Through my 40 plus years as a nature photographer, I have learned that what I’ve experienced from peering through the viewfinder parallels many of life’s lessons my mother taught me over the years. I would like to share with you just a couple of tidbits of photography wisdom that I now impart to my workshop participants.
Know when to anticipate a moment and when to chase one: When photographing nature, the photographer has to be aware of the here and now – how is the light at this moment going to paint the landscape and how is the photographer going to take advantage of it? In many situations, the photographer has to be ready in a split second to snap the shutter; otherwise, the moment – the image – is gone. Life is much the same way. Don’t let life pass you by without you participating in it. Life is fleeting, so when the opportunity presents itself, grab it with all the gusto you have.
Nature photography, like life, is also a waiting game. The nature photographer has to practice patience as well. Sometimes the moment isn’t exactly right for capturing the image. It might be another minute, hour, day or even another year before the conditions are just right for that remarkable image. Know when to practice patience and when to chase those rare moments.
Stay hungry: Nature photography is a never-ending learning process. Not only do you need to be skilled at the technical aspects of photography, which changes all the time, but you need to understand nature. For me, I stay hungry in my desire to understand more about photography and nature. In life, stay hungry – strive to learn as much as you can about whatever it is that ignites your passion.
Network: Developing and nurturing a strong network remains key to success. Networking helps you learn more about your craft. You become inspired by the success of others. You get motivated to try something new. By nurturing a network of friends and contacts, you can have opportunities presented to you. And when times are tough, a strong network can provide a much needed lift of support. Take it from me, even in nature photography, a strong network of contacts and friends can help.
Watch & Listen: Through my years as a wildlife ecologist I learned to watch and listen to the natural world. From this, I learned about the habits of wild animals, about the phenology of the seasons, and how to read the landscape. I have now parlayed this knowledge and skill into my profession as a nature photographer. I can anticipate how nature might react to a situation and be better able to photograph it.