Monday, January 31, 2011

Birds in Winter

I've always been amazed by how many of my photographer friends put their gear away during the winter months. I so often hear, "Well, there's just nothing interesting to shoot in the winter." I also hear, "There's just not much color in the winter. Scenes are so drab." This couldn't be farther from the truth. Not only are the subjects prevalent, but many are easier to approach during the colder months.

For me, much of my work is about composition and light, and the winter season has plenty of both. Granted, the colorful flowers may be gone, and the grass and leaves are no longer green, but the sky is blue and the sunlight of winter can be magical. The winter is the time to sharpen your compositional skills and to look at subjects with a new vision. Without the focus on color, one can truly explore the relationship between subject and light. I have always felt that photographers can do more to sharpen their skills during the winter months that perhaps any other time of the year. The lack of so much color in the landscape forces one to look elsewhere for subjects, and it demands perfection in the execution of a photo. Winter shooting raises the bar on what constitutes a great shot. Winter photos can clear the clutter from your images and bring a remarkable pleasing simplicity to your images.

Here's a couple of hints for shooting in winter. First, recognize the fact that winter lighting can often be harsh. A polarizing filter can be a useful accessory. Secondly, snow can be a challenge for proper exposure. I generally open the lens a full stop to open up shadows that are so often lost in snow scenes. So.......grab your gear......get off the sofa........and go outside and shoot. Good Luck.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Landscape Light

Although I spend the vast majority of my time photographing birds, I do occasionally like to see what I can do with some Landscapes. I do not consider myself to be a true landscape photographer, but I enjoy the challenge of a good composition and the capture of meaningful photographic lighting. In my opinion, far too much landscape shooting is about subject and little about lighting. I believe that the most important element of any photo is the lighting that is captured, even more important than the subject itself. Granted, their are hordes of folks who would argue that point, but for me personally, it's all about the light, without which I feel a photo is worthless. What separates one from the masses is his or her ability to wait for the perfect light, and to pass on images where the light falls short. Good photographers, indeed, great photographers seek out and wait for the magic moment when light turns the landscape into a painting. Only then do you have an image deserving of the click of the shutter.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Makes "Fine Art" Photography

Photographers have struggled with the question of why some photos seem to be accepted within the fine art world, and so many others are not. The world of fine art has, until recently, managed to lock the door to photographers, but that is changing. Today's photographers are simply producing images that not only unlock that door, but have exploded the door off its' hinges.
Galleries and collectors alike are now welcoming the photographic genre into the club of fine art.
So, why is the door remaining closed to so many photographers? Why are so many photographers frustrated by the rejection they feel from the art community? Is the world of art still closed to the medium of photography, or could it be that it is just more demanding of excellence? I would argue the latter. Like painters and sculptors, not all photographers warrant admission to the club. Sadly, the world of photography is now overrun with folks who have the resources to purchase the very best of photographic equipment, but lack any of the skills to create meaningful photo images. Far to many, some who have been very successful in other endeavors, seem to think they can now move into photography and make their mark on the art world. While it may have taken these folks years to achieve a level of success in the business world, these same folks seem to feel they can shoot some photos, exhibit them at local art shows, and then magically be recognized as "fine art photographers." This line of thinking continues to amaze me. After over 30 years in the business, I still use everyday of shooting as a way of growing.
Photography is so much more than taking a picture. My studies have not been concentrated on photographic technique. That is something that is easily learned, and requires little thought. Instead, my focus has always been on what makes an image special. What makes a strong composition? What role should light play in this singular image? Can a different angle make for a better image, or can a lens choice change the way one sees the image? Can my eye see the image in multiple ways? Can I see the image before me in print? Would I want this image on my wall? All questions that must be answered before the shutter is clicked, but ignored by so many new to the photo world.
Fine Art Photography.........I think it is earned.......not learned. I believe it is limited to those who were born with a gift, and who have chosen to develop that gift, and I believe that those of us who have the joy of earning our living as professional photographers are the luckiest people on the planet.