I often write about the challenges of finding nature subjects in an urban environment. Of course, even the largest concrete jungles aren’t all concrete. There’s always a local park or a botanical garden somewhere nearby. Places like these are perfect locations to capture unique compositions of natural and man-made subjects.
Besides photography, one of my other passions is cooking and baking. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I’m always baking some type of cookies or cakes. I use baker’s tools like piping bags and scrapers to make them look like they were purchased from a bakery. People often tell me I should bake professionally, but I have little interest in doing that. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I knew I had to do it. I also have an extensive collection of cookbooks and a filing cabinet full of recipes, categorized with folders devoted to specific meats, vegetables, and of course, sweets. However, I would never consider myself a chef. A cook, perhaps, but never a chef. Unless I’m intimately familiar with a dish, I have to follow a recipe. True chefs don’t “cook by numbers.” They instinctively know how to combine obscure ingredients to produce the most spectacular dishes. I love watching cooking competition shows on the Food Network. I always marvel at how chefs are able to take an odd-ball collection of ingredients like a banana, a pork chop and a cup of cashews, and combine them into award-winning, gourmet masterpieces.
I started to wonder how I could apply that same concept to photography. It’s really not that difficult to create an amazing photo of a great subject in the perfect light. But, what if your subject is less than stellar and your lighting is awful? As a personal challenge, I set out to find the most unremarkable subject and to shoot it in the worst possible light.
Imagine a child’s frustration in trying to see a passing parade while peering through a forest of gargantuan adult legs. I suppose it’s human nature to always want an unobstructed view of whatever it is we’re trying to see. This is especially true of press photographers, and of course… the paparazzi. How many times have you seen them on the evening news jostling and elbowing each other out the way in order to get the “best” shot? In nature, however, the best shot isn’t always necessarily the cleanest shot. If used correctly, certain “distractions” can provide a creative frame or bokeh around your subjects.
It stood alone at the back of the fog-shrouded field. Situated far off the beaten path and dwarfed by its much taller neighbors, it was virtually invisible. Tram loads of visitors were invariably drawn to the flashier specimens along the roadside – giving nary a glance to their diminutive counterpart in the rear. It can be a losing battle for a tiny star magnolia tree to garner any attention under these conditions. However, unexpected gems might be found when you take a closer look at the “underdog.”