Use Your Eyes To Listen

Use Your Eyes To Listen

The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl. The Stanley Cup is bestowed to the number-one hockey team. Both are prestigious and well known. In every sport, race, etc., there’s an award for outstanding accomplishments. Nature photographers also seek out a trophy—the Lombardi trophy of light, the World Cup of composition, and the FIFA cup of f-stops. But not every landscape has to earn the Green Jacket. Trophies are issued in Little League, Pee Wee football, and even ping-pong tournaments. Each recipient is still a winner. While not as grand as the big boy awards, they’re still worthy of recognition. Enter the intimate landscape. The intimate landscape is smaller in detail, composition and view, yet a well-conceived one is still worthy of The Commissioner’s Trophy for World Series success.

Use Your Eyes To Listen

Thought Process: Iconic images of The Grand Tetons, Big Sur, Delicate Arch, the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, etc., always draw you to their locations. But while you’re waiting for the light, the wind to subside or color to richen, open your eyes to the smaller slices of the scene. Zoom with your eyes and look beyond the preconceived picture-postcard image you have in mind. Look for the picture within the picture. It’s often found by singling out a section of a scene. Study the shapes, light and compositional elements. Is there a peak that demands its own attention? Is there a center portion of the scene that should be captured unto itself? Think about what you can extract from the shot others made before you.

Use Your Eyes To Listen

Where to Look: The answer to this rhetorical statement is, everywhere. An isolated autumn leaf may rest on a still body of water onto which the grand landscape is reflected. While you’re waiting for the light to illuminate the scene, break out the macro and photograph the leaf. A solitary fern may emerge from a rocky shore where a seascape awaits the click of the shutter. The fern or leaf may be to your left or right. If the light is flat, odds are the shot of the leaf or fern will net a better image than the grand scenic. This being the case, these shots win the trophy. There may be a cluster of spring dogwood blooms that have a unique form. In this case, an elevated glance is in order. And by all means, always turn around to view the world behind you. Many photographers get so keyed into the anticipated shot, they’re oblivious to what else is going on. Listen to what calls your name, but listen with your eyes.

Use Your Eyes To Listen

Beyond Macro: Many associate the term “intimate landscape” with macro photography. This may be so, but there are a plethora of other intimate possibilities. Don’t overlook the bigger stuff. An isolated autumn backlit cottonwood may call your name if you “listen with your eyes.” A crack in a lichen-covered boulder may incubate flowers. Look for patterns, shapes, and textures to photograph. A gentle cascade contained in a foreground river may net a trophy. The bottom line is to not just key into the preconceived grand trophy photo but to look elsewhere and everywhere. It just may be the shot of the trip and the one that wins the contest into which it’s entered.

Visit for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.

Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is ͞All About The Light͟ and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.


    Great article, Russ. You have a wonderful skill for sharing your knowledge with clarity in your articles. I will share your article with my granddaughter who is a budding photographer.

    Merry christmas

    Bill Brennan

    Bill – I just want to let you know how much it means to me that your granddaughter will be exposed to my article – you know how much I love to share and to know that my thoughts are being shared with the youth is what it’s all about – much appreciated! Russ

    Russ – you inspire me! I shot Antelope Canyon last year and came back with many very nice photos (it’s hard not to). They were mostly in the 50-90mm range. I didn’t “see” the macro possibilities that your closeup of the sandstone so wonderfully demonstrates. Same is true of the white birch/forest greenery shot. I’m mainly a landscape photographer. You’ve opened my eyes to the macro opportunities that await. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, photos and expertise. I love your work.

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