Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What type of photographer are you?

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer - and often the supreme disappointment. ” Ansel Adams

Birds get much of my attention and have for a long time. Long past are those 10,000 first photographs. With that, I think I can accurately refer to myself as a "bird photographer". I am very comfortable with bird photography. Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. Always. This can be a single minded effort, and I applaud those geniuses that can focus on one thing and remain on point throughout a lifetime. There are bird photographers that truly fit that description.

Lately, my attention has moved away from birds somewhat and more toward landscape (land and water) photography. Naturally, water-scape images are a significant part of the Everglades. In the beginning for me, these images were nothing more than snapshots from the canoe taken with the sole purpose of a visual journal of our trips in the glades. But now it is much different than that.

Landscape photography has become weighted down as I pay closer attention to detail and attempt to acquire skills used by landscape photographers. This also means I carry more equipment, literally weighing me down. I spend more time now seeking out a landscape composition, typically while standing in the shallow flats of Biscayne Bay or on a beach somewhere in the Everglades. I've gotten bold and placed the tripod in the water as I sit in the canoe inside a mangrove tunnel or stand up in the canoe to get level with the camera while on an old airboat trail that runs through a grass prairie.

In the meantime, landscape photography is causing me much consternation. I make lots of mistakes and I fumble around a lot. With bird photography, the only clumsiness I really experience is on those rare occasions when I attach an external flash and better beamer and try to convince myself that I can take a better image by adding this additional weight and volume to my camera.  I guess I still have to master the camera's tracking focus feature, and no matter how many frames per second I can rifle off, the great white egret is always faster than me. So there is always something that needs to be improved upon. But all-in-all, I can approach bird photography with some confidence and certain amount of finesse that comes with hundreds of hours and thousands of images (most of which have been deleted).

In walks landscape photography. Extremely seductive, especially given all the amazing images from the masters that inspire, landscape photography has hooked me. I am trying to figure it out, and I am attempting this in an environment that does not easily lend itself to powerful images. And I feel like a total klutz. Maybe its because of the tripod I have to carry around or the filters I have to attach to the lens. Photography is, after all, a physical thing as well as a mental thing; and to this end, it could be compared to a sport. Training is the ultimate ergogenic aid. With landscape photography, its all about timing and getting to the right place at the right time and then adapting quickly to the constantly changing light and color. Dodge and weave, dodge and weave.

So I will continue to fumble until I get it right; walking the long beach before realizing I forgot my remote control, clumsily attaching the filter holder as the colors of the sun began to fade, forgetting to turn off the steady shot, failing to get a straight horizon, taking way too long to focus and set up a shot and missing the right moment as a result, overexposing, underexposing, etc, etc. And then when success happens, only to find the image is lacking something. I have a ways to go before I reach that 10,000th image, and then some.

Here's to the photographers that can truly call themselves landscape photographers and I don't just refer to those silhouettes of mountain climbing, tripod-toting dudes. I include all those that are in love with a wilderness place and only want to capture it as best as possible and will do anything to make that happen.

"I tend to think of the act of photographing, generally speaking, as an adventure. My favorite thing is to go where I've never been." Diane Arbus 

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