Nature photography – an interview

James sent me this musing on Nature photography – with all due respect to Messrs Clarke and Dawe.

Good morning Clarke

Good morning Brian

I understand that you have been on holidays Clarke

Yes, Brian, I took holidays with my camera.  We went to Kakadu – my camera and I.  We photographed the wilderness.

So you went on a tour.

Well actually no.

But you were there.

You don’t understand Brian – there were no people there.  No it was just the swamps and the birds, and the crocodiles in a wilderness without people.

But you just said that you went there on holidays.

But that’s the point.  I wasn’t there.  See look at these photos, not a person in sight.  No cars, buses, tour guides, campgrounds or information signs.  Nothing. Zip.

But how did you take these pictures Clarke? You must have been there.

The camera doesn’t lie Brian.  It was just like it was a million years ago, before the flood.

Look at this photo Clarke, I can see your shadow.  You’re standing with your legs apart holding the camera up to your face.

Let me see that Brian.  No that’s a mistake, that shouldn’t be there.  That’s not meant to be there Brian.  We’ll just throw that one out.  Either that or I’ll go and work on it in Photoshop.  But you can see Brian from the other photos that it was a real wilderness, like the garden of Eden.  Not a single human being.

What about this bird Clarke?  It’s got a band on it’s leg.  Someone must have put that there.  Who put the band on the birds leg?

Oh no Brian I gave you the wrong version of that photo.  Look at this one.  You can clearly see that there is no band on the bird’s leg.  It’s remarkable for the complete absence of a band.

But it’s exactly the same bird Clarke.  It has it’s wing up in exactly the same pose with the same background.  Exactly the same.  You just made it look like it hasn’t got a band.

No Brian.  You obviously don’t know anything about nature photography do you.  There are often two versions of the same thing, like parallel universes.

But surely only one of those versions is true.  The other has been altered.

Yes Brian only one version is right.  See the bird without the band looks so much more right than the bird with the band.  This one with the band is rubbish, utter rubbish.  It’s not a nature photograph at all.  We’ll just throw it out.

But Clarke you can’t do that.  You are changing reality.  You’re making it look how you want it to look.  You are not taking photographs of the real thing.

No Brian.  These little things are important.  You have to get it right.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be natural.  After all this is nature photography.  Have you seen all of the rules? There’s a lot of rules.  I’m merely correcting the little mistakes.

Who made the mistakes Clarke?

Not me Brian, I fix the mistakes.

So who made the little mistakes Clarke?

I’ve been wondering that thing myself Brian.  I’m not 100% sure on this, but I read a quote from a photographer named Ansel Adams.  I think he said they are the mistakes made by God.

Important work Clarke.

Yes, Brian, vital.  Us photographers have an important job making corrections, tidying up the mess left by God.

So where are you going for your next holiday Clarke?

Thought we might go to the orient and see some villages untouched by modern civilisation.

Hopefully there won’t be any mistakes.

Bound to be Brian.  But you can trust me, I’m onto it.

It’s a good summary of the broader camera club view of any photography in many ways. I feel that Photoshop gets a bit too much attention and emphasis at competition nights etc. Less art and more perceived perfection according to their rules. Think about it!

Thanks for the contribution James


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