Monday, February 21, 2011


"You kids have everything handed to you, it's too easy, you don't have to work for it.": followed by, Wait for it, wait..." like we did when I was a kid." There it is. I heard this when I was a kid and I'm guessing that kids are still hearing it from the older generation, of which I am now a part. Let me take a moment to stop being depressed at that thought.

I don't know maybe it's true. Is it easier for each generation? It sure is for the photographers in the digital age. We have it much easier then even 20 years ago. Everyone with a camera feels that they can photograph great images and for the most part, it's true.  Cameras can be much simpler to use, from your IPhone to 35 DLSRs, you can take a good picture, maybe even a great one. That you can do it on a continuous basis, I believe, depends on educating yourself and practicing your techniques over and over again: putting in the work to improve. That means being in the field shooting or reading books or being on the Internet watching and learning from the great photographers that you admire.

Yesterday, Phyllis and I were at Disney's Animal Kingdom with my brothers. It is a great place to practice photographing animals that you would not normally see everyday. It is also a great place to test yourself. I decided that yesterday I would only take my camera (D300s) and one lens ( Nikon 70 - 200 VR 2.8).  It was interesting to try and get the images with just this one zoom. Next time, I want to try using my 17 - 55 zoom which will be even more challenging. In a later post, I will discuss what it was like shooting with just this combination.

When we started out, I thought this self challenge would be the subject of this post. As will happen with nature photography, things changed. As we were waiting to see one of the shows, I spotted a young lady (staff person) holding a Great Horned Owl. Well, not really holding it but rather the owl was perched on her arm. One of the challenges shooting in any zoo is to capture images that do not look like they were taken in a zoo. So that is what I was going to do. It would  have some of the same challenges as if we were shooting out in the wild. I didn't know how much time I would have to photograph the owl, for one. Plus, I needed to eliminate some distracting areas around the owl: first, being the staff person who's arm it was sitting on. This would mean I would not be getting any full body shots but more of a portrait. Also there were some very distracting background elements as seen in these images.

After taking these  two images, I started thinking and pre-visualizing what my final image would look like. As I was thinking about the shot I would try to capture, a young person with a Canon 35mm DSLR walked up next to me. They pointed the camera, took one or two shots, and I heard them say to their companion, " Ok, that's great. I got it, let's go." They were there less then a minute and they left.  Now I never saw their image but looking at their setup, they had a small zoom and could have taken a good image, I guess. I have no idea what exposure method they were using but it was possible. If they did, they are either a much better photographer than I am or really lucky.

When I see an image, I start "working it" right away. My first shots are documenting the image, testing exposure baseline and composition. This shot or two takes less then a minute. It also gives me at least one image to document in case the animal or person leaves. As I look at the first shots, I decide what I need to do by asking myself questions: 1) Is the exposure where I want it? 2) Is it sharp? 3) Do I like the composition or do I need to move myself in order to get a better composition like zoom in or out? Once I've answered these questions, I start shooting.
As I shoot almost each image, I look at my screen and decide if I like what I have, if not I keep tweaking. I would rather do it in camera then in Photoshop. I liked both of the above shots: the bottom one even better then the top. I think the spot of white on the bottom is distracting. I could take it out in PS but again, if I can do it here, even better. When I saw the bottom shot, I knew I had an image I liked, that would work for me. So do I leave now? No, I go for the dessert: that little extra that you can sometimes get. I wasn't in a hurry and the owl was still there so I kept tweaking and shooting: changing exposures and composition a little with each shot.

I realized that a cloud had moved and when the owl looked to my left, the sun would give him a natural sidelight. (Keep shooting keep observing!!) I ended up shooting 15 shots of this owl: the last one being the one above: a full face image filling the area with it's face. This is my favorite shot, although I also like a few of the profile poses.

You might notice that some of the images seem to be shooting up slightly, this was to eliminate the background clutter. I also stood on my toes, balancing to get that extra inch (the last shot). This is what I call 'working the shot', not settling for an ok shot but tweaking and shooting till I get "the shot": the one that makes me stop and smile.

They were right.. work is good for you! It makes you as wise as an OWL!


Priyashmita said...

wow..your photography as always amazes me. its stupendous

sulekkha said...

"shooting till I get "the shot": the one that makes me stop and smile." Liked the fact that you don't settle for anything but the best, it's a great philosophy. Your pictures are beautiful and perfect like the shots you and phyllis take.

Great post, Jim. Thanks for the pics...

Royal Nirupam said...

Synchronizing thinking with camera=classical art=Jim Bradanao

Sneha said...

When I saw these photos I said "WOW"

So beautiful..Jim you got the real talent...

Aaron said...

Great post as usual. The shots you took are magnificent.

I love the practicing technique of only taking one lens and the camera. It really gets you to intimately know the lens.

One of my other favorite things to do is when you are out walking stop randomly somewhere. From that point you have to find a picture but it has to be within 10 a steps of where you stopped.

Great shots of the owl, I am sure yours are much better than the kid that just showed up and point and shot ;)

Kriti said...

This is truly magnificent! Jim I so wish I could take lessons from you - You inspire me even when I am not a photographer at the least : )

JIM said...

Hey everyone thanks. I have beed designing an album most of the day so just got back on. Thanks for all the very kind words.
AaronI like that idea, I might try it.

Kriti If you ever happen to be in my neighborhood lol just call free lesson. If you ever have any questions about photography please feel free to ask.

Thank you again everyone.

Kriti said...

Well don't be surprised if I take you by your word - LOL - thanks a ton anyway - will do.

JIM said...

lol We would love it anytime