What goes through your head when you look through your viewfinder? Are you just clicking away hoping for the best or do you shoot with a plan?
I believe that in order to create strong images you need to have mental references of the type of images you want to create and then shoot what you see. Yes, sounds like a contradiction, and one that some people struggle with quite a bit when they try and force a scene into a box.
Phrases like animal-scapes and animal in environment get’s used often – and yes I am just as guilty – but these terms will only stunt your creativity and vision. As a new photographer there is most certainly value in trying to categorise different types of images and compositions in your frames, but then you need to stop. You need to stop trying to shoot according to a certain outcome but rather use them as references and allow your photographic eye to run wild.
Faced with a scene, it’s about asking yourself the correct questions.
”What type of image do I want to create?’ is the wrong question and will leave you shooting with a limited number of references in your mind.
A better question would be “what is it about this scene / subject that speaks to me?” as this will make you ignore any pigeonholes in which you could loose potentially great images. Sure, if it happens to be an animal in it’s environment shoot your animal-scape and if it’s the intense stare of the lion’s eyes, make that your focus but don’t make it your focus. If you know what I mean?
I have said this in the past but if you can figure out why you want to shoot a scene you will very easily be able to figure out how without the constraints of boxes or categories of images.
When I was standing in front of a massive snow-covered mountain with a few reindeer scattered around, I was faced with a moment where I had to ask myself that question – what is it about this scene that speaks to me?
It was the scale of the place, the incredible height and size of the white mountain and how small the reindeer seemed in comparison. By allowing my photographic mind to run around with the why, I arrived at the how pretty quickly.
A portrait orientation would show the height and size of the mountain. The closest Reindeer, placed in the bottom corner of the frame, would give a first indication of the environment in which these animals live, and the rest of the herd, barely specks at the bottom of the mountain, would add a bit of depth and re-emphasis that point.
Nikon D3s, 70mm, 1/2500, f/5, ISO 320
Call it what you want, an animal in environment shot or an animal-scape, this image tells the story I wanted it to tell and it conveys the white open spaces where the Svalbard Reindeer thrive.
Allow your scene or subject, not categories of images, to guide your photographic vision and your images will the better for it.
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt
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