seed inches from its body.

I talked to my doctor about a week later and she said that one of the affects of starvation could be blindness, not enough nutrients for proper eye function.

I am sure this little chipmunk did not make it…very sad!

The good news is that the four remaining juvenile chipmunks hanging around the corner by the bathroom door and on top of the old jerky cage seem to be doing well. Each week I left some bird seed for them. Then, as the weeks passed by, they seem to be foraging on their own, and venturing out from this little corner. I began to see and hear them down by the barn.

As the photography workshops began, the chipmunks disbursed and headed out for a life of their own. I was a little sad, because I didn’t have to feed them any longer, and they weren’t hanging around in their little corner any more where I could see them regularly. Yet, I felt happy too; for now four chipmunks were living on their own now, with the chance to grow up and have babies of their own…

So go life, and the saga of my little chipmunks!

Selective Focus

Selective Focus

A camera’s vision is not quite like ours. As a photographer you need to see the world as a camera see it. One of the differences is that the eye focuses constantly, and we see everything in focus from near too far. With a small aperture selection like f22 and a wide-angle lens, you can almost get the focus of the human eye, where everything is sharp and in focus. This focusing is good for landscape photography, where you usually want to see all elements of an image sharp from foreground to background.

Another way is to use selective focus: emphasizing a particular part of an image, making the subject of the image stand out; singing its visual song. This is a powerful technique to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject, where the photographer wants the viewer’s eye to go. The eye is drawn to the sharp focused subject surrounded by the blur area containing the rest of the image. This seeing is as the camera sees not as the human eye sees. Controlling the aperture size is the key to controlling the depth of field and selecting the focus area–what’s sharp and not sharp within the image.

Here is an example of selective focus; I entered this image in my camera club recently. This cheetah image was taken at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

I did not use a small aperture like f22 to render the whole portrait of the cheetah sharp. I used instead an aperture of f5.6, so my depth of field with my 600 mm lens and with 1.4 tele converter was shallow, leaving the neck and parts of the shoulder slightly soft. This makes the alert cheetah’s face and eyes seem very sharp, more so because the rest of the body is slightly soft. The story and impact of the image is the face, the alert expression, and those penetrating eyes. Penetrating eyes that look into the soul of the animal! With selective focus, these features are emphasized to the viewer. Subtle in its effect, but nonetheless greatly contributes to the overall success of the image.

Also, it should be noted that this image was taken after sunset late in the evening, so I needed to use a large aperture and a high ISO of 800, just to obtain the proper exposure… My camera was on a tripod and with the animal not moving; I had a choice of using a sharper aperture, and slower shutter speed. My goal for the image was to focus on the face and the great intense stare. Choosing an aperture with a small and shallower depth of field gave me the critical focus on the face, very slightly blurring the neck and shoulders, making the face really stand out and sing.

Why not make the neck blurrier? That would make the face stand out more. I think if you did that; it would make a face on a blurry body (a post it or cut out look), and the blurriness would attract the eye and away from the face you want the viewer to see. A completely burly neck doesn’t work well for this type of animal portrait.

Why not make the image completely sharp? Well, yes, for a nature interpretation, you might want a completely sharp image. I believe this makes the image more a record shot, rather than an artistic presentation.

This selective focus technique is used a lot in macro photography, flower photography, and many other types of image making as well. The uses are endless, so make sure you apply this technique to your photography.

PS: This image won best of show at my camera club’s week night competition…

What type of images sell? What do customers want?

What type of images sell? What do customers want?
& Other Thoughts

In a recent reply to my blog post “Dare To Be Different” (http://wp.me/p1iYnC-5y) a photographer asked the following questions:

“BRUCE, I love the shots, but when I show my “dare to be different” shots to my audience of friends, they seem to prefer the tried and true “basic” images. For example, I have this wonderful red hawk photo that I cropped to show off its head. When I showed it to a group of friends, they all wanted to see the body too. Another example: A flower with the stamen off-center (aligned with the rule of thirds), my friends wanted to see the flower smack dab in the middle of the frame. “
“I found it fascinating that photographers like images with that more artsy quality, but people who might buy the photo want to see basic crops, full subjects, and middle alignment. Anyone else experience this disconnect?”*

My longer reply for this blog post:

I would have to see your images to make a more informed personal comment. However, I think intuitively people respond to a great image, because on an emotional level it speaks to them and connects to them personally. They might not be able to explain why in a way the so-called “art critics” would, but they know when they like an image.

I believe record shots, images without strong subjects, busy images with clutter, images that show too much, images that don’t have artistry and superior composition, and just plain poorly technically executed images, in the long run will not consistently sell.

Generally, when you cropped an animal, bird, or person, you need to avoid cropping just a little so to avoid a subject that looks funny or strange without the rest of the body part. If you crop bold, then, the viewer assumes that the photographer wanted to show the subject in this way. Then, it wasn’t a mistake, or sloppy technique by the photographer.

Also, there is a glut in wildlife portraits on the market nowadays; the new marketable trend is to shoot wildlife with wide-angle lenses, and show the animal in its habitat and with a grand scenic background. Wildlife portraits need to be stunning. Wildlife images need to show note worthy behavior, a rare species or less documented one helps too. Specializing, becoming a provider of certain imagery that few have is also more marketable. Story telling is a premium, a must, essential for high level commercial success.

In regards to composition, center placed subjects can work; a round flower with the petals flowing outward like spokes of a wheel as an example. Although, generally off placed subjects, with rule of third principal, often are stronger and more dynamic. But there are no hard or fast rules regarding composition, photography isn’t an exact science; there is lots of subjectivity. What one person may like another won’t. This aspect of photography is what makes it so interesting. Everyone sees the world a little bit differently; visually it would be very tiring if this weren’t so.

Content matters. Content and its visual arrangement is style. I believe that establishing a style is important. The goal should be mastering the craft and art of photography so your vision is discernible; your images recognizable. Yet, an artist is never satisfied: always growing and learning—improving.

From the visual impact of image, the viewer can recognize the artist, the best photographers work is recognizable; Ansel Adams, David Muench, Elliot Porter come to mind—there are many, many more of course. From recognition comes success, although, I always thought that anyone who bought one of my images, no matter how big or small, took a little of me, my soul, and my heart with them along with my image.

As nature photographer, I take pictures that please me, satisfying myself. If someone else likes the image great, if they want to buy it, all the better. The point is I don’t take pictures to please an audience. If I become a better photographer, improve my skill, clearly establish my style, have a pure vision, then I’ll be successful! First and most importantly to myself, secondly, and in a humble grateful way, others will recognize the merit of my work. Maybe, this is overly idealistic, but it’s what I believe…

All the best following your passion, hopefully this message helps and inspires you.

Here is a shot I have been trying to get for years, California quail chicks lined up at the edge of my ranch pond in soft diffused lighting I like so much. Very pictorial, with the help of some post-processing, showing some implied behavior and that cute factor that always endears us humans to babies.

This image exemplifies my photographic style of getting in close, and a vision of showing nature and wildlife in an extraordinary manner–letting nature’s beauty shine, and its spirit show.

*Question Quoted from Ilene Hoffman, LinkedIn Adobe Lightroom group member,  her blog is at http://ilenesmachine.net