Arkansas Wildlife Blog and Gallery
Buffalo National River and NW Arkansas
I believe every nature photographer goes through phases with every new species he or she photographs. This is what I have observed, and really, what
I have overcome as I have worked to make my photography different and impactful. I will use elk as my example.
At first when you start working with a new species, you are content to just get any old photo of it. This is the true mark of the beginner, but really I believe everyone does it. With elk this takes two forms. First, the same old herd photos, i.e., elk grazing like cows, head down and butts up. Second, big photos of bulls standing in a field. Just a big old bull, nothing fancy. Too often the field looks like an unmowed lawn. Yawn!
Pretty soon you start to think more carefully about your subject. At this stage you are working to pose them in interesting ways. You work with multiple animals in combinations, and you go for interactions amongst them that seem to express emotoins, and perhaps tell a story. These are better photos, but they are only a step beyond the standing like a statue, taxidermy shot.
After you feel you have that covered what is next? I think the next step is to wrap your wildlife photo in a good landscape composition. The single cow elk in front of a sycamore tree in winter is one of these. You could argue that this picture is an elk inside a landscape, or a landscape photo that has a strategic elk in it. This composition was quite deliberate. Note how the elk's head is directly below the crook in that limb. She is also looking into the negative space on the left. A fairly decent composition. One that I set up carefully.
Good wildlife landscapes place the animals in context and they tell a story. Many things are going on, you are drawn into the photo. The last example was shot in Lost Valley in winter. Here the elk were near an old weathered building, and you have a landscape. I deliberately placed the cow elk in the foreground rather than make the photo "bull centered". There is a very large alpha bull in the picture, but he is pushed back, and interestingly, interacting with a cow next to the building. I think this photo has all the ingredients, it has a pleasing landscape, and an unexpected elk composition. It draws you in. I consider this my best elk landscape to date. It has all the elements.
In my mind these are the ingredients of compelling composition. What you are going for is piling on all the expressive tools you have at your disposal. You pick the setting and angle carefully, you pose the animals in that setting. You are going for synergy, where one plus one equals five.
Spend some time thinking about this wildlife landscape strategy. You will get much stronger compositions and some killer lifetime shots. It isn't easy, but if you plan and pre-visualize you settings, points of view, and understand the habits of the animals, you are in the game. The question will be is this the day it will all come together. If you do your homework, you have a decent shot. If you have planned well, you will know what to do when the opportunity arises.
Shameless Self-Promotion Department
My framed wildlife prints are on display and for sale at a number of locations:
Boardwalk Cafe/Arkansas House
Cliff House Inn
Point of View Restaurant
Jasper Chamber Gift Shop
Lost Valley Canoe Store
Villines Store (Boxley Valley)
Low Gap Store
Compton One Stop
Uncommon Grounds Coffee Shop
Composing Wildlife Landscapes
Basic Landscape & Elk
Landscape, Elk & Story
When The Planets Aligned