Quick! There’s a bald eagle across the river. What lens do you use?
To make art, we need to break ourselves from the habit of always answering “the longest lens I have.”
Don’t worry. This is not turning into an equipment blog. It has always annoyed me when someone has looked at one of my best images and said, “What camera did you use? I should get one.”
Last I checked, my camera doesn’t venture out by itself. Or, if it does, it seems to forget to take the memory card with it.
I also think that a truly stunning image is more art than science. If we obsess only about the equipment, we act as if there’s no difference between photography and a chemistry equation: Camera X + Lens Y + Exposure Settings Z = Pulitzer!
That said, I got a new camera — a Canon 1D Mark IV — and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in the first couple weeks of using it.
While tearing apart my office this week in a frantic effort to find a Windows recovery CD – long story – I found a 20-page book. Each page showed off one of my best images from 2001.
I made books like that every year the first few years after I became a serious photographer. They were a way to celebrate my accomplishments. I also used them to get my first few gallery shows.
I don’t know why I stopped, but I’m going to start doing it again. I saw that photographer Jim Goldstein is compiling a directory of the year’s best images from a number of photographers. It seemed like a fun project, but it’s also worthwhile.
One of the things I discovered in compiling my 12 — just 12; I’m also a better photo editor now — is that I do my most creative work either while traveling or in the first few weeks after I’m back. One of my goals this year is to bring that creative approach to the things I see every day.
Check back in a year to see how I do. In the meantime, here's my best work from 2009:
Some of my best bald eagle images have come from British Columbia on a little levee in a little town between the sea and the mountains.
Once I saw four eagles share a log, just hanging out, watching the river flow by. Another time, a bald eagle flew right by me, fresh salmon in tow, then land and eat lunch maybe 30 feet from where I set up my camera.
There’s nothing quite like standing on the top of a mountain, admiring a view that stretches for hundreds of miles. Looking out an airplane window is a close second, and with a little work, you can get some stunning images — even from a seat in a commercial jetliner.
The sunset last night was absolutely incredible — one of the most dramatic I've seen in a while. I had a feeling early on that it was going to be good. I noticed thin wispy clouds high in the sky early in the afternoon and made plans to be down by the water at sunset in case the sky lit up.