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The Art of Making a Photograph

It’s almost inconceivable by today’s standards, but once upon a time photography was considered a totally mechanical, automatic recording process—an exciting scientific and technological breakthrough, but very far from being a legitimate and authentic art form.


"We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium." ~ Ansel Adams


Ansel literally spent a lifetime working tirelessly to change society’s perceptions. “What is creative photography?” Visualizing a creative nature photograph involves a combination of technical knowledge, artistic vision, and an understanding of the subject matter.


1. Research and Familiarize Yourself: Start by researching the location or subject you intend to photograph. Look for inspiration in books, magazines, online galleries, or even by studying the work of renowned nature photographers. Familiarize yourself with the characteristics, colors, textures, and unique features of the subject.


2. Define Your Vision: Before heading out, take some time to define the mood, story, or message you want to convey through your photograph. Visualize the final image in your mind—consider the composition, lighting, and any specific elements you want to include. Having a clear vision will guide your decisions during the shoot. Just as Ansel Adams said and did, you must have a clearly focused idea of what you want to make from your photograph. “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” ~ Ansel Adams


3. Choose the Right Time and Place: Timing is crucial in nature photography. Research the best time of day for the specific subject you want to capture. Early mornings and late afternoons often provide the most favorable lighting conditions. Visit the location beforehand if possible, noting potential vantage points and interesting angles.


4. Compose Your Shot: Once you arrive at the location, assess the scene and start composing your shot. Look for strong focal points, leading lines, or geometric shapes that can add interest and guide the viewer's eye through the image. Apply the rule of thirds, but don't be afraid to experiment with alternative compositions. While there are many rules to incorporate in the composition of a photography much like drawing and painting, those rules are guideline that can be manipulated but with careful consideration. It is important to know and understand the rules before going out and breaking them.


5. Pay Attention to Lighting: Light is a critical element in photography, and understanding how it interacts with your subject will greatly impact the final result. Observe the quality, direction, and intensity of light in your scene. Consider how it enhances or detracts from the subject and adjust your shooting position or wait for the right moment if needed. After all, light is the essence of what photography is. To write or paint with light is a loose interpretation of the word, photography.


6. Use Depth and Perspective: Incorporating depth and perspective can add a three-dimensional feel to your photograph. Experiment with foreground elements to create a sense of scale and depth. This could involve including rocks, flowers, or other objects that lead the viewer's gaze into the image and towards the main subject. With todays digital capabilities it is much less difficult to create enough depth in an image that the viewer feels as though they can reach right into the photograph.


7. Capture Detail and Textures: Nature is filled with intricate details and textures. Zoom in or get closer to capture the fine details of flowers, leaves, or other elements. Use a macro lens if necessary to capture the beauty in small-scale subjects. Pay attention to the patterns, textures, and colors that make the subject unique. Always look for the little things that can either distract or attract the viewer's eye.


8. Experiment with Different Techniques: Don't be afraid to experiment and try different techniques to create a unique and creative photograph. This could involve playing with long exposures for smooth water or capturing motion blur in moving subjects. Use different lenses, angles, or post-processing techniques to enhance your vision. Ansel Adams was known for his use of filters and combining them to generate levels of contrast film was not able to accurately record at the time.


9. Edit with Intention: Once you've captured your image, bring it into post-processing software to refine it further. Adjust the exposure, contrast, colors, and sharpness to align with your vision. However, strive for a natural and balanced edit that enhances the photograph without going overboard. Keep in mind that even Ansel Adams was no stranger to manipulating his photographs. He viewed the craft as a musical composition where in post production he would work to bring out the elements that moved him in his minds eye before he clicked the shutter. Dodging and Burning were the two most common things he would do, just as we would use histograms, curves and contrast in the digital image. “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships"..”

~ Ansel Adams


10. Share and Seek Feedback: Finally, share your photograph with others, whether it's through online platforms, photography communities, or local exhibitions. Seek constructive feedback to help you grow as a photographer and refine your creative vision."It is a creative art. There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams


Remember, the art of visualizing a creative nature photograph is a deeply personal and subjective process. Develop your own style and let your passion for the subject guide your creativity. With practice and experimentation, you'll continue to improve your skills and capture stunning nature photographs.

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