In these modern and crazed times when everything has become abbreviated, when fast pace is the norm, when expediency is demanded and the speed at which technology has brainwashed us, we’re often asked to perform very difficult tasks: at a job interview, please sum yourself up in one word; when asked about a movie, tell me what it was like in one word; when faced with a problem, fix it with just one try; when trying out for something, you get just one chance. If a perceived “wrong” answer is given or we don’t live up to the task on the first go-round, the consequence finds us despondent.
This brings me to the point of this week’s Photo Tip of the Week. What if we were to challenge ourselves to capture the essence of an entire scene in one image? What if we were to challenge ourselves to capture the essence of what a single wildlife species is all about in one image? What if we were to challenge ourselves to capture everything we encounter in one image?
In many cases, this trial creates an impossible situation and hopefully brings perspective as to just how crazed we’ve become as a society. With all the above in mind, this week’s tip creates a win/win situation! How often does that happen? You win if you do capture the essence in a single image and you win if you don’t because you’ve justified in your head that we all need to slow down, take a longer look at the world and treat time with more respect!
In trying to meet the standard to create the essence of a location or animal in just one image, let me share a few points of insight as to how this can be accomplished. First off, slow down and absorb what confronts you. Do this for two reasons: It will make you look harder and more intently at the world, which hopefully nets you a better image. Secondly, it will force you to think about capturing the image with a given focal length before you randomly fire away. Will your thought process take you to capture the entire environment or will you find that you zoom in to borrow a small slice of what unfolds before your eyes? Maybe you’ll even go macro. Maybe you’ll take in the grand landscape. The point is, you’ll think about what the scene says to you and after pondering it for a bit, that’s when you press the shutter.
Please don’t get the wrong idea about this week’s tip. By no means should you restrict yourself to just one image when you go out in the field. After all, one of my mantras is, Exhaust All Possibilities, and I solidly live by it. What I do want to inspire is have you give deeper thought to how the scene speaks to you. What’s its primary focus? What message does it convey? Make that image first and proceed from there. Approach any subsequent shot with the same thought pattern! What’s the essence of the zoomed-in version? What’s the essence of the wide version? In other words, if you rely on the machine gun tactic to get a “lucky” shot, first think about what you want that final image to look like. You just may find yourself slowing down a bit and mellowing out—something positive for the psyche!
When I listen to a favorite song I crank up the volume—it makes me want to sing along, play air guitar, or tap the steering wheel along with the drummer. There are a handful of movies I watch over and over. Even if I’ve seen it numerous times, if I channel surf and the movie comes on, I get sucked right in. What about a TV show where you bought the DVD series and you’ve watched it again and again? What about that favorite TV show you always watch when you eat dinner? (mine is “Jeopardy”).
What’s it about all the above that pulls you in like a magnet every time it’s heard or seen? There’s a feeling when you hear the song, see the movie or watch the show. To capture the essence of a place in a single photograph, view what unfolds in front of you as if it’s a favorite song or DVD series. Create a feeling that inspires you to turn up the volume or rewatch what you’ve already seen numerous times. Preconceive the image in your head and then press the shutter. Explore your inner depths further and make another photo that presents a different feel. Regardless of what motivates you, let it be the driving force so you make that one image that creatively captures the character of the place or animal.
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.