This article is the first in a series that will augment my regular postings. There is no cookie cutter path to becoming a better nature photographer but there are some things that I see impede photographers and things that I’ve tripped over on my way.
#1 – Find your passion
If you ever attend a workshop, with Gary Hart and I, you’ll hear this same phrase. What draws people to a successful nature photograph is emotion. Those photographs work because they evoke an emotional response in the viewer. The goal is to first figure out what you’re feeling and then try to capture it in the photograph. If a subject isn’t stirring a response within you, it’s very unlikely that it’ll do so for the viewer of your photograph. When you’re walking through a forest, hiking on a trail or strolling on a beach what do you look at? More importantly, what do you feel necessary to share with someone near you? Whether you initially notice or not, those things are evoking a response from you. Learn to pay attention.
Too often photographers fall into the trap of “that’s pretty I should shoot that” without stopping and feeling the scene. Self-help books will often refer to this type of personal inspection as “asking why.” The basic premise is the same, stop and ask yourself why you’re about to take the shot. If you can’t answer, it might be time to move on.
Learning to see with your emotions can be a tricky thing. We all have road blocks that interfere with our creative process. Sometimes I find myself caught up in a location struggling to find a scene just because I think that one should be there. In those cases, I’m rarely successful unless I stop what I’m doing and regroup. For me, the process usually involves identifying the essence of the scene and then finding a composition that speaks to those components. Frequently resulting in a complete departure from my original composition, it’s a working combination for me.