Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"It is not what you look at, but what you see."

The above quote by philosopher Henry Thoreau captures what I believe to be one of the biggest challenges to both photographers and field guides alike.

It is unfortunate to see how many field guides today give in to the pressure by guests to race from big sighting to big sighting. Sure, seeing any of the Big 5 is, and always will be an amazing experience, but there is so much more to nature then these iconic animals of Africa. In nature everything is connected, yet sometimes we have to wait for a while to see it. Experience it. Become a part of it.

Have we as a species lost the ability to look at nature creatively? Emotionally? Have we become so impatient that we cannot wait to see how nature’s story unfolds but rather jump to conclusions that fit in with our own preconceived ideas of how the tale should end? Is the combination of impatience and the lack of creativity causing us to get even further removed from nature then we already are?

Wildlife Photographers are faced with the same challenge, or shall I say predicament. Ansel Adams said “A photograph is usually looked at - seldom looked into.”

Anybody with a half-decent camera can capture great images of animals in the wild. Nature presents too many moments for this not to be possible. However, it takes a great deal of creativity, patience and emotion to capture something that is not just a nice picture, but an amazing image!

I think therein lies the challenge. To capture the creative and emotional side of nature. Something we look at all the time, but we do not always see. Obviously the technical side of an image will always be important, but if you are able to capture an emotional moment you are on the right track.

Amazement. Horror. Disbelief. Awe. Mischief. Joy. Serenity. Exhilaration. Defiance. Pity. Pride.

There lies the challenge. There lies the possibility for images that can convey a small piece of the magic that nature presents to us every day. As a photographer you have to react to your subjects and attempt to capture images that you can ‘feel’. Working in the field, this can become quite difficult as you do get emotionally involved with many of the animals that you see on a regular basis but to convey that emotion and beauty to someone looking at your images... that is the goal!

The sobering reality is that many species are going extinct and natural wilderness areas are declining almost on a daily basis. How much time will we have left to try and capture the magic? The beauty? Nature?

I hope that for as long as I am in the privileged position to photograph nature I will be able to do some justice to the creativity and emotion that we should not only look at...but see. Let us hope the following quote is not a subtle prophecy for the future of not only wildlife photography, but the passion that sustains the underlying magic we capture in each moment.

"Perishability in a photograph is important in a picture. If a photograph looks perishable we say - Gee, I'm glad I have that moment." ~John Loengard

As always, I look forward to your thoughts.


1 comment:

Jan said...

Gerry - I love this quote & your blog entry -- so many times we only see the "big"....and there is so much beauty also to be found in the little things