Part I: Going Beyond F/stops & Shutter Speeds
“There is no place like springtime in the marsh. I like to just sit back and let it tell me all its stories.”—Karen Hollingsworth
Karen is a fellow NANPA member and nature photographer, and I’ve often repeated her words to my workshop students to emphasize the value of savoring the experience. I have learned that an outstanding image takes more than technical skills. The more you are into the moment, the more your images stand out.
A few weeks ago, I drove to my childhood home in the remote coalfield region of southern West Virginia. Much has changed since I grew up there, but one constant remains: a small mountain lake that has served as my secret location to explore and photograph nature. There is nothing fancy about this lake, but it has provided me with countless hours of enjoyment.
During my latest trip, I thought about how all landscapes hold important lessons that not only help us become better nature photographers, but also help us appreciate moments in nature. Here are a few of those lessons from my little lake:
Wherever you go, there you are
Original, eh? Well, not exactly, but this drives home the importance of making the best of your situation. While this lake is not a crown jewel of the National Park Service, I have yet to be bored or disappointed with what I find there each time I visit. When I started out on this trip, I had no idea I would be treated to two extraordinary days of photographing birds from northern parula warblers to ovenbirds to American redstarts.
Most nature photographers would prefer to be in exotic locations, but let’s face it, it’s not always going to happen. Enjoy nature wherever you are at the moment.
Don’t just photograph nature; photograph to be in nature
I am always impressed by how most of my workshop students become immersed in their surroundings. From the beginner to the most advanced, each student appreciates what is happening around them.
It helps when the instructor is more than a technical guru and shows his or her enthusiasm to be in nature. Just as important is for the instructor to be an interpreter of nature and to share that knowledge with the students.
At a recent workshop, my students had just as much fun watching a great egret patiently wait for the right moment to strike the water to catch a fish as they did actually photographing the egret. We had the added enjoyment as friends and colleagues to share the scene unfolding right before us.
Next time you are in a location you think is not worthy of your time to photograph, think again.
A past NANPA President, Jim is the nature photography instructor for the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, Wallops Island, Virginia, and is a contributing editor for Outdoor Photographer Magazine. The author/photographer of six books, Jim is particularly proud of two children’s books he did with his son, Carson. Jim was also major contributor to the book, Coal Country. Visit Jim’s website at www.jimclarkphoto.com, blog at www.jimclarkphoto.wordpress.com, or like him on Facebook.