Interpretive Nature Photography: Art and Nature

by Jamie Konarski Davidson

Ferns - Multiple exposure with spin to highlight patterns and texture.

Ferns – Multiple exposure with spin to highlight patterns and texture.

What does interpretive nature photography mean? Nature is nature, art is art, and never the two shall meet, right? For some, perhaps this is true. But only for those who have never walked in the woods, sat in a flower garden or watched the sun meet the day or settle in for the night. Or for those who have never stopped long enough to explore a dandelion or to watch a butterfly break free of its chrysalis. Nature IS art, in its finest and purest form. Capturing this essence is what nature photographers live for. It is what makes us unable to imagine doing anything else. It is what brings me peace, healing and joy. It is what pushes me as an individual to be present in the moment and to slow down long enough to see and feel and connect.

So, how do we do this and what do the results look like? Most of us begin our photographic journey with our eyes, hands and mind — seeing something, grabbing the camera and figuring out how to set the camera correctly. This is natural, as we need to see our subjects and to learn how to use our equipment to capture the moment. The sticky piece in this equation is “correctly.” True, technical knowledge is necessary. What is missing, and what makes our work express the “art in nature” is vision and heart. When we see and connect at the heart level, our work begins to shine, and what we share with the world resonates at a deeper level than a pretty picture.

Rose Curl - Selective focus to emphasize edge and flow of petal.

Rose Curl – Selective focus to emphasize edge and flow of petal.

When “in the zone” (not rushed or in a hurry), this process of connecting works very well. I have found that an abundance of time is not required. Rather, a mind open to possibilities and focused on seeing and being present is what elevates our work. The rose petal curl photo is an example. With hundreds to choose from, this one rose stood out. By stopping, slowing down and seeing, the gentle curve of the petal’s edge was what drew my attention most.

On a visit to a garden in late summer, most of the flowers were past prime and the light was harsh. Diffused light was on the fernsabove. While the patterns and texture are attractive, using an in-camera multiple exposure with slight spin created a more playful image.

Poppy Pods - Lensbaby soft focus optic points to design and relationship.

Poppy Pods – Lensbaby soft focus optic points to design and relationship.

Another visit to the same garden revealed the seasonal transition and petal-free poppies. These two pods were intriguing both in their design revealed and in their relationship to each other.  A Lensbaby soft focus optic was just the right tool to create the diffuse background and draw attention to the essence of the poppy that is often dismissed or overlooked.

Milkweed Seed - Vision of lightness and wind achieved in digital darkroom.

Milkweed Seed – Vision of lightness and wind achieved in digital darkroom.

One morning I dipped into my stash of milkweed seeds and pods. The ever-so-slight breeze made it challenging to contain these wisps with seeds. I used my camera to capture the wind’s presence. With the creative tools of the digital darkroom, I was able to transform an imperfect image into one that spoke to the lightness and flow of my milkweed dance.

It does not take hours to create images that speak to your vision. More than anything, it takes a blend of technique, craft and vision. It takes a willingness to be present, open and free of the voices that tell you what not to do. It takes the decision to wonder “what if…,” and then forge your own path that reflects your connection with the subject.

 

NANPA board member Jamie Konarski Davidson is an award-winning freelance outdoor & nature photographer with a passion for capturing and sharing the intimate moments and beauty of the natural world. To see more of her photography and learn about her photo workshops visit her website at http://www.newlifephotos.com.

Jamie will give a presentation on “Interpretive Nature Photography” in one of the breakout sessions at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com. Early bird registration ends on October 31st!