Tech Tuesday…Shoot From The Heart

Ya gotta love Facebook. Over the summer, I reconnected with several high school friends. It was great to catch up after all these years. I also recently heard from my friend Serge through facebook. We hadn’t seen each other in four to five years and here we were at Marco’s having breakfast and catching up. You wonder what this has to do with Tech Tuesday…well, stick with me and you’ll see where I’m going. As Serge was bringing me up to date he mentioned that he is at a point where he isn’t sure what kind of photographer he really is. He can shoot 4X5 film to high res digital, architecture to underwater, natural light to bringing his own light to the image and his fine art work is breathtaking. SO, I asked him…”what do you love to do the most?”, to which he replied…”I love photography! I don’t care what I am photographing, it’s the art of making images that I love.” I was struck by this comment and realized that he was describing my own thoughts and feelings about photography. I feel that same passion for making beautiful images. I love nature and sharing my passion through my images so that others may enjoy the wonderful locations and subjects I am fortunate enough to visit…

Our conversation then turned to a question we both get asked often enough…”How do you know when you have the picture?” That’s a very valid question and once again Serge had a simple yet heartfelt answer when he said “I feel it right here…” as he touched his heart. “I just have this feeling when I know I got the shot!” Yeah, I know that feeling. It’s the one when you have the opportunity to share a moment in the life of a coastal brown bear sow and her two cubs as she keeps her babies protected high up the mountainside. You aim your lens, compose the scene and when they all come in to a pleasing pose, click. Oh yeah, I knew right then that I had nailed it…

I can look back over the years and with a recall of intense clarity, see photographs that I have made where I knew at the moment I clicked the shutter that I had an image that would forever be imprinted in my mind and in my heart. Many years ago, when I was on a Safari with Moose we were forced by the high tides to photograph a bear with back lighting. Some of us embraced the challenging opportunity to make compelling images of a sillhouette and others didn’t even try, lamenting the fact that the light was not in our favor. I couldn’t have disagreed more and kept shooting as the bear worked the river looking for a fish lunch. At one point he climbed out of the water on the far bank, sat down on his hind haunches and began to shake. There was machine gun fire clicking all around as everyone fired away capturing the backlit spary agains the dark background. The resulting image is to this day one of my favorites. I knew the moment I made the image that I had one of my “life” photos…

There are many more such moments when I knew I had “the shot” as I clicked the shutter. I love fierce weather. It makes for dramatic photography. One of my favorite locations to shoot is Cape Kiwanda at the Oregon coast. There are a series of sandstone cliffs that make a great photograph and when the surf is up, watch out…seriously, I mean watch out as the waves can be so big that they crash up and over the 100 + foot cliffs that we are standing on. On a June visit to the coast we arrived at Cape Kiwanda right at mid-morning to see heavy surf along the coast through the lifting sea fog. I grabbed my camera and headed up the dunes to photograph the crashing waves. I had just set up my camera and begun shooting when the sun broke through the fog, lighting the water, making it look translucent and bathing the sandstone cliffs in a warm glow. With hardly a thought to the actual process of making the image (aperture, shutter speed, composition, etc), I became engrossed in the rhythm of the waves, click, click, click pause, click, click, click. I think I had an out of body experience as I shook myself and came back to the moment to find my husband had left to find shelter and sustenance at the Pelican Pub. I can’t blame him, it was a bit cold and we had stopped for lunch after all…a couple of hours ago. Oops. Yeah I knew that morning that I not only got “the shot”, I had many such images burned onto my CF cards…

The more you get out, the more of those “got it” moments you will have. The better you understand the workings of your camera, the buttons and dials, exposure, depth of field, the effects of shutter speed on motion, etc the less you will have to think of the details when a spontaneous moment arises. Early one morning at Fort DeSoto, I was following a Yellow-crowned night heron as it was hunting for it’s breakfast. It’s fascinating to watch them at work, they can stand perfectly still for the longest time as the listen for movement under the sand. He would wiggle his leg and then, with lightning speed, nail a tasty crab. When I dropped to my knees to get a lower angle, turned my lens on the heron and began firing as he lunged at a crab…click, click, click, click, click, I fired away from the moment he lunged to the last swallow of the crab, 11 frames at 9 frames per second. I anticipated the action and was ready when it happened. One second’s hesitation and it would have been too late. I knew when I released my finger from the shutter that I had an outrageous sequence of images…

I could go on and on but, I think you get the message by now. Shoot from your heart. Photograph the things you love. Practice, practice, practice so the details become second nature and when the moment presents itself you can click the shutter and have that wonderful feeling when all the elements come together and you “know” you got it!…

Images created (in order) with Nikon D2X, AF-S 12-24mm, Nikon D3, AF-S 600mm, TC-14E II, Nikon D1H, AF-S 400mm 2.8, TC-14E, Nikon D2H, AF-S 70-200mm VR, Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm VR, Nikon D3, AF-S 600mm VR all on Lexar Digital Media