You saw in my post on Shoot the Light, Charles Glatzer’s presentation, that I gave an overview of his seminar. Now I am going more in-depth to things he tried to stress on the photographers in attendance. When an amateur gets a camera in the first few years of ownership, they usually focus on settings to acclimate themselves to all the options available to them. So instead of thinking about the image itself, they focus on everything else but the subject of the image.
Unless of course, they use auto settings, which Charles made sure those in attendance did not want to do. The mentality is that you “take photos”. That is what using auto settings is, just taking photos since the camera is determining the exposure; correctly or incorrectly.
Many think camera equipment makes the photographer, like there’s a secret to the equipment that the pros use to create great images. Notice I said create, not take. Yet Charles said that amazing photography can be had with some of the most basic gear, as long as it is in the hands of someone knowing how to use that equipment. He gave the example of images on 500px. Some very talented amateurs are found there.
He stressed camera owners need to learn their equipment, period. The point he made was a lot goes into creating those great image, not just depressing the shutter and hoping for the best.
He said, “A photographer should envision the final image before they ever have their subject in sight.” A good photographer will plan ahead, research the place, time of day and subject to be photographed; understand the lighting and weather conditions, and all possible variables they may encounter. The importance of this planning is key.
Photographers tell you an important element is some kind of story-telling in the image. Sure, story-telling embedded in a photo sounds like a great idea, but do all photos really tell a story? Some viewers may never see a story and some may see stories in the photo you never saw yourself. Charles said something like this at his talk.
I suppose that’s what makes a photograph work. It means different things to different people. I myself don’t see a story when I take a photo, but may see one after. I might see a vision in my head, and then hope I can make a connection with the viewer. If I can make a connection with a photo I take, then I have succeeded I suppose.
One thing Glatzer mentioned, have the subject make a connection with you the photographer. Eye contact helps make a connection with the viewer and helps create a story in the image.
Many would think wildlife photographers can’t envision their shot. Animal behavior cannot be foreseen. But, Charles noted that nature photographers need to plan more than anyone would think. They need to know where their subject will be, when it is likely to be in that place, and what it might be doing when it arrives.
I suppose I can check off knowing where and when my subject will be in a location, plus what they might be doing, but as for his specialized preparation like what to wear or if I need a blind, that has never come up for me. That preparation is beyond my ability to haul around all the stuff one needs for an extended stay.
When you take all these factors into account, you realize it is no small feat that the best wildlife photographers, such as Charles Glatzer, work very hard to get a limited number of publishable images. But they still have to pray the animals do what they envision. Certainly, they get skunked many time.
Another great photographer I admire is Paul Nicken. I saw a presentation by him here in Buffalo a few years ago. He is passionate in his nature and marine photography which shows conservation of species and habitat, art, and science in every image. His shots face to face with a leopard seal are once in a lifetime shots. I might see whales from a big boat, but never will I see a gigantic leopard seal.
While I will never be able to get to the places of these two photographers, learning from them helps in other places I visit and gives me a lot to think about.