With the new year comes many challenges that every photographer has to face. Lately I’ve been asked two questions in reference to the end of last year and the beginning of this one, the first one that I felt like talking about is whether I got all of my images done from Africa? Well “done” is a mixed bag and raises another point. While all of my images are safely backed up and properly filed, I haven’t gotten every image finished yet partly because I don’t want to finish every image. This is a decision that every photographer has to make after every shoot is how much time do we spend finishing our images? For me, Wildlife images are simple because I don’t do anything to them in post. But when coming back from a trip with 30K Wildlife shots, you have to be kind of picky.
The point I’m driving at is as you continue to improve your technique you have to also be able to narrow down a selection, knowing full well which images will fulfill each purpose in your business. The blog, the presentation, the prints and the articles all need images. Having the images finished and properly selected is the only way to stay ahead. Finding the time to accomplish all of that is always the challenge.
I love when life surprises me. I love it even more when I have my camera in hand. While out working the Madison I stumbled upon a couple of the locals and decided to talk with them for a while. At least as long as they would let me. One of the common species that we see in the Rockies, less so the further west you go across the country, is the Eastern Kingbird. A really great bird that is just a ton of fun to photograph. These insects eating little guys love to land on wires and so they make a great subject for those back roads, if they hold still. Which they don’t!
I have never been able to work a Kingbird more than a minute or so. Like most birds they are always intrigued by the lens and the sound of the shutter of the camera. Often they choose to leave then find out what is making that sound. Well this particular coupe happened to be a juvenile and a parent. The juvenile was recognizable by the orangish patch by the side of it’s beak. The kid didn’t know much better so he posed for a while. Thankfully he did because I was a tad rusty with the 600 f4 sticking out the side of my truck.
The parent knew better then to hold still and did exactly what they always do. Move up the wire and then naturally back down the wire. Lastly it did the infamous went to a better perch too far away to do anything about. Clever little bugger.
The kid on the other hand was a little more playful and stuck around for a little bit longer. Now as I said I was a little rusty and forgot one important detail when he flew to this new location. The background changed from light to dark. Not only did this change the shutter speed but also the need for more exposure compensation. In the end there were very few keepers. Oops guess I need more practice. That means more shooting… Darn
It still amazes me how fast the weather can change here in Montana. After the huge storm that we had last weekend, it almost feels like spring this weekend. All that snow that came in has already melted away in the valley and the grass is starting to show. The flocks of Geese are moving through more often and sounds of birds chirping away is a welcome greeting in the mornings. Spring is slowly starting to come our way.
With Spring on its way, now is a good time to start looking at possible areas for bird photography. For those of you that live in big migratory areas then you know it’s important to be checking on the reports and mapping out possible locations to for shooting. Just the other day I was out cruising, not really going anywhere but luckily found a new area with great Cattails and a good pond. It’s somewhere new with just a handful of Mallards but given some time it might turn out to be a good spot to go back to. Pre-planning is a really important with wildlife photography. Knowing when and where the critters “should be” helps increase those odds of getting that shot.
It’s funny the random thoughts that you come up with when you start thinking of blog posts to write. That’s kind of how this one started. When I was home a couple weeks ago for the holidays I grabbed a bunch of boxes from storage. Mostly nature books from my collection that I was unable to take with me to college. Along with those things were a couple other boxes of nicknacks and objects I collected from my travels. This past week I finally was able to unpack everything and it got me thinking. When I was a kid and my folks would take my brother and myself traveling we would always end up getting some form of souvenir and after a while collections started to appear. Everything from pocket knives to flashlights, coins, and wooden sculptures, and in my case even a bone collection. I started thinking about all those things that I have collected over the years and what they mean and then I started thinking about photography.
As every photographer grows their library of photos they are in part collecting photos as well as stories. Every time we pick up that camera, no matter what the chase is, we are going out after something that either isn’t in the files yet or trying to improve on what’s already there. Sure this is always a cost for going out, the time alone is a gamble that whatever you’re after is going to be there, but if it’s that missing piece, the Babe Ruth card to your collection than isn’t it worth it? Who’s to say what the most valuable piece is or where it might come from?
There is an old saying in photography that you can’t capture every photo because every second of every day something is happening that you are missing. It’s the one reality that really stinks but is unavoidable. With that in mind what’s the best subject to go after? A year ago at the Chino Airshow they were doing a solute to the P-38 lightning by having five of the seven flying examples of the aircraft at the show. It was only a 2 day event but it was great to see such a beautiful aircraft together with its squadron mates. It was a long haul down to California for such a short event but was it worth it? You bet ya. It’s one of my favorite planes and you can’t put a price on that.
As I’m starting to discover it becomes harder and harder to stay a specific type of photographer. Even if one’s passion is wildlife, or planes or people or cars or whatever else is out there, which is a lot, in the end we all become generalist photographers because we all have to keep pushing ourselves to try new things. Out of those new areas comes the knowledge of how to do a better job and that knowledge can then be used to fuel your passion. But in that process aren’t you starting a new collection to complete?
You always have to remember the people that are involved in this world. The best access and knowledge comes from those peoples lives, most of whom are willing to share their experiences. Strictly speaking I am not a people photographer, it has never fascinated me to be one. But overcoming that reality has made numerous friendships and although my people portraits may not be that moving, talking with them has been wonderful. It is those friendships that can make a huge difference in whether a photographer succeeds or fails.
In the end no matter what your passion is, or how many images you collect, every photographer will end up with their own set of stories. Some of those images will be worth nothing to anyone else but you while hopefully others will be worth more to the world than anything else. Keeping that visual record going is not only important but essential for future generations. That’s why we must push to get more people involved in photography so that everyone can make their own collections.