When is it OK not to see the eyes of your wildlife subject? When is it OK to photograph “butt shots?” When the story that the photograph tells is powerful enough to override just about every so called “rule” that you think you know in photography. Story is everything in our photographs. When it comes to selling photographs, story trumps all else. It trumps technical perfection. It trumps compositional rules. Story is what sells photographs. Technical perfection has never sold a photograph – ever. No buyer of fine art or editor of a magazine has ever stepped up to a photograph and thought to themselves, “wow. look at the technical quality of this image. Look there at the lack of noise. The exquisite perfection in focusing. And the exposure. Good God man, its perfect. I must have this!” No one in the history of buying photographs has ever thought any of that.
Photography is the art of capturing and telling stories.
So here we have a photograph of an elk bugling while facing away from us. Considering nothing more than the elk himself, this is all wrong. You can’t see the eye. The butt is the most prominent feature of the animal. He is looking the wrong way. But when the elk becomes part of the overall composition, all of this changes. From the perspective of the entire photograph, we have an elk perched atop a ridgeline high in the Rocky Mountains. He is bugling. Calling out across the mountains and valleys that roll off into a world impossibly larger than the bull can ever know exists. He is calling in would be challengers. He is luring in would be lovers. He is the king of the mountain. And he is the master of all that he sees.
This photograph is successful because of the story it tells. It is not simply the subject. It has nothing to do with the technical aspects of the image. As photographers, as visual artists, you have to begin to see beyond histograms and hyper focal distances. You have to begin to see in stories.