What makes a good nature photo? - my focus

Reading time approx. 25 min.

Today I would like to write about a topic that I encounter regularly. I get asked similar questions on a frequent basis:

 

How can I improve my pictures? How do I design a good photo? What mistakes do I make at the moment? How do I tell on location whether a scene is suitable? And so on...

 

Sometimes I answer briefly, sometimes long and again and again I have to think about it for a long time. This should be over now, in the future I would like to be able to send only one link 😎

 

Now there are many different picture styles and genres within nature photography. And thus at least as many answers to these questions. I can answer them exclusively for my own photographic style and try to do that today as good as possible 😉 I can only share the state of my experience, because the learning process never ends anyway!

My thinking challenge

In order to approach these questions, I first had to deal with this one: What makes a (very) good picture for me? I was asked about it last year in a podcast interview by Nicolas Alexander Otto. I couldn't really answer it right then because after years of in-the-trenches experience a lot of things happen intuitively.

 

For this blog post I finally tried to get to the point and answer this question in detail.

 

At first I tried to explain this with the help of a concrete situation, for example on a certain beach in Iceland. Step by step. The problem is that every landscape, every vegetation etc. poses completely different challenges and it is hardly possible to transfer one approach to to other situations.

 

So I stepped back to try to give you the big picture and give you an approach based on principles and criteria. These principles can be applied to all kinds of landscapes: seascapes, heath, forests, mountains, etc.

Finally I came up with seven principles.

 

Here is an overview:

8. Die Innovation

If these criteria are applied a picture stirs emotions - sometimes more and sometimes less – and in the end that is what it is all about.

Important sidenote: even my personal favorite pictures usually only fulfill five to six of these seven criteria. Always strive for perfect but don’t worry about it.

 

The following is not a complete step-by-step tutorial that covers all basics. I will try to give some hints for the application of my guiding principles, especially with regard to mistakes that happen frequently and are really easy to avoid.

 

Most of the content is more interesting for "up and coming photographer" with basic technical knowledge and first experiences "in the field", but some topics are also interesting for photographers with a little more experience - at least I hope so 😉.

 

Now let's get started with the tips for realization, have fun!


1. Purit: the image is "clean" and free from any disturbance

When I'm out in nature with my camera, I try to avoid disturbing elements of the picture without compromise. For me, such elements have a negative effect on the image assessment. Vapor trails in the sky, power lines on the horizon, elements in the background that are outshined - I have countless examples for this.

These elements are not always obviously disturbing like the ones mentioned above. Much more often in good nature photo locations, natural elements also bring too much disturbance into the picture - for example, inharmonic cloud or wave shapes, cut stones and rocks, tree stumps, branches protruding or broken off, brightly outshined lichens and much more.

What does it mean to "avoid" such picture elements, how can I do that?

That's pretty simple, the motto is: go on and look for an alternative. Sounds very banal, but it is exactly THIS what costs you quality and a lot of time in the beginning - you spend too much time with the "wrong" motif, although maybe 500m further on the "right" a really good one would have waited for you.

I would like to harp on this point right away because it's very important - of course there are photographic solutions for many problems. Often, simply "waiting" is enough, for example in the case of an unharmonious cloud image. In this case it is not useful to look for another place. But I am concerned here with pictorial elements where there is no such solution:

I'm not interested in recognizing a BAD spot or a useless motif and leaving it alone. This is basic stuff and not my point. That would be easy. It's about leaving a GOOD motif and moving on. To a VERY GOOD one. And that is not always easy.

Attention, a warning at this point 🤣 I am fully aware that this is, let's say, a very ambitious idea. Some people may think ok that’s the point where the fun stops. I can well understand that. But today I will try to describe how to get "very good" results instead of just "good" ones. In my experience these results do not come out of nowhere but require a persistent and very selective approach.

Let me give you a simple and yet classic example: When I am out and about in the Hautes Fagnes for doing wide-angle landscape photography, it can happen that the sky is permanently covered with long-lasting vapor trals when the weather is too good.

What do I do then? Very simple: I actually leave my wide-angle lens in my pocket and check off the day immediately. There are so many good days for that, this is not one of them. But it's ideal for other motifs.

I immediately grab my telephoto lens and look for a nice tree at the edge of the forest or a macro motif along the way, etc. Sure, if I would intervene massively with Photoshop or Luminar afterwards, I could handle that, but that's not my idea of nature photography.

So why hesitate to move on? Of course, there is always a perceived risk involved in giving up a "good" scene in the hope of a "very good" one. Because maybe I have a very nice foreground motif in front of me, it is absolutely windless and the light is already nice and soft. The few contrails? Then I'll just take less sky and don't mind it so much....I'm not going to make that compromise anymore. I do not start by letting “bad” conditions determine my image design. And in my experience it is worthwhile in about 80% of the cases to continue/further search in case of "disturbances".

Two examples: Let's start with a birch picture. Here I wanted to capture a wide angle panorama of an autum birch forest in the Netherlands in 2019. For this, I got up in the middle of the night, had a long journey and had planned and scouted everything well beforehand. But the vapor trails on this day were massive, the cloud cover was too low.

So I took advantage of this for a more creative motif, which I had been thinking about for a long time and for which I needed direct sunlight, autumn and no wind. I also needed a birch tree in front of a very dark background and the sun at a certain angle. Now, despite all the "bad weather", there was at least a lot of sunshine and a large selection of birches and I found this constellation after a while. So I was able to create the following picture, in contrast to the panorama without disturbing elements. It shows a camera-internal double exposure with slight blurring on the second image.

So I "dropped" the scene I had planned because of a disturbing element and was finally able to create this scene without disturbing elements, which I liked very much afterwards. I had already tried to take such a shot several times before, but without success - again because of disturbing elements. Mostly I had very bright areas in the foreground or in the forest behind, which did not allow such an effect as here.

 

You will encounter this principle of "drop the subject in favor of a better one" again and again in this article.

 

The second example from the Hautes Fagnes: on this day, the entire moorland was very dry and at the water points we had targeted, the reflections were somewhat "spotty" and restless. Sometimes such spots dry out completely and again form a green carpet, which can even look interesting - but on this day it was neither fish nor fowl. As much as I would have liked to bring a nice motif there: I quickly quit.

 

Since I couldn't find an interesting tree or something similar, I went to the spider webs I had seen on the way there. The motto was: rather a nice spider's web that I liked very much than a panorama of the Fagnes, which I would always struggle with.

I apply this principle in many situations: cruise ships on the sea horizon, algae foam in a stream or at sea, overturned logs in a river, spots, holes, and much more - nature is very creative here 😉

 

But you don`t always have to change the genre immediately – e.g. at the sea or at rivers I often look for another place and remain however with the landscape photography.

 

Well, sometimes it is not easy to judge whether a picture element is disturbing. In the end, it's only the look on your computer display at home – sometimes you simply miss the "wow-effect".

 

I have a tip for this: let's call it the painting method 😉

 

Just imagine that you would paint the scene you want to photograph. Maybe not in all details, but with the essential pictorial elements, as an amateur sketch.

 

Now, unlike photographing, you can also skip a brush stroke when painting. Would you then paint all elements - as visible on the spot - or would you leave something out because it looks inharmonious?

 

Usually the answer is quite simple.

 

Let's take a look at a simple example. Purely fictitious: I am walking in the mountains and look along a river that flows into a small lake, with a mountain range in the background. Sketched it looks something like this:

The river, the trees, the mountain range - for me a quite harmonious scene. The clouds, on the other hand, are not that “clean", because they are partly cut. In addition, I see two traces of vapor lines at the upper edge.

If I had to paint this scene to my taste, I would simply leave out the elements marked red in the lower picture!

I conclude that I should try to avoid these elements on location with my camera.

There a many photographic solutions for this (e.g. waiting until the cloud form fits, changing the location, the focal length, the exposure, the angle of view, etc). But there is not always a solution. Here, however, it is quite simple: use more focal length, because in this very simple example a slight zoom is not at the expense of other disturbances. “Translated” as a sketch it would look like this with more focal length.

At the same time, it is a good example that in nature you often have to weigh things against each other and compromise. Example: is the larger mountain peak now too close to the edge of the picture? If you feel so, you have to find another solution.

Conclusion of the painting method: try to think in an abstract way and always reflect whether the essential elements of the picture are harmonious and which ones are more likely to be accepted. Either find a technical solution or move on to look for a better alternative 😉

For the final illustration I will show you three more examples which I would not publish (anymore) in this way.

The famous beach of Jökulsarlon. Here I have been often - with rare exceptions in summer, you have a large selection of "ice blocks", which you can put in scene as protagonists. The picture composition is quite neat, but there are certain things I would not "paint" 😉 and so I quickly stopped the action here and went further.

First of all, the right ice blocks are not the most beautiful: they have greyish inclusions, black spots and are not very transparent either, so they do not radiate as those on the left. Also, the wave around the left block does not close cleanly but cuts the edge of the image, the latter is very nerdy I know. But it is all about what makes a good picture for me or what I call "clean" 😉

 

The solution: very simple, just go to the other 500 blocks and look for a better one...

Next example from the animal kingdom:

Actually an "okay" picture, which one could - even if not as a highlight - put into a chamois series. If not...

...there were not these culms. Let's do the painting test: would you draw these stalks or just leave out the brushstroke at this point? Well, for the first one I say: no way! Especially in front of the dark background this clearly distracts from the motif. With the second one I feel the same way and the third one could be argued about.

The solution here was quite simple. There were about five to six places within a radius of 300m, which were free of this type of grass and anyway covered with beautiful silver grass. I then focused on these spots; again and again there was a chamois in these areas. You can see the undisturbed series here 😉: Chamois Vosges

One more picture of Asturias:

A beautiful landscape, soft light, great stones, plants. But honestly would you paint these clouds like this?

At least I don't. I had some luck in this situation and was able to avoid the dark clouds a few minutes before with a slightly longer focal length.

That's it for PURITY. The first chapter is now complete!

2. Perspective: A conscious image design guides the viewer and increases the drama, tension, surprise, calm or harmony

In nature photography there are many methods to create an interesting perspective. I would like to shed some light on 4 points that seem important to me:

a) Use of leading lines

b) Knowing basic rules of perspective (compliance or deliberate break)

c) Extraction

d) Creative thinking "out of the box”

A. Leading lines are very important especially in landscape photography. Depending on their use, they create drama or harmony, lead the viewer through the picture or literally "pull you in". I consistently look for these lines, which is something you should see when you watch my portfolio.

This is a quite nice situation, in terms of light, clouds, motives, atmosphere. A little diagonal is already there, for example the cloud on the upper left or the diagonal water drain.

But let's have another look at how it looks now with a wave that creates clear diagonal lines in both lower corners:

This picture draws the viewer into the picture. This dynamic is also more appropriate to the weather mood and the drama of this scene.

Now it is not very difficult to create such lines with an ultra wide angle lens on a lava beach. It is much more challenging with e.g. stones or plants in the foreground. Let's have a look at this scene:

In rocky landscapes you often find diagonals, but here you need a little longer, because 10cm to the right, left, above, below is an enormous amount in perspective. For this scene I have minimally adjusted my tripod at least 20-30 times. The height is very important, often it is worth going very low if you want to create diagonals.

But I can use this not only in landscape photography, but also in abstract pictures of water surfaces...

...as well as for plant pictures:

B. Knowing the basic rules

There are many so-called basic photographic rules. If you google this there are crazy articles on the subject, very amusing. As far as perspective is concerned, I think you should have studied the "rule of thirds" and the "golden ratio".

I don't want to explain these basic rules at this point, but rather take a critical look at them using an example.

A good picture usually shows whether such rules have been taken into account or have been deliberately broken. At the beginning of landscape photography, for example, it often happened to me that I set the horizon very far to the upper edge of the picture, which often annoyed me a lot afterwards.

This scene of Cornwall is from the early days of my landscape photography. Apart from the fact that I don't like other things here, let's just look at the division of sky and land. Why cut this wonderful sky so much in favor of the relatively boring lower quarters?

Why this happened to me a lot is hard to say. At that time there was no folding display and I often looked at the Liveview image from above. This perspective distorts the proportions, maybe that was the reason.

At some point I started to set the thirds lines displayed in the Liveview and that gave me a good orientation, the disappointment on the display at home was immediately reduced. What I mean to say is: in my opinion, these basic rules are not an annoying set of rules made by bureaucrats, but a useful aid that can provide orientation when needed.

But every now and then this rule does not fit the motive and then one should break it consciously. E.g. here:

No matter if I would have panned it up or down, the perfect reflection and the harmonic effect in the right corners would be destroyed. With this perfect reflection the central horizon fits well.

Conclusion: "Basic rules" do not always have to be applied, but it is really good to know them.

C. Extraction

This is certainly a topic that plays a very different role in each genre. In landscape photography this is rarely used , with landscape details, colors and forms more often and in macro photography one often cannot avoid a certain exemption.

I find this topic quite obvious and therefore I would like to deal with it only with 3 short examples.

Above all, the focus should match the subject: the "exemption" can help to emphasize a pictorial element:

If the background were completely sharp, the crumbs and the protagonist would be far less prominent. Very important for a good exposure in such pictures is of course the perspective at eye level - so you often lie on the ground for this kind of shots.

However, it is not always a question of completely hiding other picture elements, see this example:

The degree of exposure was very intentional: some blurring in the background to draw the eye to the leaves, and yet enough sharpness in the background to make the forest mystically stand out.

By the way, "bokeh" effects, here certain "blurred circles", always lead to interesting backgrounds:

D. "Creative" thinking: "out of the box"

In nature photography, it is very worthwhile to take your time on location and not always rush to the obvious.

But how do I creatively realize a picture, how do I find such “creative” perspectives? I always suggest to start with very basic things which actually all have to do with movement and flexibility. Let's say I see a nice motif, like a tree, what do I start with?

  • Change your location: go completely around the tree, look at all the directions you could shoot in, make a few test shots and choose the best perspective
  • Look at the subject at different focal lengths, does it perhaps look better at ultra-wide-angle than with your standard lens, or would a telephoto lens even be better suited to eliminate unwanted elements? Try everything
  • Vary the aperture and the shooting height - from ground to bird's eye view anything goes
  •  Consider whether the conditions make short or long exposure times particularly suitable, use filters for example
  •  Simulate which time, which position of the sun, which wind would be perfect - if the NOW is not optimal, then save it and visit the place at the right time
  •  Go completely crazy and go to the extremes: Use fisheyes and supertele, take pictures with a drone, with neoprene and an underwater housing from the pond next door, with an ultra wide angle macro or other crazy tools 😉

Experienced photographers, especially those with a certain gift for spatial thinking, do not always have to go down these paths and change all lenses – they often see things in front of their inner eye, depending on the genre and motif.

Let me give you an example: the following picture was taken at a very well-known place in the Dolomites. A beautiful lake with fantastic colors. In the meantime, however, it has become a well-visited hotspot. When I set up there early in the morning, I already saw that the sky was just blue and therefore not very interesting.

 

At most I could have produced a mediocre picture that just about anyone would have shot almost the same.

After all, I didn't even unpack my camera, but stared at the lake and its surroundings for a very long time and thought about possible perspectives. Until the other photographers started staring at me, since I was holding my tripod in my hand and the light was actually okay.

Then I suddenly had an idea: I took a photo of a section of the water surface. And I turned the camera upside down. I liked the result very much and I went home satisfied.

3* The motif: I have photographed an interesting motif at the right place

I had to put an asterisk behind this point, because does the place make a good picture? Not necessarily - you can also produce a good picture in a less than optimal location. Actually, the point should be called "I photographed an interesting motif or put an inconspicuous motif in an engaging light" anyway, because that's what counts in the end.

 An interesting/rare/spectacular motif is often preffered preferred. Seems too trivial for me to go into detail.

The location, on the other hand, is theoretically secondary: let's assume a Snow Owl strays to the Dutch North Sea coast (already happened) and I manage to find it on the weekend and capture a great flight image. It doesn't matter then that Finland or Russia may have much better places for such pictures or not.

In this article I focus on the concrete assistance of the photographic realization. And although the location is unimportant for the evaluation of a picture - for the realization and the intention to create a good picture, it is very important. I would like to explain this in more detail:

I only have a limited number of photo days per year and I try to make the most of them. Time is also the most valuable commodity in photography. It is not ideal if I waste time photographing motifs in inappropriate places.

An example: a few years ago, during my search for a wild garlic forest, I came across a small area near Düren (Germany), where wild garlic blooms on a few acres in spring. A beautiful area with dense vegetation, it`s great to look at.

Photogenically it is limited however: it is not that big, you don’t have many perspectives to choose from and the trees are still quite "young". Nevertheless I always liked to go there to "make the best of it". The results were nice pictures, but not good enough to show them on my website.

I would not do that anymore by now! Ii I discover on site that certain factors are not ideal? Then I consistently go further or, as in this case, I no longer go there. I prefer to invest the time I have gained in researching a very good alternative.

In the case of wild garlic I did this at the beginning of this year. I wanted to go for a second attempt, but this time I needed a larger forest with more perspective and older trees. The first exploration tour was very complex, but finally I found what I was looking for in the volcanic Eifel. The yield was finally very good, although I did not even have ideal conditions, such as fog.

If you are interested, you can visit my series about the wild garlic forest.

For animal photography the following example is typical:

In the past I often photographed animal species at places where they happen to be. With a little bit of “stalking” I then regularly took pictures that I found okay.

For example, for some time there was a bluethroat that was seen singing in a reed belt in the Cologne area (Germany). At that time I had joined the long line of lenses and spotting scopes of other nature enthusiasts. All in the hope that it would be possible to see what it was doing. Far away, only for a short time and then it was gone again for a long time. I had invested days there. I`d better quit the picture…

I would not repeat that today either - following the same principle: too much time for a probably mediocre result. On Texel (Netherlands), for example, you have more choice, better perspectives, better light (the above-mentioned reed belt was in a hollow) and accordingly a much higher frequency of sightings and releases.

Those who think "well, I can't or don't want to cover such large distances for my hobby": I understand very well! The good news is: I apply this principle not only on a large scale (spatially speaking), but also on a small scale. For example within a nature reserve. When it comes to the right place I am looking for at a creek, on a beach, in a forest or heath.

The background of the birch tree you are photographing does not look optimal? Then explore the whole heath, every path, every junction, turn every stone (just proverbially please) - usually better alternatives show up! I usually do the scouting in suboptimal weather conditions, so that I already know the potentially good spots in suitable light.

To quickly determine whether I have found a good spot, I often ask myself a concrete question when I get there: Under these conditions, at this point here, realistically, what is the best picture I can produce?

I visualize the answer in front of my inner eye and then know pretty well whether I want to invest many hours for such a result.

On a trip to Cornwall, when our B&B host came to us very excited and reported that there was an ornithological highlight, "right here on our beach". Several nature photographers had gathered, because every now and then gannets sat directly on a rock on the sea about 100m away, which is probably rather rare there.

It was a great experience to watch, but I did not unpack my camera. The rock itself was not the most beautiful. Realistically, it would have been a flight picture from maybe 80m - in addition restless water, no reflection, grey-blue surrounding colors.

So I alternatively scouted the neighboring beaches. I found some great stone structures here, so I took a picture there in the evening. So here is my best "gannet picture" 😉

In the years before, I would certainly have stayed with the "ornithological highlight" and would have shot 1-2 mediocre pictures, which are probably shot better and more quickly on Helgoland at the gannet colony. The above mentioned landscape picture, however, I would not call mediocre and is now hanging in large format in the B&B.

Generally speaking: within a few minutes distance to the "obvious" spot recommended to me, a very good perspective instead of an average one was waiting for me - and this is, as you surely notice, a recurring principle to "work" on motifs only under very good conditions.

You don't always have to change genres, as you do here, and that often works out well, especially in landscape photography. So even the most "creative" photographer does not take a good picture, even with all the technical gadgets available if the conditions for his specific motif are not right.

4. The dimension: things are made visible that the naked eye cannot see

Some "invisible moments" are made visible by long exposures or extremely short exposures. This is what fascinates me about photography again and again! Not every good photo “has it”, but with many good photos this effect is used.

Here is an example.

A plant picture, excuse me? Couldn't you have chosen a better example for this theme, like a picturesque waterfall? Well, I think this example is just right to show the wide application of long exposure effects. Because even half a second exposure time can be very long, depending on the subject.

I don't want to explain this in detail here, because I already did: If you are interested, please have a look at point 4 of this article, "Exposure time: the fourth dimension" – btw, I am sorry – it is not translated at the moment – I`ll work on that 🤞

Long exposures make many motifs possible, but also very short exposures can make interesting details visible:

This moment of the handing over of the "bridal gift", for example, is so fast in reality that one could never capture all the details that happen in the blink of an eye. With such a picture you can enjoy exactly that.

5. The weather: light and weather conditions support the image statement

Great light is great 😁 Sure, a last spotlight out of a dramatic cloud cover or the first sunrays visible through deep fog.

But that is not what I am talking about in the following. It is rather about whether the light and weather harmonize with the motif.

Let's take this example:

What forces must be at work to make the huge, many million-year-old flysch rocks of Asturias appear in such a way? The dramatic clouds simply fit this picture statement.

Now for a completely different scene:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to drive along the Icelandic road through the pale pink illuminated landscape? Well, it really was!

And now let's combine these pictures in our minds - the dark, rough and pointed flysch rocks with a pale pink sky? Not a good fit in my opinion. In a nutshell: I would have immediately gone to another place in Asturias with such a pale pink sky, even though the above perspective was my favorite by far.

I would have visited the somewhat brighter, smooth stones about 100m further on the Asturian beach and photographed them without polarizing filters. Then I would have a pastel strong reflection on the stones in the lower two thirds, above (with wide angle) a very narrow strip with the darker rocks of the opposite cliff and in the upper third again the pink sky. A much more harmonious picture.

6. The dispersion: important picture elements are spaced evenly and harmoniously

A point that I often see in the nature photos of social media, for example. Large areas of the pictures are uninteresting, remain unused or are "empty". This results in a disharmonic composition.

Let's start with an example of a dragonfly picture that I realized some time ago. Again, it should be mentioned that this picture did not make it to my website because of other reasons. However, I am especially concerned with the dispersion of the image elements.

There is not much happening in the whole left half of the picture. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily need a second main motif in the sharpness area here, but at least a nice plant in the blur or something similar would definitely do the image good.

This does not mean that an image must not have empty areas. There are a lot of great images with 95% monochrome area. But here this extreme area also fits the extreme motive, for example a very minimalistic representation of an elephant, as you could see in the great winning picture of the ENJ/Mammals 20` by Chris Kaula.

The dragonfly picture is about areas where not much happens and which could be made more interesting. In my second example the situation is a bit different. In this monochrome landscape large empty areas are even desired. But the dispersion of the picture elements is still not harmonious. The picture is strongly left-leaning. Especially in macro photography I see this very often.

By the way, this picture is not the original, but a stamped version. Here is the original image:

So in the original, the dispersion is much more harmonious.

This example is certainly very striking, but I want to show the principle behind it first.

7. Liveliness: by choosing special elements, the scene is brought to life or a story is told

I don't actively search for such motifs, but these situations sometimes occur and the challenge is to recognize them. Here are 4 examples that show this effect:

There are of course many motifs where it is not possible to create this. At the same time this is one of the many reasons why I find nature photography interesting, which is not only limited to "grandscape" landscapes.

8. Innovation: the picture shows new and groundbreaking perspectives and image ideas

Admittedly, it is probably a bit exaggerated to immediately cross out this provocative point 😉

 

Finally, some of you will think "something is missing"! Some nature photographers are particularly creative and their abstract picture styles are considered to be particularly innovative. Some of my photographs are also considered to be creative.

 

I do not share this opinion - anymore. First I need to give you a little more detail …

 

When it comes to nature photography, I am quite nerdy on the road and I am certainly looking at a 3-digit number of pictures every day and have done this for more than 13 years. I also have picture books from all the big competitions on a shelf and I like to look at the great results. Meanwhile I am represented in some of these books myself - I could do better self-marketing and tell all about my successful "creative moments", but I want to take an honest and critical look at it.

 

I think things have changed. Except for "one in a million shots" I hardly see any real innovation anymore. Until a few years ago certainly, but now it tends towards 0. I also think the word creativity is used wrong in many cases.

 

Nevertheless, in my eyes there are photographers who would always deliver "better" results than most others under the same conditions in the same period of time. Their results fascinate me again and again, even today just as many great pictures are produced as years ago, if not more.

 

But I don't consider them innovative - animal shots with the wide-angle lens, bizarre landscapes from the drone perspective, monochrome animal shots taken through branches and bushes with extreme sharpness, massive backlight settings partly with flash systems, dreamy double exposures of all kinds, complete blur, half/half underwater shots, trioplan bokehs, massive minimalism in high keys etc. – nothing wrong with that, but seen a thousand times, that doesn't make a picture better for me.

 

in the following pictures (unfortunately a little bit cropped) it is a question of simple observation to recognize that the motifs follow certain patterns and then to realize them with certain techniques. This is certainly easier for some and harder for others, but both can be learned and it is less an "act of inexplicable creative coincidence".

But what would I call the pictures of so-called "innovative photographers"?

 

Quite simply: particularly good and clever. And this, to stay within the logic of this blog entry, particularly good and clever meeting all criteria 1-7.

 

There are some great photographers running through my mind: they make the pictures look incredibly clean, they make it look simple. They always find an interesting perspective. They use the light and weather conditions to suit the subject. They find the most interesting places, animals and breathe life into many scenes.


Now you know the criteria that are important to me when choosing my images and perspectives.

 

Do I always manage to realize them? Definitely no!

Do I still improve recognizing which motives and perspectives meet my criteria or not? Am I getting there faster? Definitely yes.

 

And that's exactly what helps me a lot to find motifs, perspectives and places with which I can shoot pictures that I like myself - and that's what counts. Furthermore, the "selective approach" has a strong influence on the mood during a photo session. I no longer rush from motif to motif, but limit myself to a few spots and scenes and take more time there. I also leave my camera in my pocket more often and simply enjoy nature.

 

If you read the article closely and still have the questions of origin in mind, however, you will realize that this is only "half the battle": I am aware that simply presenting these criteria is not enough.

 

To apply them requires that I have already selected a good area at a favorable time during the planning stage (in advance) and that I have identified a basically suitable location in the application. If this is not the case, I can apply all the realization tips shown and the picture does not satisfy me after all. This still happens to me regularly, although less and less with increasing experience. But there are also good tricks and tips for preparation and application. I will soon explain my tricks for scouting in an upcoming article.

 

What I can always recommend until then: get some feedback. Preferably from good and experienced photographers, e.g. via professional forums and -shhh- preferably not via social media like Instagram! Because there is almost no reliable correlation between the quality of the pictures and success / feedback, there are other factors that are decisive. Instagram is fun and has many advantages - but you won't get a professional feedback there 😉

 

I myself still have to learn continuously and this will never stop - but I hope that my experiences so far have helped you a little bit and given you one or two valuable insights into the thoughts of a nature photographer. I would be happy if you leave me a comment below, if like it 🖐

 

With best regards,

Thomas

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