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Friday, March 23, 2012

Ego and Perception

There has always been the perception among photographers and the general public that when one mentions photography, the conversation invariably turns to "Oh, do you do wedding or portrait or fashion or any of the other myriad genres of photography (related to people)?"

If there is one thing that pisses me off is the colossal ego of some portrait/wedding/fashion photographers and the assumption that they are the pinnacle of photography. Some even go to the point of disparaging other photographers and saying that if they don't shoot models or weddings that they don't know what photography is or they start going on and on about how their photo-shoots are the prime reason why lenses or gear should be created. Some even go so far as to complain about "newbies" in the business whether they are competition to their business or not. It just so happens that some of us enjoy other genres of photography and have absolutely no interest in shooting models or weddings or any of the human-related photography genres.

When a nature photographer gets asked that question, we start getting hives and an incessant urge to itch someplace which would not be suitable in polite company. In a nutshell, NO. The urge to do other forms photography could not be farther away from a nature/wildlife photographer's mind. It's not that we think that it is a pariah's form of photography, but more that we hate dealing with people who are stressed and passive-aggressive. Nor do we enjoy dealing with bridezillas.

Yet nature photographers don't have life easy either. We don't have the benefit of cooperative models or a movable softbox. That big glaring 384.6 yottawatt (3.846×1026 W) spotlight in the sky is the only light we have and we don't have the option of moving it or sticking a softbox on the darned thing. Those of us who shoot nature or wildlife, don't have the opportunity to shoot retakes or move a softbox or wrangle subjects (who can understand what we're saying) around. We track, compose and shoot our subjects all in one take. If we try to wrangle our subjects around, we run the risk of getting gored, trampled, eaten, attacked and otherwise maimed. That is why we have to know our stuff. We don't have second chances to get the shots we want. We have to deal with stressed wildlife that can trample, claw you to death or otherwise maim you and if the specimen isn't the best specimen around, tough beans, we're stuck with the shot. You ever try to Portrait Professional an eagle that is in the process of a molt? Absolutely impossible. And in order to make sure that we get a proper picture, we have to stay at a location for hours and hours, a prospect that would make the most hardened portrait or wedding photographer scream in frustration. Or if you're a landscape photographer, it's even tougher, the landscape doesn't move, the only two things that you can do is move yourself and dictate the time at which you approach the location. That's it. You're at the mercy of the light. So when you've got a situation where one shot is all that you have, you need to know your camera, your settings and your gear or risk losing the shot.

I think George Stocking, renowned landscape photographer said it even more clearly in his article to which I will link to here, that all portrait, wedding and fashion photographers should read in case they get an over-inflated sense of their own skills. Perception Is(n't) Always Reality. When you want to test your over-all skills and think that we landscape/nature photographers have it easy: "Let's find out, shall we? Let's see if you can walk the well as you talk the talk!"

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