It's Not Always All About the Photograph

It's Not Always All About the Photograph

Lately, I've been in somewhat of a slump. For a couple of months, I haven't shot very much other than products in my office studio.

I've wanted to get out a few times to shoot landscapes and wildlife, but it just seemed that the weather was never right when I tried to go out. When the weather was good, I was busy working. A couple of times, I stood in my yard, but no wildlife came near.

With the COVID-19 thing going around, I've stayed home as much as possible, because my wife is high-risk. The foliage hasn't come out very much yet this spring, so we're in the "gray zone," as I call it: no snow from winter and very few green leaves. 

However, today, I did manage to get out — to my yard. It was fabulous. As I perused around the yard, it reminded me of several aspects of photography that I love. 

The Search for the Subject

I enjoy looking for a subject to photograph. I enjoy finding a composition that can present a subject in either its best way or in a way that reveals things that the viewer may not have seen before.

This search requires me to slow down and look closely. It often reveals things that I may not have noticed if I had been just merely walking by on my way to get somewhere. Maybe it's that tiny flower off to the side or that little bug on a branch. It's like a one-person scavenger hunt. 

Sometimes, I find something unexpected, and sometimes, I come up empty-handed. Either way, I always seem to enjoy the search.

Until I was looking, I didn't notice that the vine leaves were out.

Seeing the Details

When you're looking for the details, you often find things you weren't expecting. In this photo of a dead branch, I didn't even see the little sprouts or spider webs until I looked through the lens of the camera. I wasn't even going to photograph it. I was merely pre-focusing the distance in anticipation of a bird that was nearby.

That little test revealed details previously unseen. It brought me a little joy, a little hope that spring was starting. It was within 20 feet of my front door, but I had never noticed it.

These little sprouts about the size of a pencil eraser were hiding in plain sight.

The Chase

There are a variety of birds, squirrels, and other wildlife that visit my yard, but photographing them isn't always easy. I prefer wildlife photos that don't have man-made objects in them.

Often, it's quite a challenge to position yourself with a good neutral background where you think the wildlife might come. Therein comes the chase, or merely waiting motionless in one spot for extended lengths of time.

It's similar to hunting or fishing. You had better enjoy just being out in nature, because much of the time is spent waiting and observing. The more you do it, the more you learn about your subject.

At the back of my yard, there's a hole in a tree where at least five squirrels live. I've been trying to photograph them, but they always seemed to spot me. Today, I decided to stand there for a while in hopes that they might come out. After about a half-hour, one finally poked his head out. I spent the better part of an hour standing motionless, waiting for it to come out farther, which it eventually did. 

There I stood, less than 20 feet away from the little guy, just watching, and I couldn't have been happier. It wasn't about getting a photograph of a squirrel. It was the thrill of the challenge of trying to get it.

It may not be something your would see in National Geographic, but it was exactly what I set out to capture.

There are quite a few times I go out to shoot and don't get a great image, but almost every time, I enjoy just being out. There's rarely a time that I go out and don't either see something new or find something I wasn't expecting. So, whether it's the search for a subject, the observation of details, or the thrill of the chase, it's always different, and it's always enjoyable.

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Ben Harris's picture

I don’t know what it is about being out with your camera, but I always notice things too.
Like your squirrel, I had to stand still for about 20mins to get this chick poking it’s head up. It’s nothing spectacular, but for me it represents the work in getting the result.

Marv W's picture

A great post, thank you. I often remind myself to look 'around' whilst I'm shooting, rather than just seeing the chosen / intended object itself. The devil's in the detail, as they say. There's always something more to be discerned when we look a little closer, a little more carefully..