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Priest and Beggar, Lviv, Ukraine


How has your understanding of photography changed? The trick is to learn to see as the camera does which can be quite different from how the eye perceives the world. That skill only comes with taking a lot of pictures and learning through success and disappointment. I think this is one skill that continues to evolve for the life of the photographer.Attention to detail is critical. Small differences can separate a really good image from a so-so image. Good enough often is not.


Simplify, simplify, simplify. What is it that drew me to want to take the picture to begin with and how can I eliminate those elements that detract from my vision. Again, experience is the best teacher that more is not better.


What guidance would you give yourself in hindsight? Be patient. Take your time. Look carefully and see fully. These traits are far more important than having the newest and fanciest equipment. As someone once said to me, “most lenses are better than most photographers”. Be kind to yourself. World peace is more important than the world’s greatest photo. (And, equally elusive, by the way.)


Know when NOT to take a picture.


What is key to capturing engaging images? Emotion, sensitivity, and empathy for one’s subject. One cannot capture what one cannot feel. With wildlife, know your subject so that you might anticipate behavior and be better prepared to capture it in the camera.


With landscapes in particular, take time to move around and “see” without your camera. Don’t assume that your first view of the subject is from the best vantage point possible. Understand what it is about the scene that drew you to want to photograph it then plan how to isolate that from distracting elements.


When photographing wildlife, I look for interesting actions and interactions between the animal and its world. There are times when I am engaged in photographing an animal when time seems to stop for a moment. I know that is when I have captured a “look” or an action that is special to me and that usually translates into a really good image.


Do you have a favorite photo for the story it tells? Surprisingly, a travel photo that I took in Lviv, Ukraine stands out as the image that tells the most significant story I was approached on the street by a woman, obviously in poor health, who was asking for money. I gave her the few coins that were in my pocket then wondered into a nearby courtyard where a priest was feeding pigeons. I took a few pictures of him and began to walk away.


As I left, the woman came up to the priest. The picture that I took is of the priest feeding the pigeons, ignoring the woman. While I don’t know what, if any, history the two of them may have had I was struck by the irony of the priest’s response.


Democracy has been a difficult transition for Ukraine and many of the trappings and attitudes of the old Soviet system still remain. Much of the city is in poor repair. For many, life is a daily struggle, and one comes away with an impression that there is an overriding negative pall over the city. I think that my photograph of the priest and the beggar woman captured exactly what were my rather depressing impressions of Lviv.


How do you navigate the difficulties of your profession? I do not rely on photography to make a living. That allows me to do the things I like and ignore those I do not. If one expects to live off of their nature photography however, it is not enough to be a good photographer, one must also be willing to market oneself. The professional nature photographers that I know spend at least as much time marketing their work as they do in the field. In addition, many teach photography in order to augment their income.


The digital age moves very quickly and change is the norm rather than the exception. New cameras, lenses, software etc. appear almost daily. Previously, when film cameras were the norm, the year to year improvements in gear were modest.


People would hang onto a good film camera for years without feeling the need to “upgrade”. There was no “digital darkroom” with its dizzying array of software options, all with frequent upgrades. The innovations in our digital world can be very exciting but also very expensive. The constantly changing technology requires more time learning and relearning than I am sometimes comfortable with.


Where have you found the most diversity of wildlife? In September of 2010 I was fortunate to spend almost 3 weeks around Lake Nakuru and in the Masi Mara of Kenya, where I witnessed the Great Migration. The diversity and abundance of wildlife was beyond anything I had ever experienced. The drama of survival that played out daily was a photographer’s dream. I came home with 12,000 images and still haven’t gone through all of them thoroughly.


What species do you enjoy the most and the least? I suppose I enjoy photographing wolves more than other species. They have very expressive eyes and that is always my focus. I find all the emotions described in humans reflected in the eyes of wolves.


I also find a grace about the way wolves conduct themselves. While I’m aware that a wolf’s life can be a difficult and, even a brutal one at times, I choose to emphasize those traits that I find so appealing.


I have not found a species of animal that I don’t enjoy photographing although; I would have to admit that I don’t go out of my way to photograph insects.


How important is it to constantly challenge yourself? I really think the challenge comes naturally. In photography, as with most worthwhile pursuits, one constantly seeks to improve. I am never fully satisfied with any image. I know that I could have done better if only……(fill in the blank). I really think the first step to boredom is complete satisfaction.


INSPIRATION


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