Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The art of rejection

Rose Campion in Bloom, Washington

Being rejected is a terrible, terrible feeling. But in art, let alone life, I’m not aware of any way to avoid it.

We’re conditioned to only share the positive. We worry that if we show any sign of weakness, it will taint our public image and close the door to future opportunities. Who wants to work with a loser?

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Camera settings hold us back

Evening Light on Reservation Head, Skagit County, Washington

Perhaps more than any other form of art, photography is treated as a technical pursuit. That’s not to say that other forms of art can’t be highly technical — they are! — but most people can appreciate a painting without asking about the specific brands of paint used, the wrist action used to apply it, and so on.

The same cannot be said for a photograph. There’s often an expectation that photographers publish their settings with their images. If the f-stops and ISOs don’t fit with the presentation, the expectation is that the photographer will supply them if asked. If the photographer won’t indulge, it’s assumed he or she is hiding something.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The curse of the modern photocopier

Red Fox in Golden Grasses, San Juan Island, Washington

Wildlife photographers sometimes look for conflict to add drama to their images, but more and more it seems like they’re getting caught up in conflict themselves. Wildlife hotspots are now becoming flashpoints for heated battles between people out for a few Instagram likes and those who believe the photographers are like paparazzi who are doing the animals harm.

One such hotspot is on San Juan Island in Washington state where a few years ago I photographed a bald eagle flying with a red fox and a rabbit. The park was a well-known fox habitat before I captured those photos, and the number of photographers showing up has only grown since.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The art of misery

Lodgepole Pine Snags and Shadows, Winter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Would you like this picture more if you knew I was in pain when I made it? That my fingers ached after I removed one of my gloves in the sub-freezing temperatures in order to work faster in the fleeting light? That a half hour earlier I injured my back while trying to speed through waist-deep snow with my heavy camera bag?

It is a somewhat serious question. Anybody can take photos and most people always have a camera with them. The number of pictures taken in any given day is approaching the population of Earth. So, what separates the dedicated artists from anyone with a smartphone? The amount of suffering is becoming that measuring stick.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Variations on a sunset

Fiery Sunset Over Saratoga Passage, Camano Island, Washington

Look at a sky watcher’s chart and you will see sunset listed as a precise moment of time. I, however, prefer to think of it as an event — an event that can last hours.

There’s more to a sunset than the instant when the sun slips below the horizon. Sometimes an hour before, the western sky can begin to turn golden. Puffy cumulus clouds that are low in the sky can go from being pure white to intense yellow.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Variations on fall color

Autumn Light, Japanese Maple, Seattle, Washington

It has been said that every picture has already been taken. More than a billion pictures are taken each day. And some are largely recreations of images that someone else has taken before.

With such a glut of photography is there anything left to do? It’s a question that was in the back of my mind this past month — a month I mostly spent photographing fall color, something I’ve done every October for more than 20 years now.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

5 tips for better bird photos

Greater Yellowlegs with Shadow, Washington

What turns a bird picture into a work of art? A magazine recently asked me and other photographers who had been honored by Audubon that question. I’m certain we gave them enough material to fill a how-to book. But they were looking only for a short article, so little of it ended up in print. Here’s what would have gone into my chapter.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

The value of waiting

Red Fox Kit in Silhouette, San Juan Island National Historical Park, Washington

Whenever I give a nature talk, one question usually comes up. And it’s almost always phrased as a statement. “You must spend a lot of time standing around waiting for something to happen.”

I do spend a lot of time waiting — but probably not anywhere near the amount people asking the question suspect.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Fir Island blues

Break in Storm Clouds at Dusk, Fir Island, Washington

This photograph looks like dusk at a saltwater marsh, but that’s not what it’s really about. It is my first image of 2021 and it has a lot to say.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Mallards on foggy pond

Mallard Ducks on Foggy Pond, Shoreline, Washington

I’ve spent much of this year trying to find new appreciation for the ordinary. It’s been the only way to stay safely productive. And while I certainly miss new experiences and exotic locations, trying to see things I know well with a more creative eye has been a wonderful experience of its own.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Rediscovering the beauty of city parks

Sunset Over Autumn Lily Pads, Lake Sammamish, Redmond, Washington

The challenges of 2020 have certainly affected my approach to nature photography, but the impact hasn’t been entirely bad. Because of the travel restrictions, this year I have renewed my appreciation for city parks.

City parks are critically important to the environment. Let’s take London as just one example. More than 300 species of birds live within its city limits because parks and gardens provide so much green space. Add other creatures, flowering plants and insects and the list of unique species there tops 13,000.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Portrait of a barred owl

Portrait of a Barred Owl, Edmonds, Washington

While it can be incredibly exciting to photograph in a new place or to spend time with an animal you’ve never photographed before, I also enjoy revisiting old subjects. It’s allowed me to make some of my more creative images. It’s that familiarity that allowed me to make this portrait of a barred owl.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Walled-In Pond

Cherry Blossom Reflections, Snohomish County, Washington

To call these unusual times minimizes how unusual they really are. Over the past seven weeks, the majority of my photography has been conducted within a few feet of my front door. And given that the stay-at-home order in my state has just been extended, my yard will continue to be my photography subject for at least another four more.

It’s easy to fixate on the limits. My spring and summer travel plans have been scrapped. And I can’t help but think of the photo opportunities in the parks close to home, which are off-limits to my camera and tripod. But these nearly two months at home have also been eye-opening.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

When fog is more than fog

Morning Fog, Sparks Lake, Oregon

One of the biggest challenges a visual artist faces is capturing people’s attention — and then keeping it. Compelling art captivates people. It inspires them to look around and appreciate every inch. Most pictures, however, are lucky to get more than a few seconds of anyone’s time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Art and Instagram

Burrowing Owls Cuddling, Zanjero Park, Gilbert, Arizona

I’ll be honest with you. I’m sharing this image because I know it will do well on Instagram.

Even though I consider myself a nature photographer — I photograph wildlife and wilderness! — on social media, my wildlife images take priority. It’s the animals that get the digital hearts from my followers.

This image should hit all the right buttons. Owls are always cute. Burrowing owls are among the cutest. Two burrowing owls cuddling should be off the charts.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The “new” thing for better photography

Winter Sun Through Snowy Forest

Photographers are conditioned to always need something new.

Often it’s equipment. We’re bombarded with ads for new cameras and lenses that somehow will immediately make our art better.

For nature and wildlife photographers, it’s also locations. There’s always some hot new location that promises incredible opportunities that are like none we’ve ever seen before.

But there’s one new thing that will make an even bigger difference in your photography. It’s attitude.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The wind blows again

Erosion in Progress, Rucker Hill, Everett, Washington

As I wrote last month, wind can seem like an impossible concept to capture in a still image. But just a few days after posting about my experience in the wind in Pinnacles National Park, I found yet another opportunity close to home.

My latest wind image came on a day when I had set out to photograph nesting kingfishers. The birds weren’t cooperative, but because I had just written about the wind, the image at the top of this post practically jumped out at me.

For me, the image illustrates more than the wind. It also shows how assigning yourself ongoing projects can help you to break through creative logjams.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

What does the wind look like?

Sunset on High Peaks, Pinnacles National Park, California

You often hear of artists talking about their careers in terms of personal growth. Over the nearly 20 years I’ve been photographing nature, my vision has certainly grown.

In the beginning, I was satisfied with images that made nature look as pretty as possible. Today, I try to make images that are pretty but also communicate how I felt when I pressed the shutter button. And in Pinnacles National Park, California, last month, that meant I had to find a way to photograph the wind.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

From polluted to paradise: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

If you’ve only visited the national parks of the U.S. west coast you have a very specific view of what national parks are: spectacular wonders of nature that were preserved before development had much of a chance to alter them.

But the definition broadens as you head east. A national park isn’t necessarily pristine wilderness. And if you can get past the fact that the water in one used to catch fire, beautiful scenery awaits.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

In honor of Mountain Light Gallery

Waterfalls Near the Continental Divide, Glacier National Park, Montana

While I learned the art of nature photography through independent study, there’s no question that Galen Rowell was my professor. We had never talked and he had likely never seen any of my work. He died 15 years ago, just before I landed my first major publishing credits.

But about 10 years ago I got an opportunity to visit his Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, Calif., which had become a museum for his life’s work. In addition to showing his classic prints, there was even a display case housing one of his lightweight Nikon 35mm cameras. I’m heartbroken on hearing the news that the gallery will close within the next few weeks. Everything — including the last prints bearing his signature — is priced to sell.

To be an artist, it’s imperative that you find your own voice, but you start that journey on a path others have laid.