by Ron Toel
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Nature photography is the creation of artistic images of the existing natural world around us. The aspect of creating images of the inanimate world is called scenic or landscape photography, while the animate world is referred to as wildlife photography. Wildlife is broken down into many specialty groups including animals, birds, insects and plant life.
To me, wildlife photography is the most rewarding. There is nothing like getting close to your “prey” and see the behavior of the critter and how it survives in its natural habitat. There is nothing like being in the natural world, even if I never take an image, I return exhilarated and in awe of where I have been.
Bird photography is the most challenging. The majority of the birds are small, and very active and to capture then at a moment of behavior is at worst a challenge and at best a great success.
Flowers may be grounded to one spot, but that, however, does not mean they are easy to portray on the artistic easel. Wind and seasonal aspects of the weather are challenging.
Insect photography is also a challenge in that MOST are very small, even though they make up more numbers than all the rest of biomass on earth.
Landscape photography is such that one does not have to worry about the subject running away, but sometimes it is very difficult to “make order from chaos.”
Because of photographers and images of the natural outdoors, pressure has been brought about by environmentalist. For the most part this form of wildlife protection has brought about an increase in tourism. Because of tourism, more places have been established as places for the wildlife to be protected and thus more places for the photographer to create their images. There are many places around the world that have become financially dependent on tourism and the wild animals have become a commercial commodity. One such place that I have been to visit is the Rift Valley of Africa.
Photographing wildlife means becoming immersed in an animals habitat. Each habitat is like a complex device with many interlocking parts….each part dependent upon on the parts and interdependent on the whole for survival. This has become an environment with a particular population of animal life and plant life that has evolved in special conditions of geology, climate and life styles. It has been said, “To be a great nature photographer, one has to know its subject“…..this also is required of the habitat in which they live, particularly when it comes to photography.
By understanding how a habitat works, one can plan to photograph the highlights of a system. Allow me to display what I mean….A tundra area landscape would show little plant life however, after spring thaw the fields of wildflowers would bring forth an enormous bounty of colorful landscapes, to which one adds patches of the flowers and then close-ups of each of the flowers…..look at the story one tells with just photographs.
In today’s realm of nature photography, the images being presented come close to being research. Gone are the days of getting close to get a ideal portrait of an animal. Now the challenge of the best nature photographers is to get an action image portraying behavior of the creature photographed. For most professionals, this has upped the ante as more and more behavioral images are being logged.
For a wildlife assignment to count these days as remarkable and worthy of the price being paid for the image, a great deal of research, time, expertise are involved in each shot. Nevertheless, for amateurs the time has never been better. More places to go for wildlife, the digital camera has the ability to produce under less than ideal conditions, more and better lens, Photoshop, and more knowledge available makes capturing the great images much more likely. Now take advantage of all these things and get out in the field and produce.