When I started getting serious about photography I kept reading that one should pick a ‘genre’. I was like, ‘what the heck is that’? Why can’t I take any kind of photo I want?
As I read more and photographed more, it made sense. A wedding photographer needs certain skills and tools to take beautiful wedding portraits, just as a sport photographer, and they are each different.
So, I thought – I want to be a landscape photographer.
So, I was surprised when the first photograph I got published was wildlife.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. We just got back from a trip to the beach from AZ, and these are the pix I brought back – all wildlife.
Do what you’re good at… and what you enjoy, and you’ll be good at it.
As I continue to strive to get better pix I find that if I stop to think about the photos before just clicking away at the shutter, my photos come out better.
Case in point when I went out to get smoke pix, just because the smoke makes for more moody pix (see my post here… https://kritterspix.com/2019/10/19/mood-lighting/ ).
So continuing my current pursuit of Fall Colors, we planned a trip to Fossil Creek. When I think of water pix, I think smooth silky water cascading over rocks, which means to me, a long exposure.
So considering the outcome I wanted, I had to think about how to achieve my desired result. Do I go first thing in the morning, dawn… or dusk? With little light to be had, that could work… OR I could go in full daylight and sun and use a tool I carry in my bag – a Neutral Density (ND) Filter.
I actually use a variable ND filter so I can control how much light I cut anywhere between 3 stops to 10 stops. The ND filter allows me to stop down my exposure so I can take a 2 second exposure to get that super silky water. Tripod required!
Hmmm… it works! Thinking through our actions does make a difference. Who’da thunk it? Ha!
I love Fall. The colors are stunning. Though I do find it difficult to capture.
This season, I decided to challenge myself and shoot ‘out of the box’. It appears experts are always looking for something new and different. It doesn’t even matter what the field. Something edgy that hasn’t been done before often ‘wins’ over tried-and-true.
I’m happy to learn techniques, composition, and style that I can apply and repeat. But I suppose that one could argue that such a philosophy can yield predictability and common-place results.
I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. That’s for the eye of the beholder… and the end user to decide.
People often ask me, “what kind of camera do you have?” Or my favorite statement, “you must have a good camera!”
It reminds me of a story I heard some time ago, about the photographer who goes to a gourmet chef’s house for dinner.
The well known published photographer shows up at the woman’s house for dinner. The home owner & chef goes on about how beautiful his photographs are and as she invites him in she adds, ” I love you photographs. You must have a great camera.”
After a lovely evening and an amazing gourmet meal, as the photographer is leaving, he tells the woman how wonderful the meal was, and in parting “you must have a great oven!”
The right camera gear is essential, skill… is priceless.
As everyone of us knows, we all have moments that we might have done differently, if we had the chance. Perhaps in the way we reacted to something, or something we should have done – but didn’t. You know, that ‘if only’ kind of time.
In terms of our passions or hobbies, and in my case (and this blog), I am referring to a photographic moment. That shot I wish I had gotten. Maybe because I neglected to change my setting, or wasn’t quick enough to get the shot. I have been known to get excited and go off taking pix, and forget to change the aperture, or ISO. Sometimes I shoot into the sun – but sometimes that’s where the action is, and no way around it. One can guess how those shots come out… but not always.
There was this time… I wrote about it here https://kritterspaw.com/2019/01/01/a-whoosh-and-a-tale/, when I saw my first mountain lion. it was crazy… and quick, 1/100th of a second quick. My camera was set on a tripod and was taking a photo of this sweet deer, in portrait format.. when all of a sudden, out of nowhere…..
And I got this shot! Note the tail of the deer in the front left… and yes, that’s the mountain lion leaping into action from behind… or at least half a mountain lion.
I lie awake nights wishing I had moved the camera to the right… if only.
If only I had been in landscape format instead of portrait format.
It happened so quick it was over before it started. It would have been that National Geographic kinda shot… or at least AZ Highways! If only…
Arggghhh! If only…
There are so many things to remember when trying to make a good photograph. I recently talked about Keep It Clean, and reducing clutter in a photo. Another important consideration is Shade and Light.
In the photo above, it’s easy to see the large disparity between exposures – intense shade and shadows in the water, and blown highlights in the sky and trees. To make the photo successful, I could have done an HDR to take multiple photos with the proper exposure for each separate condition (Shadow & Highlights), and them merged them later.
Or, using the light that I had, I could cut out the blown highlights in camera, and turned my attention to where the light was more even and exposed for the shadows just by looking down. Cutting out the highlights yielded a more interesting and focused composition.
Remember… mind the Shade & Light, when composing that pic.
Fall colors had me ga-ga like a little kid with a new toy, wandering around snapping shots of all the beauty everywhere I looked. But when I got home and looked at my photos, I got a lot of ‘scraggle’, like that below.
While I tried to be aware of all my photography rules: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, I pulled out contrasting yellow leaf color against dark trunks and green backgrounds. But what I got was ‘scraggle’… busy, busy, busy. Somehow when running around snapping the photos I didn’t see the little twigs that added clutter and distraction.
Instead, I should have been keeping it CLEAN, by pulling out singular subjects and isolating them for a more interesting and uncluttered shot.
The shots I took that CUT THE CLUTTER, took the prize and won my favor and the viewer’s eye.
Now if that doesn’t describe where we live, I don’t know what does!
We live in the most amazing place, with the most amazing people, and the most amazing animals. It is truly somewhere where it’s quiet. Somewhere between the Mogollon Rim and Moqui Draw, surrounded by Potato Lake, Knoll Lake, and Blue Ridge Reservoir, and littered with elk, deer, bobcat, mountain lions, fox, and coyote. This is what we call our home.
After the devastating Tinder Fire (https://kritterspaw.com/2018/05/02/tinder-fire/) which we still continue to clean up from that raged in our backyards, we are blessed to have friends and neighbors helping each other out.
And this is what it looked like BEFORE the fire. My photo of Moqui Draw, now scarred by the Tinder Fire.
“At sunset, fog shrouds a ponderosa pine forest at Moqui Draw, along East Clear Creek in the Coconino National Forest. This spot is about a mile southeast of State Route 87 and northeast of Potato Lake.” Photograph by Kathy Ritter, published in the June 2018 Arizona Highways Magazine, just after the Tinder Fire devastated this very same area.
While I like the action in this photo, as this buck was spooked. It is not a great photo because it is too constrained. It is instead, a perfect example for what not to do. I have left no room for the buck to run. Since I cut off the action, the viewer is left to wonder what spooked him… or where he is going. It lacks that sense of place.
A better photo that shows a sense of place, and includes the subject (my buck) and his environment – the forest and trees. One where the subject is looking at you, and it’s eyes sharp are a bonus. Having the subject well lit, and not in the shadows help to draw the eye to your subject…. albeit often hard to get everything to line up, particularly when working in the wild.
It’s funny, when working in a blind, trying to get that elusive photo of animals in their natural environment, one notices everything…. the loud whir of your AutoFocus motor you never noticed before, the deafening shutter click that alerts the animals to your presence, and the bitter cold that bites through you at dusk when the animals come in.
But, if one is lucky, the photos that might result make the discomfort all worth the while, particularly to be able to capture photos of animals from a ‘ground level’ perspective.