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Friday, June 1, 2007

Finding Passion (In Nature Photography)

What does it take to create images that go beyond what everyone else has?

Let’s look at the first idea. Many photographers are so awed by nature that they spend a lot of money for the best in equipment, just so they can capture that awe. The camera is put on a tripod in front of the scene, then reverentially, an image is made. I know this mode—I’ve been there with that camera and tripod.

But too often, that awe isn’t captured because the awe isn’t in the nature, but in the photographer. A passive recording of the scene can’t show awe that comes from the photographer. This is why, so often, photographers will describe, quite vividly, their excitement in the photography, yet the viewer sees none of that in the actual images.

I’m learning some ways around that trap. First, I need to recognize that the awe is in us, not the subject, and that I must work to master the craft of photography so that I can make the technology and techniques serve my photographs, not the subject, so that my passion can come through in the image.

Second, I want to play and experiment with photography, stretch its boundaries, not to try to fool anyone, but to learn how to better communicate through words and pictures my feelings and my passion for nature. This is no easy task, especially for an ex-Minnesotan with Lutheran leanings. But I’ve been so stimulated by photographers like Beth Wald (in this issue) and their passionate work, plus the good L.A. work, that I want to do better with allowing my passions to show in my photography as well.

As to the other challenge—the strong influence of the past—the best example of this is probably David Muench. His strong foreground plus strong background wide-angle shots are a trademark of his work, and he started doing this type of shot many years ago. I’m sure he doesn’t know whether to be proud of or shocked by all the copies of his technique. You actually hear people talking about a David Muench foreground or wide-angle technique as if it was about technology and not someone’s personal vision.

A lot of the Muench-wannabe photographs really have little passion, whereas the original David Muench pictures show a great deal of passion in the images. This is because the first are merely technique, while the latter truly are based on something within the photographer’s soul.


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