NATURE’S VIEW: Lessons from the Lake, Part Two, by Jim Clark

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Beach @ Sunset 3 Assateague Island Nat Seashore VA (c) Jim Clark

PART TWO: Exploring with an open mind
Story and photographs by Jim Clark©

When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.
—Edward O. Wilson

Harvard professor emeritus Edward O. Wilson is one of my conservation heroes, and this is one of my favorite quotes. All nature photographers can probably relate to it. There is nature to be seen everywhere and all kinds of wildlife behavior to record.

The little mountain lake in West Virginia that I introduced you to in the May 2014 issue of NANPA eNews taught me a few lessons that reinforce the meaning of that quote.

You have choices, explore your options

Regardless of how often I photograph at a location, I look for (and find) something new to photograph every time I’m there. By simply changing your perspective—slowly moving around a scene—you can discover compositions that have yet to be captured.

Understanding how to use different lighting situations—side, backlit, diffused, and frontal—also provides more options. While the subject remains the same, the interpretation doesn’t. And changing the focal length provides even more choices on portraying a familiar subject in different ways. For example, instead of using a wide-angle, opt for a mid-range telephoto to compress a scene and isolate a portion of it.

Cooper's Hawk at Sunset 11102013 Chincoteague NWR VA (c) Jim Clark

Cooper’s Hawk at Sunset, Chincoteague NWR VA (c) Jim Clark

It’s never crowded going the extra mile

Through the years, I have become more discerning in what I photograph and how I go about it—passing up some typical compositions that I’ve done time and time again. Keeping in mind that I have choices and can explore other options, I usually give myself some time to become comfortable in a place. Inspiration typically follows.

Recently, I spent two weeks photographing along the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia. On the first day at each location, I didn’t worry about what to photograph. My cameras were at my side, but I took that time to explore and enjoy the area. That’s something I’ve learned to do over time, and I continually strive to instill it in my students. Enjoy the moment first and then the image will come to you. After getting into the moment, I started seeing more to photograph. Instead of rushing, I took my time. I watched, listened and absorbed my surroundings. Then, I decided to push myself by waiting just a little bit longer. While I waited, the marsh told me its stories.

Going the extra mile means having patience. That’s the gift of nature photography. Savor the special moments that unfold before you. Capture a new, more informed image. Those who view your image just might feel the moment as well.

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.

© 2013 - North American Nature Photography Association
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