Taking the Long View
|American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)|
Those superbly detailed close-ups we enjoy week after week on WBW are the nature photographer's sexy new lover. Brand new cameras overstuffed with mega-pixels and lightening fast auto-focus lenses produce mind boggling results. On top of that comes the guilty pleasure of post processing, upping the ante even further as we sharpen, crop, and saturate to our hearts content. Those glistening eye highlights and finely sharpened feather textures will stop even a non-nature lover in their tracks.
"Did you take that?" They gasp in astonishment.
Little do they know of our dirty little secret. It's the technology, stupid!
Only recently have these magical powers been bestowed on photographers by the fast advance of digital photography. Have you seen the dragonfly and hummingbird pictures out there? When but now has that been possible?
I remember sitting in front of the TV in 1964 when The Beatles took the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show. The girls went mad with an emotional upheaval that was louder than the rock and roll they came to enjoy. Every TV connected kid made up their mind in that moment to become a musician. I could think of nothing else, it pierced me like eagle talons. That madness was to grip me again 47 years later when I happened upon an epic picture of a Great egret flipping a frog into the air before munching it down. The perfectly focused close-up of the frogs flight was frozen in super natural clarity. I was agog that such a spine tingling picture was possible without the financial backing of The National Geographic Society. I went stupid with desire to take a picture like that. Just like 1964, I researched and fretted over the purchase of equipment I did not know how to use. Patiently I rehearsed the skills that were described in the articles and slowly, every now and then, I would take a picture that showed I was getting closer to the kind of results I yearned for.
I admit it, I was smitten with a child like desire to be the guy who gives the world those pictures.
It occurred to me last week that this overwhelming desire to take closer and more finely detailed pictures could be an artistic dead end, a trap. Not to say the difficult skills involved in applying the latest technology toward producing those crowd pleasing portraits are not worthy of our passion, far from it. The shear emotional appeal of tracking down and locking lens onto birds at close quarters is impossible not to strive for. All the big shooters are running in this race, it takes loads of time and a sizable financial commitment but the chances of having the Happy Accident of taking a truly remarkable picture have never been better. The possibility of crossing a diamond with a pearl; in this case an interesting pose matched with the technical revelations of today's digital breakthroughs, demands our attention. We are seeing pictures never before thought possible. It is so now.
These new macro pictures are, however, not necessarily the most satisfying pictures ever taken. The temptation to get closer can overwhelm other artistic considerations. Context is often lost!
You could hypothetically fill an entire frame with nothing more than the eye of a bug but it's shock value would come more from it's appeal as a science project than an artistic achievement.
"Back up a little!" The thought came into my head with the force of a gong. Why do I so rarely photograph birds in the context of their environment?
Think: Does the limb this bug is perched on belong to a tree or a bush? Is the bush in a forest or a swamp? Is it spring or summer in the swamp? You can't get that information from staring into an eyeball.
On the surface, putting a thing in it's place sounds easy enough to achieve, it should happen often enough just by accident, but as I started rummaging through files looking for pictorial examples I realised to my horror how rigidly focused my concentration on the reckless pursuit of super detailed close-ups is. Where in the name of heaven were all the pictures that reveal birds as an intrinsic part of the natural world?
The Rule of Three!
There is a rule that I have perhaps followed to blindly, a facet of the universal rule of threes that states: A birds image should take up 1/3 of the total frame to be seen properly. While it's still a good rule, overdoing it tends to make every picture look like it was taken for a field guide.
The rules of three are broken at your own risk. Even the Beatles spoke of their musical ramifications. Notice how the last phrase in the lyrics of Beatle songs repeats three times at the end of their myriad three minute hits. Start with "She Loves You" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and continue right on through "Strawberry Fields Forever." It works.
In photography the rock solid rule of thirds reveals the secrets of a well composed picture too. Slicing our pictures equally from top to bottom and from side to side, like a tic-tac-toe board, will show the lines overlapping in four places, at the perfect thirds. Ordinarily one of those points is where the focus of a well composed picture will be. When a illustration has a little more air in it, and the subject takes only a small percentage of the full frame, this rule becomes paramount. Following it inexplicably helps to focus the power of a composition. It is heady stuff.
This important facet of the rule of thirds is explained in depth by clicking HERE!
Lascaux, France we have been hooked on pictures. From charcoal and blood to the electronic blips of digital photography we have developed increasingly exacting ways to reinvent the artistic endeavours of our ancestors. Technologies advances are well documented in the demanding speciality of bird photography. As we look deeper into today's hypnotic macro realms don't forget the challenge of taking a step back and showing your subject as part of a larger picture.
Why the superpowers never sent a poet into space I'll never know, but they did send cameras. Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders achieved one of the greatest pictures ever taken with his Earth Rise image. He took the long view and changed the way thinking people regard our planetary home forever. As photographers we owe much to the Techies. They provide new ways for the creative mind to snatch relevance from the chaos. As it never has before, technology makes it possible to capture the wonder of planet Earth in wonderful clarity.
It's our planet, lets go take its picture!
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
Now it's time for World Bird Wednesday!
This is the home of World Bird Wednesday. A place for bird photographers from around the world to gather and share their photographs and experiences as they pursue Natures most beautiful treasurers, the birds.
World Bird Wednesday will be open for posting at 12 noon Tuesday EST North America through midnight on Wednesday.
#1. Simply copy the above picture onto your W.B.W. blog entry. It contains a link for your readers to share in WBW. Or you can copy this link on to your blog page to share W.B.W. http://pineriverreview.blogspot.com/
#2. Come to The Pine River Review on Tuesday Noon EST North America through Wednesday midnight and submit your blog entry with Linky.
#3. Check back in during the course of the next day and explore these excellent photoblogs!
The idea of a meme is that you will visit each others blogs and perhaps leave a comment to incourage your compadres!
Come on it's your turn!