Spring time means kid time as my Dad so elegantly pointed out recently. One of the cutest kids around in the Rocky Mountains is the Mountain Goat. These little white balls of fur are pretty irresistible especially when you see them bouncing around the rocks and cliffs. They learn quickly from their parents how to navigate these escarpments. Their lives depend on it. As you can see they have the same suction cup like inner pads and the claw like toes that spread to help give them traction on the uneven rocky surfaces that they live on. Just like the parents they live off of the minerals in the rocks and can be frequently found on the salt licks. If you happen to find one near an overpass be sure to look down as they enjoy the salt that comes from deicing the roads in winter.
Well I can’t really believe it but Photoshop World is just two weeks away! Every year it seems to get here faster then the last year, even with only one event this year it still seemed to come up fast. Last year I had the privilege of speaking for Adobe at the Adobe Booth talking about Adobe Camera Raw how it can be used from the basics all the way to light painting. Well it was one heck of a learning experience and I had a great crowd throughout the event. This year I will be teaching for KelbyOne at the Kelby Theater on the Expo floor Tuesday at 5:00pm. The topic this time will be a little bit of everything so that anyone can go from the crowd to the stage. Well this week and next I’ll be talking about a few different things to help out every photographer.
When I first moved to Montana I was interested in many things but Wildlife Photography was never one of them. It didn’t take long for that bug to bite me. I was out exploring every weekend looking for new subjects and documenting their worlds. Like anything else there was a learning curve and each species had it’s own twist. These Mountain Goats were photographed up by Glacier National Park a number of years ago while they were on a salt lick. When it comes to working with big game there are only two ways to compose, either tight cropping off part of the subject when composing or wide so that you take in more of the environment that the subject lives in. Often times it’s easier to get environmental shots because it you simply can’t get close enough physically to the subject. That’s partly why the stigma of the portrait shot in wildlife photography is so sought after. If the goal however is tell the story of how that animal lives then it’s best to try and achieve both. Now that particular critter may not give you that option but that’s where patience comes into play and man is it important with wildlife.
Of course when you get that portrait shot it does tend to stick out amongst your digital library. Profile views certainly tell a different story then a straight on portrait but there is a reason that those kind of portraits don’t come up as often. It comes down to the biology of where the eyes are physically with each species. Humans have eyes in front of their face so the best angle is straight ahead. Not all species share that characteristic. A lot of the time the best view is to the side. Birds are a great example of this because they are always turning their heads to get a better angle. Instead most mammals rely on sound. Ungulates especially rely on their hearing. Knowing this kind of biology is critical when it comes to photography.
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.
Base Camp ended like every other one it seems, without a photographic bang. At least this is what we thought before we started down the road. Before leaving Glacier we ran into a group of Mountain Goats. We didn’t count them because in our excitement and eagerness, it never really occurred to us until after we left them. The group was a bunch of nanny’s and kids. The one that we seemed to photograph the most was a nanny with one kid and a broken horn. She appeared to be the alpha female. They moved from the higher down to the shade, and then surprising enough the river.
This was the first time that i not only got to photograph the goats but also the first time that i ever saw them drink. These guys, or gals, are designed to not have to drink. They can survive in the cliffs without having to come down, unlike the sheep that have to come down once a day. Unfortunately they picked the worst possible time to come down, when the sun was directly over head and no cloud cover. That’s wildlife for ya.
After the drink the nanny and kid went back up to a cliff halfway between the shade and the river, where the nanny layed down and the kid bopped around for a while. One of my main goals for this past week was to be able to shoot the Billy Goats, and although the rest of the group was unable to, which sucks, Dad and me did get this lucky break. These couple hours definetely make me want to work with these interesting critters even more.
Images captured with D3, 600f4, TC-14E, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film