Lessons from the lake, Part II: Exploring with an open mind (c) Jim Clark

Beach at Sunset – Assateague Island National Seashore, VA (c) Jim Clark

“When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.” Edward O. Wilson

Harvard professor emeritus Edward O. Wilson is one of my conservation heroes, and this is one of my favorite quotes. All nature photographers can probably relate to it. There is nature to be seen everywhere and all kinds of wildlife behavior to record.

The little mountain lake in West Virginia that I introduced you to in the previous blog taught me a few additional lessons that reinforce the meaning of that quote.

You have choices, explore your options

Regardless of how often I photograph at a location, I look for (and find) something new to photograph every time I’m there. By simply changing your perspective—slowly moving around a scene—you can discover compositions that have yet to be captured.

Cooper’s Hawk at sunset – Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA (c) Jim Clark

Understanding how to use different lighting situations—side, backlit, diffused, and frontal—also provides more options. While the subject remains the same, the interpretation doesn’t. And changing the focal length provides even more choices on portraying a familiar subject in different ways. For example, instead of using a wide-angle, opt for a mid-range telephoto to compress a scene and isolate a portion of it.

It’s never crowded going the extra mile

Salt Marsh in morning fog 11122014 Queen Anne's Ldg Chincoteague VA (c) Jim Clark_1

                        Coastal Marsh in November morning fog – Chincoteague, VA (c) Jim Clark

Through the years, I have become more discerning in what I photograph and how I go about it—passing up some typical compositions that I’ve done time and time again. Keeping in mind that I have choices and can explore other options, I usually give myself some time to become comfortable in a place. Usually, inspiration quickly follows.

Recently, I spent two weeks photographing along the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia. On the first day at each location, I didn’t worry about what to photograph. My cameras were at my side, but I took that time to explore and enjoy the area. That’s something I’ve learned to do over time, and I continually strive to instill it in my students. Enjoy the moment first and then the image will come to you. After getting into the moment, I started seeing more to photograph. Instead of rushing, I took my time. I watched, listened and absorbed my surroundings. Then, I decided to push myself by waiting just a little bit longer. While I waited, the marsh told me its stories.

Berwind Lake Wildlife Management Area, McDowell County, WV (c) Jim Clark

The lake at Berwind Lake Wildlife Management Area near War, West Virginia (c) Jim Clark

Going the extra mile means having patience. That’s the gift of nature photography. Savor the special moments that unfold before you. Capture a new, more informed image. Those who view your image just might feel the moment as well.

3 responses to “Lessons from the lake, Part II: Exploring with an open mind (c) Jim Clark

  1. Jim, I absolutely love the Beach at Sunset picture at Assateague. I like the way both the water and the sky seem to direct your eyes to the middle of the picture.
    I love sunset photography and here in central NC our best time is October-March. For some reason on Summer days even if clouds are available in the right part of the sky, they are dull gray/blue tinted clouds. Many times they are near the horizon and almost seem to prevent any red/yellow/orange colors in the clouds above the horizon. Wish I knew whether other folks experience this seasonal factor and what kind of clouds these are. Not a problem from late-Fall to early Spring in our area.

    Keep up the good work!

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