Monday, February 1, 2010

Stay with Your Subject

While attending the Georgia Nature Photographers’ Association’s first annual Expo, held at Callaway Gardens, I received many excellent tips for improving my photography. For example, during the Saturday afternoon session, Nancy Rotenberg, one of the keynote speakers, said, in essence: When you see something that interests you, don’t just press the shutter button and move on. Work with your subject. Figure out what captivates you most about your subject. Then photograph it in such a way that the viewer will see what you saw and understand what your photograph is “saying.”

The following morning when Nancy met a small group of us at the Cecil B. Day Butterfly House for a guided photo shoot, I decided to take her advice. As I walked down a paved path bordered by beautiful plants, some blooming, some not, a cluster of small blooms growing on a vine caught my eye. So, I set my tripod near the orange blooms and began looking through the viewfinder to figure out the best way to “frame” them.

The longer I stayed there, the more I noticed the details, which made me more eager to photograph their beauty. So, I’d take a shot, check it on my camera’s LCD screen, realize I’d not captured the image the way I wanted to, adjust a setting or two on my camera, and take another shot.

When other photographers passed by, I’d ask them for advice. Even though their tips improved my images, I still couldn’t get one that made me say, “Yes!!!”

When Nancy passed by, I asked her for help. “What is it you want to photograph?” she asked.

After I’d pointed out the little orange blooms, she said, “In three words, and only three, tell me what captivates you the most about those blooms.”

I replied, “Tendrils, colors, and shapes.”

“Well, let’s zoom in and focus on those three things.”

I did what she said and was able to place those “elements” inside the frame in a way that pleased me. But each image I shot had problems: the color wasn’t right or else the focus wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it and so forth.

Since I was determined to get the image that had formed inside my head, I stayed with my subject, as she had advised. Although I was aware that other photographs were capturing images of the beautiful butterflies, I stayed with the blooms.

As I lingered there, all sorts of thoughts went through my head. Just give up on this and move on. After all, you’re supposed to be photographing butterflies!

But I stayed with my subject, changing a setting on my camera and checking each image to see if I’d “nailed it” yet. If not, I’d change another setting and press the shutter button again.

As the photo shoot was ending, I tried one more time. As I looked at that image, I said, “I got it!!!!”

I love that photo! Not only is it beautiful (in my eyes, at least) but it also reminds me to “stay with” whatever I feel passionate about and to try again and again to figure out what will bring the desired result. Doing so will bring success—and gladness!

©2010 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill.

Additional Note: As I look at this photo, I am reminded that the Creator has placed incredible beauty all around us. I pray that we will pay attention to it--and to all the intricate details contained therein--and, in doing so, that we will realize, as He does, that His work is "very good."