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Nature Photography: Hobby or Euphoria?
More than a Hobby
My profession is to always find God in nature.
- Henry David Thoreau
Have you ever witnessed, just as the sun is about to vanish into the horizon, a sudden eruption of birds flapping speedily in route to a perch for the night? If you have, maybe you have introspectively pondered about the wonders of such natural events? One author expressed his feelings of awe towards nature, and nature photography with the expression: ”meeting God at eye level." I was sincerely amused by the sheer simplicity, yet poetic fashion, in which this author conceived of the art of nature photography. The idea reverberated within me, for at very profound levels that is what nature photography genuinely is, a way of canvassing the world visually while aiming —conscious or not— to cultivate a deep understanding of the nature of God through the manifestation of nature itself.
When a photographer captures the natural world through a lens, in essence, it is as if he was capturing the breath of life in action, freezing it for closer examination. From this frame of reference he then proceeds to explore the world with a sense of inward awe, almost bordering on romanticism. Any nature photographer who's ever had the experience to meet eye to eye with a hawk or any other bird of prey know that the piercing gaze of such majestic creatures can have an instant humbling effect in our perception of human supremacy. Suddenly we realize that any pretensions of grandiosity are solely vanity, and that we are truly masters over nothing lest our own illusions of supremacy. As creatures of reason, though, we may come to terms with our only justifiable position on this planet; protectors, and conservationists.
Responsibilities and Ethics
True nature photographers strive to work ethically in order to preserve the habitats of all creatures. They make it their mission not to ever disturb or intrude upon wildlife sanctuaries, or pristine landscapes. Because they conceive the world as an awesome place they appreciate every breath of fresh air, every bird song, and every ripple in a lake. Even a butterfly fluttering by is something to marvel at. The great American naturalist, John Burroughs, explained the reason he sought out nature: “to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." The natural world has much to offer in terms of soothing and relaxing the mind. Nature is a powerful magnet, drawing our attention naturally,It doesn't stress the brain in the way directed attention does. Nature photography thus plays the double role of satisfying our thirst for exploration, while at the same time helping us to relax and let go of stress.More importantly, through the natural world we can see God’s magnificence, benevolence, and great interest in us, if we only grope to see it.
Where to Go for Muse and Euphoria
So how does someone get into this euphoria? It's simple, get out in nature more. Learn to find solace in natural settings. Visit the lake side, beach, or just create your own little retreat in your backyard. Learn to enjoy moments of solitude, just you, the trees, and the sounds of nature. Breathe deeply, and relax. I bet you in no time, you will start noticing things you never even knew were there, or things you never knew existed. I guarantee it won't be long before you are stretching out your hand reaching for that camera. Do not worry at the beginning about zoom lenses, expensive camera equipment, all that comes later, The important thing for a budding nature photographer is to learn to take clear images, and to apply the rule of thirds. Here are a few more tips:
- Make sure your camera has batteries, and enough film or space. Nothing is more frustrating than a camera with no usable space.
- When trying to photograph animals in nature, move very slowly and never walk in a straightforward line. Instead take a sideways stance (walk like a crab). Sudden movements will make your subject flee out of sight.
- Wear clothing with neutral colors, Avoid red, or loud colors.
- Do not make noise. If you are being accompanied in your photo excursions, make it a point to keep your conversations at whisper level. Wild animals are very sensitive to noises, and will flee immediately at the slightest sound.
- Look at plenty of nature photography.See what makes the photos stand out as unique to you. Is it an angle? Is it the true-to-life textures in the photo? A specific lighting? Whatever it is try to see if you can capture the same details with your camera. Remember, it is not the kind of camera what a great photo depends on, it is your eye-hand coordination and your unique strategic approach what makes all the difference.