Like most of us of a certain age, I shot thousands of rolls of film over many, many years. As a result, I have five large, steel, filing cabinets in a cold room that are just chock full of carefully filed archival slide pages. Those who feel a pang of nostalgia for all of those 2 x 2” cardboard slide mounts, please raise your hand.
Next to the sun, water is probably the most photographed subject in nature. It can convey power and strength as a magnificent crashing wave or serenity and calmness as a gentle babbling brook. With a fast shutter speed, you can freeze it in time to see every detail or use a slow shutter speed to render it as an ethereal mist. Of course, let’s not forget its beautiful reflective properties. No wonder that water is a fascinating subject to photograph! In fact, it’s so fascinating that even a solitary droplet can elicit feelings of awe and wonder. And that takes us to water droplet photography, a specialized type of photography that takes a lot of trial and error to successfully accomplish. The stunning results make it well worth the effort.
Getting out in nature is good for the soul, good for our photography, and maybe even good for business. As nature photographers, we intuitively know that being outside, immersed in nature, is good for us. It fills our creative and artistic needs, but it also makes us feel better, physically and mentally. A variety of scientific studies prove these truths we’ve known all along. As health care systems realize the healing power of nature, more are placing nature photos in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. I was reminded of how important those health benefits are and how they impact nature photography by a couple of recent stories.
In the days of film, accurate metering was a big headache for many beginning photographers. It was even worse if you were shooting color slide film. Unlike color print film, which often had color and exposure corrected by the processing lab before the prints were made, slide film was much less forgiving… what you shot was what you got. My film of choice was Fuji Velvia ISO 50. It’s a highly-saturated, fine-grain film and perfect for nature photography. Its only downside is that it has very little exposure latitude – meaning that if your exposure is off by just a stop or two, your highlight and/or shadow details might be completely lost. My normal workflow was to take multiple meter readings of each scene… one of the highlights, one of the mid-tones and one of the shadows. I’d then do a quick mental calculation to determine the best exposure for the subject – usually a totally different setting from any of the readings I just took.
Earlier this year, birds started coming down with swollen eyes and “crusty discharges,” neurological symptoms, and blindness which all too often led to death. The disease spread quickly through 11 mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states, as far south as Florida and as far west as Indiana, prompting state wildlife agencies and Audubon chapters to urge people to take down feeders. Bodies of dead birds were sent to labs for analysis, hoping to pinpoint the pathogen responsible. To date, there has been no firm diagnosis. As the summer ended, so did reports of ill birds. Just as swiftly and mysteriously as it started, so this disease seems to be abating.
A BioBlitz is a great opportunity to get out into nature and observe all the species of plants and animals (and fungi) that inhabit an area, whether that’s a local park or meadow or someplace you have traveled. During a BioBlitz, participants observe, photograph, and upload their observations to iNaturalist. During NANPA’s recent Nature Photography Day BioBlitz, more than 9,000 observations were logged, covering more than 3,000 species, 97 of which were threatened. The date contributed by participants becomes available to scientists and researchers—a true citizen-science project. We’ve profiled several participants (here, here, and here) already. Today, we turn our attention to Judd Patterson, who works for the National Park Service and pursues nature photography in his spare time. He logged observations of several rare and/or threatened species.
In part one of this article, I covered some of the training and skills needed to become a professional nature photographer, gave some tips about marketing, and explored the various income streams available. If you haven’t already, it’s worth going back and starting there. Once you’ve absorbed part one, it’s time to dive into part two.
A few years back I authored an article about making a living as a nature photographer. It has been widely read, shared, and remains quite popular. Over the intervening 6 years or so, , the photography industry and the way we make our living has changed tremendously. It is time to do an update.
We’ve written many times about copyright issues that NANPA’s Advocacy Committee, chaired by Jane Halperin and assisted by Sean Fitzgerald, is following and the actions NANPA has taken to protect the intellectual property rights of photographers. Yet another troubling example has surfaced of an initiative that tramples on photographers rights and, this time, from a surprising source: the Museum of Modern Art in New York, also known as MoMA.
Today’s young people will become tomorrow’s conservationists and nature photographers if, and maybe only if, they are able to get out and experience the wonders of nature. They’ll be the ones whose dollars keep camera companies innovating, whose votes protect the wild and beautiful, and whose vision and aesthetics take photography in exciting new directions if they learn to appreciate our precious natural world. But too many young people don’t have easy access to wild places and aren’t getting the transformative experiences that will inspire them to take up the challenges of documenting, advocating for, and protecting nature. That dilemma inspired Daniel Dietrich to create Conservation Kids.