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My approach to nature photography

Blogs: #6 of 6

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I have been wanting a blog so that I could blog about my photos. But for my first post I figured that I should talk a little about my approach to nature photography. Different people approach this in different ways, but I have a philosophy of nature photography that probably differs some from the average. As a Christian, I approach it from the perspective of creation being God's handiwork. When He created each creature He filled them with beauty. Today we are surrounded by this natural beauty, and my approach is to try to capture this beauty in my photographs. The way I see it, I am just portraying to the best of my ability the work of the Master Artist. I am simply an apprentice attempting to portray His works in a manner that captures as much of the beauty which He has placed there as possible. Now, the side affect of this is that because I am simply capturing the beauty of the Master Artist's work to the best of my ability with the tools He has given me, I don't get all the credit for the beauty in my photographs,God does. But on the other hand, I do take the blame for anything less-than-perfect.

Speaking of tools, (besides the natural artistic talent which God has given me) I use a Nikon D3100 camera. Nothing special about that or my two main lenses, and 18-55 mm and a 55-200 mm. I do lots of close-up photography with these two non-macro lenses. That brings us to one of the most important pieces of equipment which I use. If you didn't know, you might think it was just an ordinary filter. But its actually a Nikon 5T close-up diopter. If you don't know what that is (and I didn't a few years ago) it is an achromatic close-up diopter. That is, it is two elements of high-quality glass, which magnify, and which also shorten my maximum focusing distance to about 2'. The second of the two elements is a chromatic aberration correction element so that your photos are not distorted, meaning that they will be of much higher quality. I know from experience that this is a big advantage over holding a magnifying glass in front of your lens. Of course, that was with my old point-and-shoot. But it taught me a valuable lesson; the concept of a close-up diopter. The fact that the 5T screws on the front of your lens instead of you having to hold is also a powerful feature. If you want to take nice close-ups without cluttered backgrounds, with your current non-macro lenses, than I can testify that this is a great option. (Note that unfortunately Nikon does not make these any more, but you can buy them used like I did, or I think Canon and other manufacturers may make two-element close-up diopters too. Remember, make sure it is two-element or else your pictures will be of much lower quality).

I really like the way I can use this diopter to de-clutter the background and bring the focus to the beauty of the particular subject.

I also use a tripod of course, when it is short enough. The one that I have been using isn't full-sized, but I just bought one so that I would be ready in the spring. The one that I have been using goes down to about 8", but if you are a close-up nature photographer you probably realize that that will certainly not be adequately low in many situations. When the tripod won't go low enough, I just place the camera on the ground (on top of something, especially if I require a little height). That works great for me, but I have found that the best and most comfortable way to make a shot in that situation is to put myself flat on the ground too. That works well for me too, because I am skinny and when I lay flat on the ground, I am flat on the ground, and I actually enjoy it. Of course if you lay on the ground you may get dirty, wet, muddy, bitten by spiders, or attacked by ants. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Generally I don't edit my photographs, except to occasionally fine tune the exposure. Again, my point is not to create a beautiful shot through manipulation, but to capture the beauty which God placed in creation. So, I try my best to take photographs that do not require correction of this sort. I am very much a 'perfectionist' and am extremely critical of art in general, and especially my own work. Being as critical as I am has its benefits, one of which is that if one uses it properly it can help one to greatly improve one's skill. But at times, one can also depress one's self with all of one's imperfect shots.

Anyway, I try to use it constructively, and have learned to consider it a gift.

I plan to do a post on each of some of my photos, to tell more about their subjects, etc. But until then, happy shooting (or painting, etc.),

J.D. Grimes