The Life Cycles Approach to Wildlife Photography – Part 2: Capturing the Complete Picture

The Life Cycles Approach to Wildlife Photography – Part 2: Capturing the Complete Picture

Wildlife photography from a life cycle approach not only gives structure and purpose to your photography but also adds to the broader knowledge about these creatures that is necessary to understand and protect them. Every time you create a wildlife photo, you can help educate others about the general awesomeness that is nature, and to the specific awesomeness that is this particular animal. Pretty cool when you think about it that way! (Have I mentioned I truly love what I do and this is one of the big reasons why?)In the first part of this article “Learning and Telling the Story” I shared how to find and tell the story of an animal. In this part, you will learn tips for capturing the complete life cycle in your photos and videos. There are also some of the pitfalls to avoid.Decisive Moments…One of the turning points in the way I think about and pursue photos came not from the world of nature photography, but from a museum exhibit of the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson. If you are not familiar with his work, stop reading this now, go here and learn about the man who pioneered the genre we call street photography. Bresson was a father of modern photojournalism, and whose name is synonymous with the concept in photography known as “the decisive moment”. Bresson believed that as photographers our goal was to use our knowledge and intuition to capture the fleeting moments where all the compositional elements come together so that the resulting image represents the true essence of that moment.Yeah, that changed everything for me. Suddenly it wasn’t just about pressing the button, but about capturing the moment. “Decisive moment” is a very subjective and often misunderstood term, thrown around in the same way as “bokeh” (nice out of focus parts) and “giclee” (fancy word for inkjet print). It is a core concept for any photographer to grasp and include in their compositions.


Quotes from Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment” and Other Works

  • “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”
  • “It is a way of shooting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s own originality. It is a way of life.”
  • “Thinking should be done before and after, not during photographing. Success depends on the extent of one’s general culture, one’s set of values, one’s clarity of mind, one’s vivacity.”
  • “People think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.”
  • “Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing a meditation.”
  • “I’m not responsible for my photographs. Photography is not documentary, but intuition, a poetic experience. It’s drowning yourself, dissolving yourself, and then sniff, sniff, sniff – being sensitive to coincidence. You can’t go looking for it; you can’t want it, or you won’t get it. First, you must lose yourself. Then it happens.”The important part of his quotes, that led me to my simplified definition, is that you use both your knowledge and your intuition, quickly.

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