Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Long and Short of It...

   What I love, what I've always loved about landscape photography is the wide range of options available to the photographer...the long shot, the short shot and everything in between.  Once I've sat with my landscape for a time, absorbing the sense of place, after I've written in my journal and sketched and I feel comfortable, it's time to begin recording impressions with my camera.  As you have probably noticed, or could most likely guess, I'm not much of an equipment "junkie".  I have only one lens, a Nikon 18-200 zoom - it's enough for me.  If the landscape invites me in, I'll walk in, not change my lens.  I want to feel part of the landscape and not a remote viewer...a landscape "voyeur".

   I am a great admirer of the wild life photography of Nick Brandt who spends hours, days, even weeks getting to know his subject, letting his subject feel comfortable with him so that he can make his striking "portraits".  No telephoto lens for him; Brandt surely practices the 4 Be's - "Be Still, Be Present, Be Patient and Be Persistent".

   This portrait of a lioness has all the dignity and compassion of the great masters of photographic portraiture who were able to reveal the soul of their subjects with carefully rendered compositions and sensitively considered lighting.  His new book, "On this Earth, A Shadow Falls" is an absolute masterpiece. When you visit the link to the book, be sure to click on the "book tease" to preview some pages.  At $120. it may be a bit pricey for some but I'm saving up for it.  I think it is well worth the cost for me to be able to sit for hours with this man's camera work.  I would never have imagined that African wildlife photography could be "contemplative" in nature but Brandt's work certainly qualifies for that distinction.

On the Edge of Our World - North Uist, Scotland
   My only comparable experience, and it pales in comparison to Brandt's work, would be my "encounter" with highland cattle on North Uist, Scotland in 2005.  I came upon a herd of them but as I approached they ran away.  No matter, I plopped myself down on a rock and ate my lunch.  I wrote in my journal, did a sketch of the landscape and was well into my "visual listening" mode, maybe an hour and a half, when I heard a soft "snuffling" sound.  The little herd was returning, no longer feeling threatened by my presence it seems.  Instead of grabbing my camera, I just sat with them for awhile. I finally made the image on the right and awhile later, one cow felt comfortable enough to take a nap right in front of me!

   I probably spent more than two hours on that hillside in North Uist communing with the "Coos" ( a Hebridean term for "cows").  I felt it was time well spent even though I only made two photographs during that time.  I came to know these gentle animals in a way I never would have if I'd relied on a telephoto lens. In fact, the most rewarding part of the experience wasn't the photographs but earning the trust of these creatures...we both felt at ease in each others presence and that was a wonderful gift.

   Those huge lenses favored by most landscape photographers and especially wildlife photographers always make me think of hunters stalking their "prey" from a safe distance, determined to get the shot no matter what.   I think I'll stick with my simple lens and my 4 "Be's"...and that's the long and short of it!

"Adopt the pace of Nature; her secret is Patience."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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