“OH NO…NOT YOU!” That’s the greeting Marshall Joe gave me as I stepped off the bus for our NAPP Safari. I guess you could say I made an impression on him our last visit. I like Marshall Joe, he loves to laugh. And, he loves to play the straight man with a gun. We had great clouds but to get them behind Marshall Joe, had to shoot up on him. Well, he’s not real tall so we got him up on a four foot rock and than shot up on him with the clouds in the background. D4, 24-70AFS with light is a simple Trigrip Gold reflector. A real simple click of a really nice guy!
Just finishing up an amazing week at Photoshop World. It’s a place that if you’re a person like me, you garner from the participants an overwhelming sense of what you’re doing as a photographer is alright. That what you’re saying with a camera is reaching out an tugging at heartstrings invoking in others either simple awe or more importantly, the desire to them to go out and do the same thing, that’s really the whole point of Photoshop World. To empower others to go out, be creative, share the world they explore visually and in that process, change the world. That’s why I think we should be photographers!
No one starts out in this position though. And here lies the problem and why I think so many want their images “reviewed” or “critiqued.” It a huge part of validation some say, knowing they are on the right track is what others says. On the crits forms we were provided at Portfolio Review and Photoshop World there was a category left blank for the photographer to fill in. I was really intrigued when all but one of my critters filed it in as…aspiring. Where is it we’re trying to get with photography or more importantly, where is it we want our photography to take us?
Here, there is a lot of talk of f/stops and shutter speeds, light, composition (a well warn and misunderstood word if there ever was one) and gear….lots of gear! I decided this time at Photoshop World, I would change up some of the words, phrases and concepts I have used in the past when asked to review images. I’ve seen thousands of images this week and the vast majority were really good images. Some were simply amazing! And in the process of giving comments, I adopted one key word for every image I saw, no matter or weak or strong. That word is heart!
At first, each photographer gave me this quisical look when I said heart, their photograph needed more heart. And for each photographer, each image the heart I was referring to was never the same. One image might have need for feeling for the light. Another image might have needed more love for the subject. Another might have needed the heart to hit the delete key. My goal was pretty simple, to get the photographer to put enough emotion, heart into their photograph that the viewer can’t help but feel it. And that get’s to the heart I think of where most what from their photography.
Creatives, visual folks are always wearing their heart on their sleeve which is why some are so easily crushed when their photograph doesn’t work. But what is it we are really striving for, what am I striving for when I put an image out? Why do photographers when they post an image Facebook or G+ look at the comments all day, foregoing other work they should be doing? We’re all looking for acceptance! We are looking to see is our vision of our world excites others.
Once we have that acceptance, photography just seems to get better. Light not so hard, f/stop not as scary and sharing our images, not so terrifying. And that’s where I want you to be right now, without going through all of that other stuff. You can do that simply, like your photos! There is no right or wrong or better and worse. Understand that means that what, you’re photography will always get better. That means you’re always learning and that’s the process of every photographer, past, present and future. The photography you are producing right now is great and it will be better. With that understanding, you can now move forward because what we are all seeking, acceptance!
“My kids just started back to school so my next few weeks and weekends, I’m stuck at home. What do I shoot?” Just received an email with this question and man, is it all too real! I remember that time when my boys started at school and I wanted to stay home the first few weeks to be there for all that new, school stuff. Taking off for a weekend to shoot just wasn’t possible and being the end of August, there just wasn’t a lot out my window to photograph. It’s times like this I go outside my comfort zone, if for just two weeks out of the year with my photography. It’s now I raid my local florist and find a posse to photograph. It’s no secret I hate photographing wildflowers. I just don’t like sticking my ass in the air as I bend over to wait for a flower to stop moving to take its photo (I have the utmost respect for those who do it well). So I buy a flower and bring it home and set up a studio to take it’s portrait. And I light it with a minimum of two flashes, making it a real challenge. The idea is real simple, with total control, make the uncommon out of the common. You could easily sum it up with Jay Maisel’s mantra, Light, Gesture, Color. In the case of this rose, there are 3 flashes being used, 2 SB-R200 & 1 SB-900 (with a 70-180 lens). The SB-R200 have DIY light modifiers and they are the main light on the right and left of the rose and the SB-900 has a snoot for the leaves. No, I didn’t place the rose and go click the first time and get the shot, it took a half an hour to fine tune it but what you see here is the photo right out of the camera. And doing this once a year I can handle so now, I’m good until next August. If you’ve not put yourself through this
hell challenge, it might be the time to give it a go!
our photography is real simple…..
I am sure that you receive hundreds if not thousands of emails from people all around the world asking you for things. This is not one of those emails. I am not sure that given your busy schedule you may not even have an opportunity to read mine, but I wanted to send this to you to say thanks. For what you are probably asking. Simply put Moose, your willingness to share your knowledge, your work and skill with those of us that enjoy America’s wild heritage and vast landscapes. It is inspiring to the next generation of us who love the outdoors. I don’t have the means to travel to all the locations that I would like to photograph, but I really do feel a connection to your work and it makes me feel as if I have visited the place or that I have seen it with my own eyes even though in reality I have not. I have read your books and I visit your blog for insights on various techniques and even though I have not had the privilege of meeting you personally Moose, your writings and videos are crafted in such a fun and carefree way that makes all I think who watch, feel as if they know you.
I really strive to apply the lessons that you have learned to my own photography and really enjoy the story telling part of photography. The gratifying thing for me Moose is that my daughter, who is 10 is getting the photography bug and I could not be happier. She caught it by watching me and by looking at the pictures posted on your blog. I think it would be easy to sometimes forget how influential one person can be on another. My daughter and I have always been close. She is a real “Daddy’s girl” and loves coming outside to shoot and watch nature. Without babbling to much Moose, I just want to once again say thanks for the gift, and yes you do have gift, of storytelling through you pictures. It has impacted my life in such a positive way and for that I am grateful.
My daughter wanted to attach these pictures I had taken in our backyard. I am still working on the clean background and I am looking to add some fill flash on the pictures as well.
God Bless Moose,
YOU can change the world with your photography…don’t know how…here’s just one way!
It would seem for at least for a few readers, it’s a waste of time reading my posts on the business of photography. They asked I get back to writing about photography so I thought I would. Wildlife photography if you’ve not noticed is an expensive pursuit. The greatest expense is the time required to get that one great shot. When I say great shot, I’m talking about the one that just doesn’t make you and your spouse happy, the one that mom looks at and says, “You should be a professional photographer,” I’m talking about the one that would stop the world and make them look. Getting out in the field and then spending time there to make that shot requires time and when you work a 9-5 job or your self employed, that’s money. And if you’re not out there to make that great shot, then either you’re not a normal photographer or off a little.
Let’s say you get that great photo and I know with time, you all will. Then what? What do you do with that great photo, post it on Flickr or your Facebook wall and say your done? Is that why you spend all that money and all that time, for that one time view on the web? What if, what if you were to take that great photo and were able to reach a greater audience for 30 days or more with your great photo? Couldn’t you with that one great photo make a bigger impact? Could you possibly change the world? Well, to accomplish that and you can, you need to do a little photo business. And that’s what I want you to do with your photography, I want, no need you to make a difference with your wildlife photography! The wildlife needs you to make a difference! So this is in part why I’m talking about this business stuff. You’ve gotta reach a greater audience and it just can’t be the choir on the web. Hopefully for those wondering why I’ve posted some business thoughts, they now have an answer and I didn’t put them to sleep.
My post of yesterday brought in many great comments and questions, it would seem something I wrote connected for some. One recurring question comes from my comment about inventory, what most photographers call their slide files. Looking up the definition of inventory, you can find this: a merchandise or stock on hand, work in progress, raw materials, finished goods on hand, etc., made each year by a business concern. If you think about this definition as it pertains to a photography business, the very definition is a basic business plan. It starts off with the simple premise that you have something to sell when the year begins, photographs already taken, processed and ready to go to a client. It goes on to suggest you need to have raw materials, ideas, camera gear, execution and passion which you in turn create new, fresh finished photographs for clients. The definition concludes that you’ve followed this basic formula all year. And that you start the next year with the same basic formula. The one thing the definition of inventory leaves out though which is essential is, it is only a small portion of a successful business! Any good photography business has a solid inventory and uses it as a mere starting point and not a ending point. This means that in a photography business, the image is where it all starts but is by no means where it all ends. And that my friends is what makes being in the business of photography such a grand pursuit!
If you’re in the portrait business, how you view and deal with the concept of inventory will be totally different from a wildlife photographer. And if you’re into sports, that would be totally different from car photographer. And if you live on the east coast it will be totally different from someone who lives on the west coast. You can easily have a totally different inventory though in the same business. And when you add in the most important variable to any business equation, YOU, then what we simply call inventory can easily be a lifelong pursuit. We are still talking photography, we are still talking business, basic business at that but you quickly can see, it’s really not that basic. But you should also see why I said what some brought into question. I do believe anybody who wants to make photography a business can do so. The biggest variable and the one that counts the most is the one you have the greatest control over. That’s the person behind the camera!
You have to understand, I am incredibly fortunate, incredibly lucky and really good at what I do. Because of the first two things, I try to share what I’ve learned and because of the last, some people want to listen. Jay Maisel is an amazing photographer who gives one of his keys to success away for free all the time and it’s real simple. He carries a camera with him all the time. I am no different, I have it with me all the time and when coupled with being blessed to travel to some cool locations, I’m able to create images that inspire others. I take this all as a huge responsibility which comes in part from a long ago conversation.
Long ago, before I really even knew I was going to be a photographer, I went to a presentation by a very prestigious landscape photographer. His images inspired me to get out and see these locations but when questioned where these exact locations were, he would not reveal the exact locations. His reasoning, if everyone went there then it would be ruined. And history has proved his reasoning as being very true. On the flip side, it belongs to us all, it is all our wild heritage. So when it comes to sharing places I go except for a couple locations where I was asked not to reveal the location to protect a population of a species, I have put it all out there.
Now if you read this blog, you know I share a bunch of those locations. Some are provided for free either in a blog posting, article or in our BT Journal. Others I make folks pay for the information, they’re called workshops. But whatever the case, here’s the one thing photographers seem to miss in this entire process. What you see in my photograph, you will never see again!
No, I don’t set off a nuke when I leave so you can never see the scene again. Rather, no two moments in time are the same! I chase light and when it comes to landscapes, I chase light and clouds. Both are essential elements in my photography and both are fleeting and both are never, ever the same again even if I go back to the exact same spot. Those who travel with me would argue this because they have experienced those magical moments with me, repeatedly, but like I started this whole piece. You have to understand, I am incredibly fortunate, incredibly lucky and really good at what I do. This combination when combined with the KISS theorem makes many aspects of photography repeatable. I have this well honed knack of looking at the elements around me and like Sherlock Holmes, use deductive reasoning to “predict” with some accuracy where I should have my ass to make the shot.
Looking at a map, having a simple iPhone app like Sun Seeker, knowing the light you like, you can do the same thing! In the thousands of pages here on this site, there are lots of suggestions where to be and when. I want YOU ALL to experience the same magic and wonders, capturing them with your camera and then share those results with others. That’s how we will preserve our wild heritage for future generations. That’s why I share so bloody much! Just understand I’m very fortunate, lucky and good at what I do. I do not have the Harry Potter Map to North America Kodak locations nor written it to make the perfect shot any given minute. The key is to simply be out shooting and the rest does tend to unfold. Do your homework, camera, technology, location, weather and I know you will find that Kodak spot for yourself!
When I read a book, it’s often to be entertained where the storyteller paints a mental picture with words leading my imagination where they want to take it. I think a book is a great read when I get done, the story has peaked my imagination and the writer has taken me on a journey I really enjoyed. In this process, the storyteller doesn’t tell the whole story in the first paragraph. Rather, they take lots of time to tap my imagination and let my imagination ask questions, fill in blanks and at the end, satisfies my imagination by letting it know it was right. There’s nothing like a good book!
Can we do the same thing with our photographs? Can we show just enough to tap our viewers imagination and let their imagination do the job of being the storyteller? I’m not talking about cropping here though it is part of the process, I’m talking about moving beyond the basics of photo capture and moving into that realm many don’t see to consider. And that’s the viewer, their life experiences and how we can tap that to grab their imagination. If I were to have posted just the eyes and crown of the Statue of Liberty, you think there are many folks across the globe who wouldn’t have recognized it? If I just had a black shadow of a bison, think there are many who wouldn’t know it’s a bison? So then in our storytelling, our photographs, how much do we have to show?
I ask this question because of a number of images photographers have asked me to comment on in the past couple of weeks. Now I’m not an eyeball photographer, my subjects tend to be real small in the frame. What you see here are eyeball photographs, what was the “IN” thing when I started out 30yrs ago. I never really got into it because I always felt it never left the viewers imagination much room to look. I picked these iamges as examples because they are my best examples of the eyes tapping into your eyes and you’re asking, “What’s going on behind those eyes?” I also selected them because without showing the entire critter, you can easily figure out what species they are. So then, I not only tap your imagination, I make you ask and answer a question. I get you involved with the subject in the photograph.
I’ve seen images lately that the photographer was happy as hell (until they talked to me) with their photo just because it was in focus. As in, that was it’s only redeeming value. There is no doubt that in the beginning, sharpness, exposure and all those basics when they are in place provide us with a level of satisfaction. But this sorry to say is not enough which everyone figures out sooner or later. But then many look for what it takes to move their photos forward. Making images that tap into the viewers imagination is a real challenge, there is no easy way to do it, there is no formula, no online class you can watch to point the way. You have to tap your own imagination and ask it what makes it tick, what excites it? You then have to look in your viewfinder and find that answer your imagination just told you and put that in your photographs. And what goes hand in hand with your imagination? The all important think called passion. I realize that just grasping f/stops and shutter speeds are a challenge at times and that’s OK. I want to encourage you though to share your images and that greatest statisfaction from sharing comes from when you tap the viewers imagination and at the same time, satisfy it with the answer you provide in the same photograph. Just ask yourself a simple question to get the ball rolling. How much do you have to show?