Tag Archives: Yellowstone

Story Trumps Everything

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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.

Posted in Technical Skills, The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Prairie Madness

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When you have a background like this, you move fast to find something, anything, to compose in front of it. Luckily, this is Yellowstone. And so finding wildlife high up in the hill country that makes up this side of the national park is pretty easy!

This large pronghorn buck was wrangling a small harem of ladies back and forth across this ridgeline. Gently navigating the random assortment of cacti that grow in this desert like grassland, we slipped into place just in time to capture this magnificent looking buck just minutes before the sun disappeared behind the mountain behind us and the world fell into shadow. Light and background. . . two elements that are more important that subject itself.

Posted in Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , |

Alpine Meadow and Sunset

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Heres another one from the archives of this summer that I am only now getting around to. This is from the Beartooth Plateau in Montana. reaching upwards of 11,000 feet in elevation, Spring time comes late here and there really isnt a summer at all. This was taking in July during the peak of the wildflower bloom.

I had been photographing mountain goats when this sunset came upon me. When I say, “came upon me” i really mean it too. The day was overcast, drab, lifeless as far as light goes. As the late afternoon progressed, I certainly didnt expect anything different. I had essentially packed up my gear and begun climbing again when suddenly out of no where this beam of light shot out ahead of me and I turned around to see this! Scrambling to get my tripod up and a smaller lens on my camera I began searching for compositional elements. There were no rocks here, nothing that would really stand out as a dramatic foreground for the photograph. But there were flowers, and lots of them. The angle of the light really seemed to make them pop and so I dropped to the ground to try and pull them out into the foreground. Being no more than 2 inches tall, I just wasnt able to make this work. So i pulled back up to my knees and attempted to use the entire meadow as my foreground instead.

I think it worked out OK.

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