Happiness Vs. Fulfillment

Early morning, pre-dawn. I was awake a little more early than I am used to. Driving along the straight-lined backroads of rural Ohio.

It all started with an early morning spark of a thought on that solo drive to a far-reaching festival. Just me and my life’s work behind me (literally, as in filling my vehicle).

It was as if I had nothing left to lose.

It was then that I felt a pang of emotion.

“What could this be called?” I asked myself while still driving along.

That name for the feeling I was searching for was called pride.

The many sweat and miles of hiking all times of year in all times of weather. Searching for that perfect photograph…often times one that may never happen. Instead of giving up after an unsuccessful day, I only yearn to try again soon.

Pride is an emotional state deriving positive affect from the perceived value of a person or thing with which the subject has an intimate connection.

Even more so, this “intimate connection” is in a way with these pieces of my work. These frames and prints follow me around Ohio as I travel, sharing them with strangers and friends alike. While being inanimate objects, all these photos are ones carefully created and curated.

I have some stake in this game, the perceived value being whether I successfully sell my vision and way of seeing to others. This is a time where I need to stand up straight, not quite like some boring day job or other uninspired occupation.

The time and days leading up an incoming festival are often a tense time. Many factors such as packing are on the list of things to do before even arriving to the location.

This isn’t even about tooting my own horn but simply having the pride to go through all the trouble of loading and packing, setting up, tearing down, and everything in between. Anyone with a considerable amount of time invested in a project or career path has had a similar scenario unfold.

“The painstaking exhaustion of entire weekends spent just to share a passion with others.”

This meant everything to me (and still does.)

An example of how my booth looks at a festival.

For me, photography is a daily reminder to get up early for that sunrise shoot, to stay out late for the sunset light and to get out in between. Like a flowing waterfall, this motivation permeates everything else in life. This effect helps fuel my desire to succeed and “make it” in the photography and art world. The drive to succeed motivates me to try harder in other aspects of life.

To refer back to the title, let’s define what both short-term happiness and fulfillment are..

Happiness can be a temporary feeling or showing of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.”

So for one thing, this to me can be a temporary but possibly long term feeling of happiness and satisfaction.

For example in terms of wildlife photography ethics, temporary happiness would be purposely provoking a deer or baiting a hawk or owl in order to get a closer and better shot. I would possibly feel good seeing the amazingly close photo at first (no actually, I would feel pretty terrible) but the guilt of stressing the animal would always be on my mind when viewing the image later on.

Another example of being happy or mildly content would be if I photographed the same exact thing everywhere I go in the same way.

Fulfillment is to develop the full potentialities of or to convert into reality.”

Now fulfillment to me is the means to an end of this type of happiness. Fulfilling a goal or end result that proved to be difficult or trying on your willpower. Fulfillment is experimenting with a new subject or tricky lighting situation. Fulfillment is knowing you have invested your time, energy, and creativity into a project and can now reap the rewards. Whether those rewards are intrinsic or extrinsic is up to you, but the lasting positive feelings will stick around.

I am here to seek lessons and struggles, for which I come out on the other side with a perspective and sense of “huh, I just did that difficult thing, hiked many miles with all the gear, waited around until way after dark, and took some photos that might’ve been complete trash, but I’m still learning.”

Some of the less exciting parts of my workflow take effect here too, like editing (sometimes can be a tiresome slog but usually is creatively rewarding) but especially keywording and cataloging image files.

At the end of the day, I believe there is a lesson in everything. The mundane and the imperative. The dull and the important.

Nothing in life is truly time wasted.

My first gallery reception, and the payoff of over six months of preparation.

If anything, it is my fans that have made me a more empathetic person. I have realized over time how creating the art is not so much about satisfying myself, but rather to share images I want others to be impressed by. Creating for myself but ultimately I prefer to see the joy in someone else’s eyes who shares the same interest and enthusiasm for what photos I take.

A walk and talk where I discuss how it feels to manage the various sides of a photography business.

This attention and mild success is never about greed. I take time to appreciate every step of the way and acknowledge those who have been following my journey. Some have tagged along on my travels out in the field, while others got my back by supporting the events I am in.

Photography with friends is a rather different experience that rewards you with incredible images like this you wouldn’t normally get otherwise. (Photo Credit – Jacob Delong)

No one is forcing me to do this, I make the conscious choice and so it is fulfilling to see it happen and manifest. Exactly how I would hope it would.

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The Beginnings of Birding

Birds! One natural progression of hiking out in nature has been an interest in the feathered ones all around the areas in which I roam.

My first successful image of a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird! It was perched just long enough for me to switch lenses in the Golden Hour light before deciding to fly away.

Huffman Prairie Flying Field, July 2019

“Birds to me are a wonderful sight, no other existing experience to me comes close. The definition of a good life is waking up nice and early to view them flitting around the marsh. It’s a wonder that birds have their own agenda, and we are very privileged observers of their world. Fleetless moments are abound wherever! Whether this is the calmness of watching them preen in the pond, to walking around with their babies, to a male and female perched next to each other. All times of year and season bring forth joy in viewing their intricate lives.”

This was my first real good look at a Prothonotary Warbler and I happened to acquire this decent close-up shot of this beautiful migrant. Birding with friends is a great way to share information and check more off your “life list.”

Huffman Metropark, May 2019

The beauty in what is is in their accessibility. Birds are practically everywhere! You can travel to not too far locations to view them, or you can bring them to your backyard with birdseed and suet. There is room for everyone to enjoy them.

The very striking blue and sapphire of this songbird is unmatched during Spring and Summer in Ohio. A rather vocal bird, I heard dozens of them in the treeline as they flew out in the open to a prairie as seen here. It was simply a matter of watching for their habits and setting up gear accordingly.

Bill Yeck Park, May 2019

Everyone who is interested in birding has that “spark bird.” The one or several species that got them interested in this activity. I might have several, particularly larger ones like Great Blue Herons and Red Shouldered Hawk, and then smaller ones like a Ruby Throated Hummingbird. Practically anytime I get to view a new species I am awestruck. Plus, it is addicting to check them off your life list. With so many out there, it is impossible to get bored!

Upon hearing the call of this warbler in the tallgrass prairie, I used a sound technique called “pishing” to bring this curious Common Yellowthroat out into the open.

Huffman Prairie, July 2019

I was already taking up photography when I realized that birds are the most abundant wildlife in Ohio, so it only made sense to study and then photograph them. Purchase or borrow some field guides and read up on all that you can. I have a collection of the free Ohio Division of Wildlife booklets that are nicely laid out for common birds, raptors, waterfowl, warblers and owls.

Quiet, slow observance of birds is the best way to learn more and take better photos. This Blue Grey Gnatcathcer seemed to be really interested in a small tree as it flitted to and from. I soon recognized a small nest built on a tree limb where it was returning to often to bring food.

Glen Thompson Reserve, May 2019

Simply put, we are here today because birds are. Many birds migrate twice a year due to climate and temperature changes. Because of this birds are an important indicator of climate change and will move to hotter/colder climates depending on their preference. Help them out by setting up birdseed feeders in your backyard. This will help the local residents with finding food and certain migratory songbirds will appreciate the rest stop to feed. On top of that you can enjoy some close views of their amazing colors.

I spent the morning at a local pond that is brimming with migratory waterfowl a good portion of the year. This day had me getting my first photos and close-up looks at a Redhead duck. This image shows it splashing about to wash its’ feathers.

Spring Lakes Park, April 2019

Another beautiful aspect of birding is the communal approach, birding is a worldwide language! We are all in this together and so find a group or forum to exchange details and tips. Rare bird hotlines and alerts can be set up for your county or region, and local groups such as this Facebook one for Miami Valley Birding have helped me so much in learning about what’s outside my doorstep. Explore the resources around you then explore the world!

Some of my best views of a personal favorite bird came at a local fen. This Pileated Woodpecker was scaling up this tree and made for an impressive display of size and beauty. Always look at the dead trees and cavities for woodpeckers!

Siebenthaler Fen, May 2019

So grab the binoculars, spotting scope, and maybe a camera.

As always, make sure to get out there!

Happy birding!

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How Videomaking Improves Photography

Being a newcomer to the “vlogging” and filmmaking scene, you have to start somewhere.

Having no prior “formal” education with video production, my only experiences are of an AV club in elementary school and an afterschool video club in high school.

Yet neither really dealt with nature or the outdoors, or vlogging or talking or jump cuts or b-roll or..

You get the point, I was started from ground zero, point A, from essentially nothing.

So then I looked to streaming videos online of my favorite photographers for inspiration. From there I began eruditely consuming content of the photographic greats.

I had been watching some of them for years and realized how much one can pick up on, extracting those editing details and nuances became the launching pad for this next creative outlet in my visual medium.

After mulling over the idea for a couple of months, I started a YouTube channel on New Years Eve of 2018, to be a tad bit cliche (and mildy OCD) this became a new year resolution. Unsure of my total commitment to it would satisfy.

I waited a couple more weeks before committing to putting something out there. See it below.

The very first video I uploaded, a simple slideshow set to music with images from the previous year.

The (real) first video of me in front of the camera was taken a local park I walked to during the peak of winter. Cold and unsure of myself, I simply wanted to film a few bits talking in brief of my background and what I wanted to accomplish with the channel. The camera propped on a tripod and no script in sight, I fumbled over my speech a dozen times before leaving at dark feeling unaccomplished. Almost ready to throw in the towel before I began..

I was reluctant to see myself talk again, so I waited a solid two weeks before even touching that video footage, however this became an important lesson in persevering.

This first step became a lesson in embarrassment, which in turn is a reflection of fear: the fear of being judged. Anytime you put a piece of art out there, there is the agonizing sting of rejection (or even compliments) that await from friends and peers. Yet the main takeaway is that the embarrassment is a sign of growth, it’s humbling! Pursuing a new creative avenue that I never sought to delve into.

If you asked me even a year ago if I wanted to stand in front of the camera rather than stay behind it, I would’ve laughed at you. Yet here I am, making short scripts, planning out visits and having the video workflow move seamlessly with the phototaking and post-processing. At the time of this writing, I am only six months in!

You can't just go waist deep, you have to go over your neck.

So one could say I am creating these videos to push my limits (both creatively and personally) and overcome my fears. A little dramatic to say but it is with sincerity. From shooting on location to editing at home, these projects can be massively exhausting. Pushing through all these uncomfortable feelings towards the the goal at the end. The results are worth it when you and others can enjoy the production.

To see the (fairly mediocre) intro video, look no further.

Six months (and counting) later, I am much more confident when explaining things and talking to the camera, almost to the point that it comes naturally. A monotone inflection is tossed aside when speaking excitedly about the incoming sunset or a potential bird photo. Speak even if your voice shakes!

Besides all this expository rambling, why am I telling you all of this?

Because videomaking gave me the confidence not only in that. but in shooting stills more.

If I could verbalize what I am seeing, then I should be more likely to correctly expose it on a camera, no?

The feeling of recording yourself talking about the subjects helps in slowing down and creating more of a story.

And photographs are about the story after all.

I shoot more with a purpose, as I want to share what I am feeling in that moment to the viewer. If I’m just on burst mode with no rhyme or reason then the photo feels empty.

Another question: Just at what point does a photographer become more of a videographer?

What about a YouTuber?

For me, the photos are always first and foremost as the main focus. Any supplemental footage (called B-roll by filmmakers) is secondary to “the shot.”

Let’s not forget to mention the editing that goes along with the visual creation, this can seriously take up valuable time spent on editing photos and, well, going out with the camera.

As a “one-man army,” all the shooting and editing is down on my own too. We must eventually strike a balance between video and stills, both when in the field and when processing it on the computer.

Obviously YouTube in particular is not a moneypot for most videographers, making only a handful of dollars in ad revenue per month. I view it less as another stream of income, but rather another tool and platform to share my work. This visual format gave me a voice.

Some photographers would argue that a video medium is essential in this day and age to market your work. To some extent I would agree

If you’re still with me up to this point, here are some playlists with which I have made video content. And of course, feel free to subscribe for future uploads. Thanks!

Start from the beginning to see my progression and skills improve, or watch them in whatever order you please.
Editing photos at the home office.
Strictly B-roll footage interwoven over nature scenes, sometimes with music.

Do you believe photographers should dive into video production on top of their regular photos?

Do you have a YouTube channel? Share it with us in the comments.

Good luck shooting (or filming.)

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Stumbling Upon A Herd of Deer

“Live bold, without fear. This is life amongst the deer.”

Giovannie de Sadeleer

Every nature photographer has moments and experiences that gladdens the heart.

This one for me however was a definite “I pulled over for this” moment.

It was May 13th 2017, and I was cycling along the local multi-use bicycle path on a pleasant summer evening. On the route home next to a local nature reserve, a clearing showed me several deer off in the distance.

Why my main purpose was for a simple bicycle ride, I had a small camera bag slung over my shoulder, just in case anything interesting happened to cross my way.

This particular patch of riparian woodlands, dubbed Creekside Reserve, includes countless deer in my explorations, but this herd was the largest I’ve ever seen in one area.

First, a lone deer carefully crept towards me as I stood frozen. There is something stunning about this large hulking mammals. Some of them can be so skittish and shy of humans that they will retreat at the first sight. Others are completely comfortable being near humans and won’t even bat an eye. I attribute this instinct or behavior to hunting season, each one can react differently!

Almost like a horror movie, one by one more deer came out from the treeline not too far away. By my counts there were about fifteen total deer all feeding and looking at what I was doing. I was equally paralyzed shaking and standing in excitement.

Photographically speaking this was “golden hour” light at its best, as these mammals come out in the open during dusk.

These two in particular seemed awfully curious as they slowly crept up towards me. I was camera-ready by this point with a 75-300mm zoom lens attached. Only needing to zoom in at 120mm and using an f-stop of 6.3 to distance these two away from the background more as a portrait. Then with a shutter speed of 1/200 second handheld, and ISO 800 to keep up with the slowly darkening skies. As you can see, 120mm isn’t that far from these ungulates.

While I doubt as was in any real danger, I stood motionless and only twitched my fingers to adjust dials and buttons. Another third deer seemed rather perturbed and kept pouncing and hissing off to the side to provoke me. After over half an hour, the herd passively retreated back into the woods.

Still brimming with adrenaline, I pedaled on home under the night sky.

This encounter is perhaps my favorite moment I’ve shared with these beautiful mammals.

“Going to the woods is going home.”

John Muir

Photographers: What are some of your favorite stories of encountering wildlife? Did you get the shot? Share them down below.

Make sure to get out there!

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A List of Favorite Nature Books

As you can probably tell from this blog, writing is one such interest and passion of mine. So naturally talking about my favorite books related to the subject of nature and photography seemed incredibly poignant.

A majority of these books are ones that combine nature and photography as I obviously prefer those the most. Others are more about the hikes and scenery, while others focus more on the biology of the land.

My preference (both ideally and literally) at this time to stay local (in Ohio) which means the majority are exclusively about the Buckeye state. For your convenience, I have separated the strictly Ohio books from the others.

Save these for a nice rainy spring day or brutally cold winter day. Read up, do your research, and be willing to learn!

Here’s the list hitherto, no affiliate links (affixed photos are not my own) but you may copy/paste the titles and authors into your browser to find them. Enjoy!

OHIO BOOKS

Wild Ohio: The Best of Our Natural Heritage – Jim McCormac, Gary Meszaros

A very satisfying read of natural features in Ohio. The depth of info about the flora and fauna from a well-known naturalist like Jim and photographer like Gary. A page-turner from beginning to end.

A Place Called Aullwood – Its Flowers, Woodlands and Meadows: Photographic Essay – Allan Horvath, Paul E. Knoop, Gail Horvath

A beautifully-told narrative of how Aullwood Garden came to be, the history and married couple who sought to protect this property from outside urban influence. Aullwood became the first nature education center in the country. Fortunately Aullwood is still a stunning place to visit to this day, where the history is alive and well as you take each step through the meadows and garden trails. This piece of land was the Aull’s gift to the world, and must cherish it all that we can.

A Photographer’s Guide to Ohio (Volume 1 & 2) – Ian Adams

A very treasured two-volume guide to nature and scenic photographers in the Buckeye state, I have discovered a number of new locations close to home to explore with the camera and lens. Discover everything from lighthouses, hills and bluffs, forbs and petite waterfalls. There is so much out there that many would be happy to see.

Discovery and Renewal on Huffman Prairie: Where Aviation Took Wing – David Nolin

A story-driven book about local naturalist Mr. Nolin’s experience and knowledge of the famed tallgrass prairie. Huffman Prairie Flying Field is arguably a historical crown jewel of wet meadow and prairie habitat in southwest Ohio, mixed in with a rich history of aviation. The book goes through the entire history of the area from conception, to the Wright Brothers era, to threats of farm and human development, to the way it is protected today.

The Ohio Nature Almanac – Stephen Ostrander

This is practically a bible for the entire state. Jam-packed with trivia, facts, and detailed descriptions for boating, fishing, hiking, hunting, running, and so much more. Listed in detail are state parks, wildlife areas, nature preserves both big and small. A rather thick nonfiction book at around 500 pages, this will surely make you want to get out there and experience all the Buckeye state has to offer.

Natural Wonders of Ohio – Janet Groene, Gordon Groene

If I had to give a perfect example of all things natural in Ohio, this is the book! A bevy of trivia and anecdotal stories and sprinkled throughout the text, as well as listings of state parks, wildlife areas, nature preserves. Locations where one can hike, bike, fish, boat and swim are given, and the information is limitless in this large book.

Much less a book for hikers and more of one for aspiring naturalists and nature enthusiasts. This publication lists out many different nature preserves and state-protected natural areas. Reasons to visit include the typical wildlife viewing and observation, botany studying and other “passive” recreational activities.

50 Hikes in Ohio – Ralph Ramey

A short and sweet book detailing many major (and some smaller) hikes to take all across the Buckeye state. I’ve already done a handful of these on my photography trips however discovered many new-to-me locations to explore.

OTHER BOOKS

Notes From the Field – Tom & Pat Cory

An indispensable guidebook to nature photography of all kinds. Written in the late 1990’s for film, the advice and tips still hold up to this day. Technical knowledge is very useful in this easy-to-read book however I felt myself disagreeing with some of the composition techniques. A fantastic read that is currently out of print.

Deer, Elk & Moose: Grand and Majestic Creatures – Stan Tekiela

Stan’s naturalist background shines in this short photo book, detailing these ungulate’s life cycle every year and season. The variety of photographs at different angles provide a narrative-styled and intimate look into these “grand and majestic creatures” everyday happenings.

The New Art of Photographing Nature: An Updated Guide to Composing Stunning Images of Animals, Nature, and Landscapes – Art Wolfe, Martha Hill

If I had to give an all-around pick for learning nature photography, this would be the book. Reading and “studying” (as I call it) an Art Wolfe book is like taking a master class through the photographer’s lengthy career. A wealth of photos and techniques are shared.

The Art of the Photograph: Essential Habits for Stronger Compositions – Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard

My favorite book for getting out of a creative rut. This one helps you see the world in a new way. Compositions are everything to creating a compelling image, and this piece of text will challenge and delight you with new ways of seeing.

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World – Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard

Some of the best photographs have a story, and this photo book is no slouch to that. In fact, the entire premise is to share the stories behind each photo in this book. So much goes into taking an image, and explaining what you cannot see adds so much more to the entire experience.

Earth is My Witness – Art Wolfe, Wade Davis

A career retrospective look at the stunning work of Art Wolfe. Nature, travel and cultural photography are all nicely blended in this publication in a seamless matter, displaying the best this planet has to offer.

Trees: Between Earth & Heaven – Art Wolfe, Gregory McNamee

Learn about the world’s towering giants and experience their size and scale through photographs. The immense size of this photo book really lends itself well to page-spreading trees. Paragraph-filled captions of the spiritual and traditional meanings of trees in each region of the world add a lot of context. Perhaps my favorite example of an impressive presentation of nature photography in a photo book.

Honorable Mentions

Rarely Seen : Photographs of the Extraordinary – National Geographic

Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs – Ansel Adams

Creatures of Change: An Album of Ohio Animals – Carolyn Platt

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail – Ben Montgomery

Bonus: Favorite Magazines

If shorter magazines are more of your thing, here are some of my top picks for nature, photography and the outdoors in general.

Outdoor Photographer, Birds & Blooms, Birdwatching Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Outside, Ohio Magazine, National Wildlife, National Geographic, Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Smithsonian

Make a visit to your local bookstore or library to find any of these and others.

Happy reading!

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Raising a Bluebird Family

Raising a clutch of Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) is such an special moment, and no easy task.

Cavity nesting birds face many modern challenges such as invasive bird species to compete with (on top of competing with native cavity nesters. Habitat decline and development also pose a big risk to their survival.

I began my nest box journey in 2018 when I erected a nest box in my backyard. Early spring that year, Eastern Bluebirds were fortunately arriving to the nest box, however halfway through the year a stubborn male House Sparrow took over and made a very messy nest, Bird poop was all over the top and inside and bugs lived in it.

Late summer brought a male House Wren to this abandoned nest box as it sung on top. The wren never attracted a mate and gave up before the cold of winter came through.

Fast forward to early spring of 2019, and the process was starting to look the same.

Little did I know that success was beginning to be found..

I began to see the beautiful little azure birds again, a pair started to check out the box and set up shop.

The first clutch is typically Early April to mid-May. The second clutch is typically from mid-June to mid-July, and there may even be a third clutch in late summer during August.

So here is a day-to-day highlight of the best moments during their nest building, egg laying, and young raising all the way to fledgling. Enjoy!

Some of the photos above are of favorite perches they were seen on, including a nearby antenna, a shed, various fences and a bird feeder pole.

Early May: I’ve been seeing Eastern Bluebirds here and there checking out the nest box. Making sure the habitat is suitable. I have this nest box facing away from the sun and wind. The box is looking towards fairly open grasses in a suburban neighborhoods with no fences. I found it hard to believe but they enjoy this space as much as they would an open meadow or cropland. One of their favorite spots to perch and hunt is from an old antenna tower next door.

This is the time when bluebirds lay a second clutch.

Late May: A very clean cup nest is being made, similar in design to a bluebird nest.

June 7th: Two bluebird eggs are in the nest! I see the parents come and go with nesting material and guarding the nest box.

June 11th: Three more eggs were laid, making a total of five. A typical bluebird clutch is about five to seven.

June 22nd: Still the same five eggs, no hatches yet. Both the male and female hang around the nest box for most of the day. A nearby European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) was foraging along the ground underneath the nest box. The male flew from his perch and chased the nonnative bird away to a nearby crabapple tree. The male returned to the nest box top a moment later. Safe to say that most birds become very territorial when someone is near their eggs or young.

June 23rd: Eggs must’ve hatched this morning. The male Bluebird was bringing worms and other larvae to the nest box to feed the mouths as well as his partner. Feeding displays of the male and female are observed on top of the nest box.

Due to the sensitivity of the hatchlings, I avoided opening the nest box as much and stopped using flash to take a picture.

June 27th: Finally got a moment to carefully observe the hatchlings in the nest box. The parents still return frequently.

July 1st: The male bluebird is hunting and foraging basically all day as he returns to the nest box with worms and other larvae for the newborns.

Sitting high on a tree branch perch above the nest box. The male will swoop down to the grass below, pluck out a bug and fly back to the nest box.

July 3rd: The hatchlings are growing up fast. Should be ready to fledge soon.

July 7th: A single male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) floats/flies towards the nest box hole before winging out of the way. The five hatchlings chirp in unison for at least a minute afterwards.

July 8th: Four of the birds have fledged! Upon checking the nest box, one is left behind.

July 9th: The last bluebird fledges and the nest is now empty. Success!

This is why birds are so wonderful, so see their growth and progress truly embeds us as one and the same with them. Leave a comment down below if you enjoyed the article, and share any success (or failure) stories you’ve had with monitoring nest boxes.

Happy Bluebirding!

Nothing else says true love quite as much as sharing a meal together.

If you are interested in supporting Bluebird conservation and all Ohio cavity nesters. I would recommend a donation or yearly membership to the Ohio Bluebird Society or North American Bluebird Society.

To submit your own sightings and reporting of nesting birds, please consider using Cornell Lab’s NestWatch website to log your data for citizen science.

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Is Photography Art?

I have visited a number of fine art galleries big and small over time, and only one so far has said ‘no’ to accepting any photography.

And so recently I visited a local art gallery with a juried exhibition.

The subject matter? Landscapes.

All artistic mediums were accepted, and fortunately I saw a variety of them present: a lot of paintings, sculptures, wall art, ceramics, mixed media, and of course photography.

Photography was in fact well represented, more than half of the exhibit was such.

And what’s wrong with that? Landscape photography is massive at the moment. So much that the industry is bloated with them, admittedly so.

While I enjoyed the both film and digital photos, my annoyance came when viewing the guestbook halfway through the show..

“Too much photos/digital stuff.”

“Too much photography.”

“Where are the paintings?”

With some optimism sprinkled in between such as..

“Nice to see photography being represented well!”

To be honest I felt a little bit offended, and I wasn’t even showing any of my work in this group exhibit! I felt a little sympathetic for the very talented photographers exhibiting.

People have their opinions and that is fine. To be honest I will say I wished there were more landscape paintings involved. Art is simply art to me.

And while none of them said photography isn’t art. It still got me thinking..

what really is Photography?
is it Art?

To start, we need to know what art is; what does that word objectively mean?

Let’s rationally break down what a typical photographer may do in their day-to-day activities and operations.

So, art is defined as…

“Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.”

In its simplest form of explanation, I go out and press the shutter button. But that’s not it, to make a halfway decent photograph requires a trained eye for pleasing composition and balance. That to me sounds like a skill or set of skills based on experience, study and/or observation.

“An occupation requiring knowledge or skill.”

Photography can and is an occupation for millions of people around the world. Any occupation requires a legitimate set of knowledge and skills in order to finish the task.

I only can improve with making an effort and with time. Studying the works of others and observing my own failed photos helps to become a better photographer.

Even after the shutter capture, I still meticulously edit the image file, then print on the suitable papers, checking all the colors for accuracy. Then choosing a frame and matting that appeals to the photos’ strengths while improving the overall “experience.”

And as I said, many people make a living producing these works or similar, whether for a client on commission or for a gallery.

“The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”

This is perhaps my favorite definition for the word. I am taking a tangible three-dimensional reality, for example a old-growth forest, and transferring it to a two-dimensional photograph. There is a conscious need to know what looks right vs. wrong in making a photograph of something real.

Not only that, but the photo must have a stopping-power that only the best can do. Stellar use of contrast, color or subject matter needs to apparent, and that only comes with harnessing a creative imagination.

Now, that image you have created is the production of an aesthetic object. Photos can document and spread awareness or ideas, but at the end of the day they are a means of communication or entertainment. With the photo being an object to admire and appreciate for aesthetic purposes.

“One of the fine arts.”

This is obvious, but a good majority of photography can be classified as “fine art.” To be fine art photography in my opinion is producing an image or print in hopes of selling if after the fact to prospective buyers. In essence, the opposite of commercial photography. I am creating this image first and foremost for myself and with my unique vision, but then intending on someone else to “buy my unique vision” in the form of an open or limited edition print.

You can probably guess, but yes.

I believe photography is an art form, and always will.

Art transcends digital pixels and technology and is no different from using a paintbrush or pastel, which at one point were considered new technology as well.

So with that being said, I personally don’t care what camera you choose to use, or whether you shoot digital or film, full-frame or mirrorless.

The point is, to keep on shooting shutter bugs and f-stoppers.

Photography is alive and well.

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