Journey as a Nature Photographer
Copyrights Ganesh H Shankar, June 2007.
Nature Photography is a facinating hobby ! You casually pick-it up when
you go on a nature trek or a bird watching trip or when you visit a game
sanctuary or some thing similar. You buy a camera initially to "take" a
few "snaps" on your trips. Chances are you may take this as passion or
hobby. Here starts your facinating journey as a nature photographer.
Interestingly this journey of trying to express the beautiful nature around
us is a very facinating one. Initially we start with appreciation
and admiration of nature around us and "taking" a few images of it - particularly
landscapes, sunrises, sunsets and some wildlife. If you have not
bought an SLR camera, then you soon will end up buying one. Here starts
your real nature photography journey - mostly it will be "left brain" photography
for a few years to come !!
I have been a nature/wildlife photographer for several years now. Looking
back I see a clear pattern in my journey. I mostly suspect this is the
pattern for most of the nature photographers ! Pardon me if you think I am arrogant
I tried to express this journey in a graph below.
First it starts as a right brain activity. You enjoy spending time in nature,
love wild life and also capture the moments you spend in nature to cherish
them later. Soon you want to make better images. The moment you buy an SLR
and take this as a serious weekend hobby in all probability your left brain
photography begins !! Partly this is because you have lots of new variables
to play with - interchangeable lenses, aperture/shutter speed control, sharpness,
depth of field at different apertures, f2.8 lens vs f5.6 lens, different focal
lengths and the list goes on and on.
Now you start overly worrying about the "tools"
to create your images. We start debating at length about the tools - VR, IS, sharpness, MTF
charts, noise performance at 800iso, 21 frame buffers vs 30, Nikon vs Canon
*without* really spending at least equivalent amount of time in making
images. Most of the photography is limited to discussions in forums, news groups and with
friends about merits of different lenses, physics behind them - isn't it facinating ?
Tools are important but we need to do some photography too ! What a useless yet enjoyable
stretch of the journey !!
I must admit I went through this stretch of the journey - been there, done that.
If you have avoided this stretch, kudos to you. If you are a beginner just be aware
there is such a *well known* tempting stretch in your journey - it is your decision
whether you want to take this left brain stretch.
Along with active "internet" photography, we also learn some of the science behind
taking images - exposure accuracy, shutter speed, aperture control,
basics of composition - rule of thirds, not placing subject in the center of the
frame, head turn, catch light, shooting at eye level... We buy the best equipements
we could aford, try to apply all those techniques that we read about in books,
internet or learnt from friends. But every thing revolves around science - right
brain is mostly at rest !
After some time you become an expert and can routinely create well exposed beautiful images.
But realize though they are generally good there is nothing new or memorable. After seeing
some images made by your favourite nature photographer you try to emulate his style. You follow
his/her advice on how to approach wildlife, birds - use of blinds, getting frame filling images,
stopping action, back ground blurs, head turn, catch light, subject being parallel to the exposure
plane and you know what they are. With some difficulty you learn and incorporate all those while taking
your images and now you think you are there. But more often than not this ends up as a
poor imitation. In a typical internet photography forum you can see hundreds of such images.
Frustrating is it not ? Yes it indeed is !! Who said effective nature photography is easy ?
In my view this is where the real journey starts.
Now you may expect some tips on how to overcome this. Wish I knew them ! I think I just started
on my real journey. But I am confident I will find my way. Some points which might help are - ask
yourself how you can express the feeling you are experiencing. How you can translate them to pixels.
Forget all the rules of photography. Some where I read about a "definition for wildlife photography".
Following them and rest of the photography formulas are sure roads for failure. Photography
is not mathematics. Let us "make" images not "take" them. I hate that word "snap". But, be confident
- if others can do it we can do it too.
Wishing you a meaning full right brain journey ahead !
If you have a view on this article please write to me at
- Ganesh H Shankar
Copyright © 1993-2010 Ganesh H Shankar
All Rights Reserved.