OTTAWA NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY–AN ABBREVIATED TEXT OF PERCEPTION AND DESIGN
Article prepared (Spring/Summer 2017) by Ottawa Nature Photographer, Jeff Ryan, Ryan Studio, Ottawa.
At the time of this writing, when spring/early summer arrives, a rejuvenation of spirit accompanied with a sense of heightened awareness creates a renewed sense of awe for camera enthusiasts. Regardless of the fact if you’re a novice or seasoned professional photographer/artist, new beginnings are presented to each of us tempting our palette of visual design. If your thoughts are similar to mine, our compliments are again extended to mother nature producing yet another season of glorious and sometimes adverse photographic conditions.
Strolling through a forest recently, an abundance of nature’s elements cause one’s head to turn quickly recognizing another regeneration of life process stimulating our creative passion. The numerous tonalities and various species of tree leaves resembling lime coloured wombs are particularly striking against the often mono chromatic bark surrounding them. During my initial visits to the forest this year, the full tapestry had yet to be woven, but soon, initial subtleties are replaced with vivid splendour often unimaginable for some. How I produce compositions which I believe to be meaningful are by entering the decision making process and asking the question….what attracted me to this area at the outset. Was it the various subtleties of the newly budding leaves, the repetition of patterns in a farmer’s field, the glorious back lighting or the diverse range of colours in a sunrise or sunset? This process of diagnosing the scene prior to actually making photographs can become quite arbitrary over time, leading one back to your initial feelings about what captivated my interests and made me want to create imagery at this specific location. I believe sincerely stated, that time and thought must be invested liberally when composing imagery on the ground glass of my cameras. Regardless if the reader is producing imagery utilizing the digital medium or traditional film methods of photography, the investment of equipment alone precludes that an expense has been made in visual recording equipment which should be treated respectfully. If used properly, your camera will provide the user with satisfaction as an extension of your minds eye of creativity. I have found through first hand experience that accessing 2-3 lenses on a regular basis is a wise decision for photographer’s to make. Familiar lenses and camera technique become dependable and predictable such as good friends are over time, and I afterwards, become the happy recipient of the satisfaction each brings to me.
Regarding my photographic equipment to record our natural environment, I have itemized a list of gear frequently packed in my camera bag which accompanies me on practically every outing. These items include: Nikon 35mm film camera, 28-85mm and 70-300mm zoom lenses, a good sturdy tripod-(my personal preference is the Manfrotto brand), a cable release, polarizing filter (used sparingly!), lens cleaning products, spare batteries, aluminum foil to reflect light into low lit areas, a poncho for rainy days, Uv-(ultraviolet filters), a macro lens and plenty of transparency/slide film. I firmly believe that photographer’s should not allow themselves to become inundated with excessive amounts of accessories. Surprisingly, many of my favourite images were created with a minimal amount of equipment. Many photographer’s fall into the realm of believing that they require an arsenal of equipment plus professional computer image manipulation software programs to produce striking, meaningful imagery. This is NOT SO! Individuals who subscribe to “doctoring” their imagery extensively via Adobe photoshop or other manipulation software tools, are regrettably not photographer’s but computer enthusiasts and/or image manipulators. I always encourage students to give themselves permission to invest the necessary time in the art of seeing to perfect their imagery up front. It is a most rewarding experience to receive transparencies from the lab that are for the most part flawless in composition/design and exposure. This organization of subject matter in your camera leads to “straight printing” should one wish to have their imagery produced in hard copy photographs without absorbing any additional custom print or retouching fees.
On numerous occasions during casually paced walks through forested areas, or alternately, on my bicycle when I intentionally leave my camera at home, I now choose to compose imagery with my minds eye only. These visual exercises in seeing are extremely beneficial for photographer’s. At this point, all photographic equipment is absent forcing one to concentrate exclusively on the scene before you, and not be distracted by your camera and accessories. This is a routine I would suggest all artists pursue since the benefits will ultimately pay great dividends during later image making opportunities.
Humbly spoken as the reader may surmise, I am capable at length to narrate extensively on photographic circumstances I have encountered over a period of 40 years, but will briefly recommend the following suggestions. When you are in the process of composing an image of our natural environment on your ground glass take into consideration these thoughts: At what time of day are you recording your imagery? A good learning experience is too make certain to frequent the same location repeatedly not only when the sun is in a clear unobstructed sky but also when it is obscured with cloud cover at several times of the day. Study carefully the angle/direction of light striking your subject depending again, “upon the time of day”. Is the light creating strong side lighting, top lighting, back lighting etc. Take notes and record what lens was used to produce this current series of imagery as well since all optics have their own “personalities” regarding seeing. On many occasions I have found it very beneficial to visit the same area throughout the entire calendar year paying strict attention to many factors including the colour of light. In addition, I have repeatedly used reflectors (as mentioned above), when photographing subjects that are situated close to my camera lens such as flowers, table top items etc. to supplement the main light on the underneath side of objects subdued in shade. This reflectivity of light adds further capacities to the image and will “open up” areas of deep shadow producing a greater sense of three dimensionality in your photography. Basic reflectors need not be purchased at retail or on line outlets. My camera bag always contains a simple piece of aluminium foil in different lengths attached to cardboard and folded, then refolded excessively to ensure that there are no flat areas on it. To elaborate: Remove a piece of tin foil from the roll and crush it up into a ball. Open it up and observe that the entire piece of foil is creased/crinkled in fairly even patterns. (This excessive crinkled effect is what you are looking for when used as a reflector incidentally). This simple piece of foil is an item I have used for numerous applications in my professional work including the creation of portraiture outdoors used as a fill or key light in both nature & people photography.
It is my pleasure to continue the creation of these educational articles in much greater detail found in my “Photography Articles Column” in the “Camera Corner Directory” of my website as time proceeds, benefiting the reader with first hand knowledge pertaining to many events.
Being with self in our natural environment and abstaining from cell phones and other levels of distraction will permit an individual to adopt levels of interpretation, maturity, and respect, that would not be achieved otherwise.
When considering vision, know indubitably that we are all people of often unrecognizable lights of brilliance. The light of your candle has never been an infrequent visitor to you. If our vision was so clouded, how could one climb to the summit of our hearts desire? Being with self during the creation of imagery produces a solitude which is comparable to a silent storm breaking down the dead branches from our minds past, yet sending our living roots deeper into the very consciousness of thought and soul. Live not by the many but by the few and learn from the one.
With Good Wishes……….Jeff Ryan Photographer/Ryan Studio, Ottawa, Ont. 2017.
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