Let’s Keep It Real

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 26 Comments

Something seems to be happening with wildlife photography and, from what I can tell it’s not necessarily a good thing.

Do you remember the days when you just got into wildlife photography when every subject and every scene held your attention completely?   When you tried new things, chased every opportunity and made images with reckless abandon and without the creativity-killing concerns that, in today’s world, seems to dull the original passion and heart from where wildlife photography should come from.

Have we, through the never ending stream of digital content, become so desensitised to good and proper wildlife images that the photographic bar has been raised to virtually  impossible levels?

Are the experts – and I use the word lightly – out there who carry on about how nothing is original anymore and that nobody is doing anything new in wildlife photography perpetuating the situation by shifting the focus away from pure and simple wildlife images to conversations revolving around gear and techniques which inevitably ends in a battle of opinions, egos and zero value to the community at large?

Have we really arrived at a point in time where the photographer with more likes per image or the loudest online voice is considered better than the guy who focuses on his craft and just gets on with it because he loves doing what he does?

What has changed in the last few years for an image, that was once applauded and admired, now does not even get a second look?

Does each and every image that you put out there have to be new, unique and different?

Is that even possible?

I honestly don’t think so.

Wildlife photography is, or at least should be about the moment.  It should be about that special slice of time we borrow from nature to show people something we are passionate about.

You don’t need top of the range gear to create great wildlife images.  You don’t need camera traps and remote control vehicles to create unique images.  You most certainly don’t need the most followers on Facebook or to check back every 10 minutes to see how many people have liked your images in order to feel proud about your work and to share your passion.

Let’s keep it real.

Let’s not loose focus of why we do what we do.

Let’s stay true to wildlife photography.

GeeryvanderWalt-Wildlife

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 26

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  1. Rob "Bulldog" Ainslie

    I cannot agree with you more… I love to take photos and to share on my blog… not for the complements or to be the best but for the fun of it and the enjoyment of sharing my style photography… an amateur with a cheap camera… don’t know how to use the canons etc… but I mange quite well with what I have… people ask why I don’t enter competitions… I don’t feel my photos are what they are looking for, I don’t have that pro look, but I do have the fun and the enjoyment…
    I would love to copy this post over to my blog with your permission…

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      Gerry

      You said it Rob and I couldn’t agree more! Sharing, fun, enjoyment – that is what drives us to do what we do so keep going! 🙂 Sure thing, you are more than welcome to copy the blog across to your site – thanks a lot! 🙂

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  2. Eileen Fletcher

    NIcely put Gerry, we all seem to run around chasing that ever elusive winning image, forgetting that it is taken to remind us of that special moment that we wanted to remember. I wonder what will happen to all the thousands of images that we have all taken and stored, when we die, after all they were a reminder of a special trip or special time in our lives, but maybe not special in other peoples eyes?

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  3. James Doyle

    Couldn’t agree more Gerry. Since the digital age we seem to have had a huge boost to photography as a whole, excellent cameras and lenses are very affordable these days, people don’t need to pay for film and processing any longer, so photography is a relatively cheap pastime these days.

    But I have also seen how with the increase of people carrying cameras (some very expensive gear) many have lost sight of what photography is, as craft and they want instant gratification instead of mastering the craft of photography. I mean, how many times do we see people say “Award winning photographer” “internationally recognised photographer” “world respected photographer” etc.etc.? I think these sort of statements just cheapen the skill of those more modest photographers that work hard at their craft over years of learning photography.

    Seems to me, there is a lot of people that want to be “Stars” before putting in the real work and in the end it spoils it for everyone because as you said Gerry people become desensitised or is it over saturated by the sheer number of images presented every single day!

    1. Jason

      Interesting that the only person you haven’t replied to was James Doyle, not even a “thank you for your comment”.

      Ek sien, Interessante!

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        Gerry

        Purely a result of crazy times at the office Jason! 🙂 Always great interacting with people on the blog and social platforms but sometimes real life gets in the way! Hope to see more of you on the blog as well!

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      Gerry

      Yes! Photography is a craft and this is something we should remind ourselves of on a regular basis. Looking through social media there are a lot of the ‘stars’ out there who post on these platforms more than they actually share images or add value to the community at large. All the imagery is a great thing but we need to stay true to our own passion – and this is different for each person – and not let this get in the way of doing what we love! Thanks for your thoughts James!

  4. Bill Gorton

    For me, an amateur wildlife photographer equipped with top of the line gear but hindered by limited skills, I could care less about “likes”. Although it is true that some photos may be worth a 1000 words, it is the time and place and circumstances behind the photo that is of great importance to me. Telling the story of the photo, whether it was shot in Botswana or my backyard, is always a large part of every wildlife photo I attempt to get. It is not about pixels, it is about being there and remembering what it was like at that time and place that feeds my passion. Wildlife photography is a crap shoot. The monuments in Monument Valley will be there tomorrow and next week and next year. Sure, the light can change quickly, but that Cheetah on lookout from the top of an ant hill may be gone in an instant. And you’ll never know what will be around the next corner in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, but you have to be there to find out. The basic principle of wildlife photography is simple — f8 and be there. And then, for me, telling the story behind the photo.

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  5. Craig Jones

    I applaud you and could agree with you more. …what happened to the shot that may not have perfect exposure, great depth of field or 100% focus but it captures the essence or interaction of an animal, or human for that matter with such intensity and passion.
    Yes, undoubtably it helps to have all the the technology and an ability or understanding on how to use our equipment but i agree that we have lost that stunning shot that may not have been perfect but it was breathtakingly beautiful.
    Some of the best shots from the great photographers in the past weren’t altogether perfect but the shot captured a point or moment in time that was magical and that if captured took your breath away regardless of the imperfections.
    I for one definitely believe we need to concentrate on the basics of what makes a good shot, namely subject, composition, foci and exposure to name a few.
    I learnt a long time ago that yes, there were rules in Photography, but you needed to be aware and understand that you also need to forget these rules as and when required.
    If you have a huge budget for Technology, lots of time and available cash to travel far and wide your chance on capturing a great shot is far greater. But how many times have we lost that edge , opportunity or shot because it wasn’t 100% perfect to really capture a stunning shot or shot that really has an impact on the beholder.

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      Gerry

      I love what you say Craig. Words like essence, interaction and breathtakingly beautiful are ideas that sometimes gets lost in between all the new gear and, to be honest, some pretty useless debates on social media. Stay true to what you do and you will not only create great images but also enjoy the process because you are doing it for the right reasons! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  6. Johan van Eeden

    Well said Gerry. I couldn’t agree more. Although it’s an easy trap for us to fall into, one however needs to be aware of the perils and the reasons associated with our own posts of particular photographs on whatever chosen media level. Whilst saying that however, I must say that I often look at other photographers technical details and how they put a shot together in order to make my own photographs better for MYSELF and not anyone else. I am very much still learning and appreciate the effort and time some photographers put into “sharing” their knowledge and tips with the many novices out there who sincerely want to know more about how the shot was taken, what gear was used etc. I see nothing wrong with that. Digital photography has become a very competitive field and one in which some strive for excellence in everything they put out there. I say to each his own. Sometimes recognition of one’s work is not necessarily wrong. Well written and thought provoking article Gerry. Thanks for your tome and effort.

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  7. Fabian Haas

    Well said! There is a massive inflation in image standards, and while I tried to sell stuff earlier, I basically stopped that, unless there is a special request by someone I know. Reason is simply that I dont need to frustrations being rejected by the editors managing the photo agencies. The images are still excellent and important to me, because I was there: like when a crocodile ate a marabou stork, or this very young hyena puppy playing around their lair. Great moments to photograph and watch.

    You might have heard of Prof Grzimek, who was instrumental in making the Serengeti a Protected Area (though I believe he was a star only in Germany). He won an Academy Oscar in the 1950ies with his Serengeti shall not die (I believe) with movie sequences that today, would not be acceptable in an local video club. Interesting isnt it? So how did he won the Oscar? Simply it wa all new, esp going there and doing filming. And his movie is still a great movie because it is telling the right story! So lets make photos telling the right story and they will be excellent in many years!

    Equipment: overrated, nothing more to say on that.

    Best Fabian (also here https://www.facebook.com/PixelsOnScreen)

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