Posted by: kerryl29 | January 3, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Because they apparently feel as though I possess some degree of acumen when it comes to the landscape, many people seem to believe that I ought to be accomplished in all areas of photography.  This line of thinking seems to more or less conform to the following notion:  you know how a camera works, you’re a capable portrait/event/action/street/etc. photographer.  This makes little sense to me.  It’s essentially consistent with the notion that a delivery truck driver ought to be racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  (After all, if you know how to operate a motorized vehicle…)

In any case, it’s not true.  I do not consider myself an accomplished anything-photographer…with the possible exception of the landscape (and that’s only if I choose to believe my “press clippings”).  Even when it comes to other areas of nature photography I don’t regard myself as adept.  I dabble in macro and come up with a pretty decent shot every now and then but that’s more a function of the law of averages, I think, than any particular erudition on my part.

When it comes to wildlife photography, I’ve always said that you can fit what I know about it in a thimble and have plenty of room left over.  Oh, I have some passing knowledge of what’s required and I certainly appreciate how difficult a discipline it is, but it’s definitely not my forte.

The requisite skills of landscape and wildlife photography couldn’t be much different from one another; virtually the only commonality, in fact, is found in the broad technical fundamentals of the photographic discipline.  Wildlife photography has far more in common with other forms of action photography–a genre in which I do not excel–than that of the landscape.

Great Blue Heron, Churchill Woods Forest Preserve, Illinois

And yet…every now and then, when I’m in the field, an animal is kind enough to pose for me and I come away with a wildlife keeper.  I’ve sold prints of most of the images accompanying this entry; several have been competition award winners.  I regard all of this as further evidence that even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.

“Mother and Child Reunion,” Columbia Black Tail Doe and Fawn, Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington

Every image accompanying this piece was simply a case of happenstance.  The image of the Great Blue Heron was a fluke; I stumbled onto a heron/egret rookery in northeast Illinois while planning to shoot some spring wildflowers.  The heron pictured just happened to be standing amidst impeccable light.  The doe and fawn simply popped up out of the tall grass (and lupine) while I was photographing early morning landscapes at Hurricane Ridge.  I found the praying mantis by accident when photographing wildflowers in central Indiana.  The butterfly simply landed amidst the azaleas I was shooting in South Carolina.  I was shooting in the thick morning fog at Tillamook Bay when the cormorant jumped up on a partially submerged rock.  The ponies were amidst the brackish Atlantic Coast marshes on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Praying Mantis, Marion County, Indiana

In effect, I was simply lucky–in the right place at the right time.  I was so surprised that, each time, I was manually focusing on the subjects, too stunned to engage my camera’s autofocus capabilities.  (I never use autofocus when shooting landscapes or close-ups, so I rarely even think to use it.)  Talk about a self-imposed handicap!

Swallowtail and Azaleas, Kings Mountain State Park, South Carolina

The most significant and obvious difference between the wildlife and landscape genres is that–generally speaking–the main elements of the latter category don’t move.  This single distinction has all sorts of implications that dictate distinct photographic techniques.

Cormorant in Morning Fog, Tillamook Bay, Oregon

Beyond technical considerations, there’s the art of seeing to consider.  One must “see” the shot in both cases, but how one sees is quite different, in part because the compositional elements are different.  The principles of composition are often quite similar, but the relationship between the photographer and the elements of the shot…not so much.  The wildlife photographer is usually far more at the mercy of the compositional elements than the landscape photographer who typically has more control over his perspective in relation to the subject (again–movement, or lack thereof).  This, I think, is the reason why I prefer landscapes.  I like the notion of being in creative control.

Wild Ponies, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

Or am I simply fooling myself?  Perhaps the reason that I am less enamored with the practice of wildlife photography is that I’m simply not very good at it.  The truth will set you free.



  1. I think you are far too hard on yourself. These photos are beautiful! Anyway, aren’t many people’s photos partly a product of chance and luck?

    • Cindy: thanks…and congrats! I think you’ve just inspired my next blog post. 🙂

      • Always glad to be of assistance :). May I one day become as talented as you!!

  2. Beautiful photos, all of them! But the second and fourth took my breath away. Too too good! 🙂

    • Thanks very much; that’s very kind of you to say.

  3. Yes, Kerry, I think you should let the truth set you free…holy cow! Look at your photos! They are incredible, even if accidentally so…sale and contest-winner worthy…what more proof of the truth do you want? Beautiful stuff…wow….

    • Thanks, Scott. But there’s still the blind-squirrel-nut thing. 🙂

      • Ok, Kerry….

  4. These are outstanding! PFTL is correct, you are to hard on yourself, and I happen to agree with Nandini as well about the second and the fourth photographs. Glad you decided to share your “different” side.
    ~ Lynda

    • Thanks, Lynda.

  5. As some one who dabbles in both landscape and wildlife photography, I agree with you 100%. The two couldn’t be more different.

    I try to approach wildlife photography as portrait photography, but of animals rather than people. The problem is getting close enough to the subject, and having it sit still long enough for a portrait shot. Most of the time I am left with a good photo of an animal, but it is rarely what I really wanted.

    Landscape photography is more about visualizing how a scene will look under different lighting angles, then being there at the right time to capture the scene the way that you would like it to look.

    Wildlife photography is 90% luck, landscape photography is 90% planning. At least that’s the way I see it.

    • Yeah, I largely agree with you. It’s always a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but there’s a lot more control about what constitutes “the right time” with the landscape. With wildlife, it’s more a case of giving yourself a chance to be in position for the shot. Closest thing to that with landscape shooting is the sunrise/sunset motif.

      • After having given this more thought, there is this caveat to wildlife photography. Most of the “real” wildlife photographers, the ones that earn their living at it, normally set up a blind near something that brings the wildlife back time and time again, like a nest, den, watering hole, or even bait. That takes much of the luck out of the equation for them, but I lack the patience for doing that.

        • Not only that, I’m aware of a number of people who set up “false backgrounds” and even natural-looking constructed perches for songbirds. This sort of thing is far less suitable for larger birds and other wildlife, of course. This isn’t my forte, so this sort of thing has never entered my mind until reading or being told about it…but some folks will go to great lengths (some of which are which are quite controversial ethically and environmentally) in an attempt to obtain standout images.

  6. Assateague is one of my favorite spots on the Eastern Shore. Nice photos! I particularly love the butterfly photo, but there is something nice and mysterious about the Cormorant photo.

    • Thanks, Jennifer.

  7. Well put! This is precisely the reason why I did not want to subject myself to becoming a commercial photographer. I know I can do it, but there would be no passion in it for me, so that act of ‘seeing’ that you talk about gets dulled down. People can see the presence or the absence of passion in a photograph, when they’re really looking. There are glimpses of it in these photos, but I definitely feel the passion in your landscape work.

    • That’s very well put, James. Very well put indeed.

  8. simply stunning well done

  9. Happenstance has triggered some fabulous shots of moments in time. I can not choose a favorite–they are all lovely.

  10. I love the wild ponies! such free spirited creatures… I dunno, I find all your pictures zen like!!! love them all =)

  11. I KNOW you’re an artist at heart because you are such a harsh critic of your own work. I forget where I read this, but I love it…”The difference between a creative amateur and a professional is this…the amateur thinks everything they do looks FANTASTIC and the pro thinks everything looks like crap.” I love your animal photos, especially the heron at the top. There’s a heron that lives on the river a stone’s throw from my house. I see him often, but he’d never hold still for a pic!

    • Thanks, Kathy. Yeah, there’s some truth to what you’re saying about self-criticism. Love that quote, BTW.

  12. Lovely images. I like the simplicity of the cormorant in the fog – like a haiku. The colours in the swallowtail pic are gorgeous. And a heron flew over the road as I drove to work today!

    • Thanks. You know, in a sense, the cormorant image is a landscape shot with a bird in it. 🙂

  13. Lovely images Kerry, I love your butterfly shot in particular.

    I am inclined to agree with your point. I’m only a beginner when it comes to photography but I really do think some non-photographers assume that if you can shoot one subject well, you can shoot any subject well.

    I think it’s really hard to shoot moving objects such as birds and animals. You need lots of patience. Right place at the right time helps too – 90% luck as quietsolopursuits puts it.

    I genuinely think some photographers have an ‘eye’ for some genres.

    For all the photography internet sites I’ve been looking at in the last 18 months for inspiration, there are only a few photographers who have the gift of drawing the viewer’s eye into the frame.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Vicki.

      I agree, some people seem to have a better “natural” eye than others but I’m firmly convinced that this can–to a great extent–be learned, by most (if not all) who try.

  14. I beg to differ Kerry. Accomplished can mean “skillfully done or produced” and every one of these images is that and more, much more.

    Your first image of the great blue heron reminded me of a passage in “The Zen of Creativity” by John Daido Loori where he describes what had become an obsession to photograph this magnificent bird. Every time he tried “…but this elusive and majestic bird always flew away before I could photograph it.” Only after he finally abandoned his obsession and forgot about the bird did he finally get the opportunity to photograph the great blue heron. He wondered “Was it because I had let go of the expectation of getting the photograph”?

    You may be more comfortable with and better equipped for landscape photography but I think your subconscious was attuned and ready to make these lovely images when the opportunity arose.


    • Thanks, John. The JDL passage is food for thought.

  15. These are incredible photos. Each one gave me pause.

    • Thank you very much!

  16. From what I have been taught, though not necessarily learned, we need to watch our point of view and keep an eye out for merging with other objects, species. I seem to see this after the fact, rather than when I am obseving through the view finder or on the live view. The doe and fawn is really telling me about the relationship between the mother and offspring in the newness of life as suggested by the young animal and the environment. I love horses and their placement works for me even though they are not facing the same direction. If their rumps had been a little lower, even with the shoreline, well a problem perhaps. I am a beginner and want to learn…enjoy the journey!

    • Thanks.

      There’s a lot more control over “the little things,” like mergers, when you’re dealing with elements that don’t move. If I see a merger between FG and BG landscape elements, I can move the camera to account for it. With wildlife…if I see a merger and move to account for it, the wildlife may move and the shot may be gone forever.

  17. Really great pictures

    • Thanks, Mahesh.

  18. What marvelous shots! I think you are really good at what you do. Yes, sometimes, it’s a right place right time thing. You do have an eye for what makes a good picture. And why do you do it? I’m guessing because it’s fun. That’s what matters 🙂

    • You’re right–it IS fun. I definitely wouldn’t do if it wasn’t.

  19. Kerry, these photos are beautiful. I understand what you are saying but I still think it is having a great eye, skills honed to allow you to act quickly, AND being able to take advantage of fortuitous circumstances when they present themselves. I have to agree with John’s quote as well. Thanks for sharing your versatility 🙂

  20. I am just an amateur, but I think these pictures are great! I like photographing landscapes, because I can never get a portrait right 🙂

    • Thanks very much!

  21. happenstance or not the photos are stunning! Thanks for sharing 😉

  22. Love your photos, especially Ma & Baby Deer:) Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks; very much appreciated!

  23. I love no.1 and 5. I know nothing about photography only like looking at them but I think you are definately too hard on yourself all these shots are beautiful.

    • Thanks…I appreciate the kind remarks.

  24. They are great photographs… Light, colours, compositions, they are all amazing… And so artistic… Thank you dear Kerrly, with my love, nia

    • Thank you, Nia.

  25. WOW is all I can say. BEAUTIFUL photos, both landscape and wildlife. Amazing, thanks for sharing! LOVE the ponies and cormorant the best.

    • Thanks so much!

  26. Absolutely beautiful. Each one tells a story. Nice work.

    • Thanks; that’s very kind of you to say.

  27. […] response to my last post, Cindy of photosfromtheloonybin asked:  “aren’t many people’s photos partly a product of […]

  28. […] Kerryl29 […]

  29. Here comes a special colorful award for you.
    I nominate you for the 7×7 Link Award, simply because your blog is awesome.
    You can read more about it here:

    Enjoy 🙂

    • Hi Amira! Thanks very much for the honor; I will look into the specifics momentarily.

  30. […] the jazz idiom.  Kerry of Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog had two great posts recently about wildlife photography as a happy accident and how much planning he does as a landscape photographer. My reaction to his […]

  31. […] who have been reading this blog for some time know that I am not a wildlife photographer.  While animals occasionally inadvertently pose for me and I take their pictures, this doesn’t make me a wildlife photographer; it makes me someone […]

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