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.
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.
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.
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 www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.