Friday, April 13, 2012



 “If your dare to teach, you better make sure you are always learning”.

Those of us who choose to teach, know all too well, how much we learn from our students. Presently, I am organizing photowalks in nature, which have become a great challenge, as I must help people hone their skills in outdoor photography and introduce them to the fine art of nature interpreting. Combining these skills with people from all walks of life, different objectives in photography, and a limited time of 6 hours to learn as much as they can, is not an easy task. However, I found, that if I limited the objectives to teaching people about natural light and composition, nature interpreting would become an added value, on how nature works for those who want to make natural history their main object in photography.

To start, a short intro is a most so one can break the ice, get some expectations feedback and plan how to juggle the different skills your audience may have. This enables you to use your skills and time in a way that is useful to all of the attendees. Once we get over the fact that the most used mode in digital photography is Automatic, it is important to let fletching photographers know, that manufacturers have gone through the trouble of working hard to make everyone shoot like “a pro”. So one needs to emphasize that they can really enjoy their compact cameras if they take time to learn the proper use of their Scene Modes. Yes one most read the camera's users manual. I am amazed about the extend that manufacturers and their R&D engineers have manage to squeeze the great number of applications or modes the cameras may have into the operating software of their products.


I start with portraits; people just love to photograph people! And having a pre-selected place where this type of pictures can get all the attention of your audience is very important. One great thing to do is placing everyone at both ends of their respective cameras. Why? Because one has to know the subject that one is to photograph, to make good pictures. And if one is faced with a person, who is not comfortable with having their picture taken, solving that inconvenience  is part of the photographer’s job. So photographers will be models and models will be photographers. 

North, back, and reflected lights make the first exercise on learning to see the light. Portrait photography is a good start point, as a natural light setting for portrait, allow your audience to appreciate both light and shadows, and how they work together. This exercise works well for beginners and serious amateurs.

By showing your audience, how a slight change in the framing of the picture changes it’s lighting and thus, its mood. It will begin to understand how to work with light will during the rest of the outing.


Following the teachings of Aristotle who said: "To learn about something, one should study it from as far and near as possible, as this is the only way to understand the nature of things". 

Context gives the photographer a broad view of his surroundings. This will show the WHERE in his picture taking. When the object of our photography is to document nature, one better make it a practice to capture images of one`s surroundings.

The object is a closer view of the same place and it may show why the WHO and the WHAT are combined into a single picture. Most of us feel this, but we are seldom shown how important these two concepts are in photography.

A change in perspective can make a big difference in our photography, no one has placed an inflexible rule that states that pictures most be taken while standing on your feet. Changing how we view things can be fun and offer us incredible results. Making fun pictures allows the group to have fun and share different views and photo opportunities.

Breaking away from the usual makes unusual pictures that at the end of the day will place a smile on your face when you go back to your files and review them.


Why three is better than one. If you are to photograph landscapes, a wide angle lens is the glass to use, they come from extremes as fish eyes to moderate wide angles, as a 35 mm or even the supposedly "normal lens", that we used to call the 50mm, in times of film cameras. However, in the digital era, we most think differently, by embracing the tools available to us that can help our creativity move into new dimensions. The picture above is a panoramic made from three 20 MB pictures which are stitched into a 60 MB panorama. This could be called a high definition mosaic, as the amount of information gathered is much larger than what one would get from a single wide angle lens photograph. As digital photography advances into different fields, high definition seems to be one of the many forms of information gathering by today's photographers. Therefore, thinking in digital seems to be the way to go if you want to expand your horizons in photography. So today one has to think in the total workflow, as pre- thinking our goals will help us attain achievements that will surpass our imagination.


Using available light under the forest canopy can be challenging. As it turns out, only 1% of the sun's light touches the tropical forest floor as the sun travels over its zenith position at noon time. However, one can spend days or even years photographing the understory, and not even scratch the surface of its full potential.  

The objective of light studies can be turn into patch photography, where parts of the forest can become the subject of one's attention.

A good example can be lines, forms and textures. These pictures have two objectives, one is scientific and the other is to catch the colors and forms of the forest. Both objectives are well justified as one can document facts and the other beauty. 

Light and lines are a great way to exercise one's ability in making an abstract statement. The way light falls upon the vegetation is so random, that a picture may be available for a matter of seconds. This forces one to have a discriminating eye which can make the difference between having a great time in the forest, or becoming aware of all the harsh conditions a tropical forest can impose upon its visitors.

Look into fun things that nature provides you. A good example is an exercise of a nature ABC as shown in the picture above, where the curled leafs of a Calathea bend to make an "A", "V", and an "X". If you really want to challenge yourself, go on making the whole ABC in the forest, that will keep you busy for a while. To hone on one's tracker skills, do not let the ugly or unexpected go pass you. Stop, look closely, pay attention to details, turn things around or over (BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU DO, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED) and you may find how a group of caterpillars bind with silk a leaf to make their home and dining room at the same time. By doing this, they hide from view, protect themselves from the rain, parasitic flies and wasps, and eat in peace and rest in the same place.

Looking extremely down or high are views we seldom do in our day to day picture taking, however, it makes a difference once you incorporate these views into you picture taking arsenal.

By pointing the camera and a wide angle up to the canopy, one can record how biodiverse the forest is by recording the great abundance of leaf forms there are. Or by shooting down on a bromeliad inflorescence, one can record the great geometric forms nature has to show us, or how color is used as an advertising aide to attract pollinators.  At the very least, bot pictures are pleasing to the eye. So if a location seems overwhelming, make it work for you. However, study the most you can about the subject so you can be prepared to take pictures regardless of the place you visit.


"Madman is an english man sitting in the midday sun"

So we have to shoot at midday as part of our outing has a recesses, now who wants to rest when we are not tired of shooting! Its too hot! YEAH look at the hot shadows! Well, we want to make the best of our day, so harsh light can be useful. Look for alternatives and you will find them. Light reflecting from the pond's water help to place brightness in the underside of the Curcuma leafs, shooting a saffron cousin flower from above to get the bloom and its shadow works well for some. So do not write off harsh light.


Most photographers like water pictures. They are just one subject that most of us cannot pass bye. It may be a puddle in an urban setting, a tranquil lake in the high mountains, but one thing really stops people and makes the contemplate...reflections. 

I cannot say enough about seen light, taking your time, look and if it is not quite right...go and come back! it will surprise most of you how a seemly lifeless or not inspiring scene can change in hours. Its the magic spell that turns drabness into beauty. So embrace the technique. The photos above are from the same pond, the picture above is at noon and the one below just before sunset. If we look with foresight, we will enjoy the hind sites. Its a matter of timing.

And it can be a matter of looking from afar, as it is to look closely. A single change of angle can mean a different state of mind.


To finish off, I like to bring the subject of been in the shade. To get long shadows one has to rise up with the sun or wait for the sunset. Once the sun is just over the horizon is when the shadows come alive. Here, a tree does not make a good photo, however its shadow, well it gives you a lot to play with.

So look at light and darkness as in photography they are a joy. Plan outings with others, and share the views as you go.

See you next week

Leopoldo "Leo" Garcia

1 comment:

Tara F said...

Hi, thanks for posting this.