The thundering of hooves charging towards me that fall afternoon should have ended my fledgling career as a photographer. As a fourteen year old adventurer, I had carefully crawled through the dense brush in hopes of photographing the resting elk herd. Unfortunately, spooked by an unknown antagonist, the herd bolted for safety in my direction. However at the last moment, the elk veered away from my hiding spot and disappeared into the canyon below. I am not sure if I was more relieved at surviving the encounter, or angry that blurry photos of elk back ends was all I had to show for my experience.
Throughout my youth I had many opportunities to capture the outdoors with a camera. I frequently took to the hills to explore the surrounding landscape. And though I don’t have a single masterpiece to show for my years of practice, I have a childhood full of memories and a passion for the wild places I loved to visit.
Now I am older and wiser but still a kid yearning for outdoor adventures. I have exchanged youthful energy for a bald head and bad knees. But I am still the same. Except now I know how to use a camera. Over the years I have learned how to capture the beauty of nature. I have learned how to translate my experiences to pixels. I can now share my story with others through my photography.
The best nature photography
Through years of selling my art I have learned an important lesson. The photograph people love the most is the one they took themselves. I have many great pictures. I have several once in a lifetime photos. None of them bring as much joy or pride to others as the ones people show me from their cell phones. The reason is simple. A picture from someone else, no matter how amazing is just that, a picture. A picture you took, no matter how poor (just look at my elk photo!), is a memory. When a person views a picture they took, they are transported back to the day and time they took the picture. They remember how they felt when they captured that image.
A woman came to me one August morning after admiring my photographs at the local farmers market. “You have some beautiful pictures” she said to me. She then proceeded to browse through my collection until she came to a picture of a local waterfall. She became excited and whipped out her cell phone and pulled up a picture of those very same falls. Now the photographer in me noticed several flaws in her picture. But she cooed at it like it was her child. Needless to say she didn’t purchase my photograph because it didn’t mean anything to her, it was just a pretty picture. She was perfectly happy with the photograph she had taken.
You can be a photographer too
Now that I have unwittingly convinced you not to buy my photographs or take my photography classes, let me explain why I pick up a camera. Photography is a challenge. Every picture I take is an attempt to capture a moment in time. The problem comes because there are numerous ways to frame, expose, and filter a subject. And every change to the settings results in a change in the composition and mood of the picture. In other words, photography is the medium through which you tell a story. And all of the numerous settings on the camera are opportunities to change the story.
So why should you pick up a camera? Besides the exercise, fresh air, sunlight, stress relief, and adventure that can be found while photographing nature, the challenge of telling a story through a lens can not be passed up. It will enrich your life, and you will have the photographs as reminders of your experiences. With practice your stories will get better and your pictures will too.