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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?

Ansel Adams once talked about this issue. Evidently, photography schools once had everyone take the same photo—not just the same subject, but the exact same photo. This was supposedly done so certain techniques could be emphasized. Adams hated that approach because he felt it killed the creativity and original thinking of a beginning photographer—and maybe removed passion; it’s pretty hard to be passionate about photographing something exactly the same as the rest of a group in a class.

I know all about this. I’ve done it myself for both Rowell- and Muench-like shots. I once saw a bit of edge light at sunset that looked just like a Galen Rowell shot, so I had to take that picture, figuring if it was good enough for Galen, it was good enough for me. But I know now that my image could never have had the same passion that Rowell’s photos had. My photo may be technically perfect, but it has nothing more than technique to grab the viewer.

My change to digital influenced me to go beyond technique and find my own passions to photograph. Why? Because I could see the image as soon as I took it—I could look at a little "photograph" in the LCD and see if it worked as a photograph, not simply a captured subject. More than once I’ve packed up my tripod and gear, then decided to take another look at the LCD review, only to discover I didn’t get what I wanted, so the tripod was set back up and the gear pulled out of the bag.

That has been a good thing for me. That second look at the image I had captured let me see it more isolated than when the camera was set up "in awe" of the subject. Often, I didn’t see the awe, so it meant going back to work, but it was exciting to know I was getting a better photo.

What does passion and awe mean to you in your photography? It’s something different for all of us. The key to gaining more-expressive and evocative images of nature is to find out what it means to you, then experiment with a lot of picture-taking to discover how to best show it off in your photographs.


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