Tag Archives: beauty

The Pitfalls of Nature Photography

Now that I have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather, indulging in a little quiet time, communing with nature and taking photos, I could not help but notice that my hobby does have its share of pitfalls.

In trying to capture the perfect shot, I often feel like a secret agent, trying to move in on a subject in stealth mode, intensely looking at the world through a viewfinder.

But in doing so, and in being so focused, I have occasionally lost track of the intricacies of the physical world around me, including time and space. From a health and safety perspective, it concerns me a little, given my tendency to occasionally be a bit of a klutz.

Yet even when faced with these challenges, I don’t seem deterred. The rewards of capturing a great nature shot are worth every bump and bruise.

Also, Mother Nature has a way of keeping photographers on their toes by changing the perfect conditions with little advance notice. It can get a little frustrating but I’d like to think that this is part of the thrill of the hunt when perseverance leads you to that shot that made it all worth it.

Here they are, my top 10 pitfalls of nature photography:

10. Losing track of time
It has happened that in the process of evaluating the composition and the lighting, taking a test shot, evaluating the result, making adjustments, taking another test shot and repeating until I think I have captured the best photo possible, before I know it, an hour has passed. It’s delightful to lose myself in the creative process when I have unlimited time on my hands, but it is quite another matter, when I am on my lunch hour and due back for a meeting at 1:00 sharp.

9. Wearing the wrong shoes
A subset of #10, sometimes I get so enthralled in my photo shoot, not only do I lose track of time, but I lose track of space and distance and find myself farther away than I originally planned. It is on the long walk back and dealing with a blister that I realize that I was not wearing the right shoes for such an undertaking. Continue reading

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Did Nature Photography Get Me to Enjoy Winter?

In last December’s post, “How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter”, I wondered if my rediscovery of photography might be able to nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon and spend more time outside.

For those who have never been to Ottawa, let me offer a little bit of context. Yes, we do have an abundance of beautiful winter days that are like a shot out of a Disney movie. However, the Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect suburban Ottawa winter starts fading around the 18th consecutive day of snow, threat of freezing rain, or temperatures so low, even the cat won’t sit by the window and conduct her usual backyard surveillance despite her abundant fur coat. Winters here can be very harsh for long stretches.

When the weather outside is frightful and the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, it’s not most conducive to a cheerful walk outside at lunch time. When you also factor in a long and slow commute home wondering where the heck the city’s snowplows went and repeatedly mumbling to myself “Why the heck do I pay taxes?” it should come as no surprise if I have to dig deeply to want to spend more time outdoors and risk falling and breaking a hip… the joys of becoming a grumpy old man! (and yes, I know some close friends are now thinking, “what do you mean ‘becoming’?”)

But this winter, I did spend more time outside, thanks to the camera!

While I wouldn’t say it made me a winter lover in one season, nature photography certainly made it more enjoyable by helping me lose track of time while doing something I truly enjoy. I would even go so far as to say this winter didn’t seem to drag on as much as it did in previous years. Continue reading

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How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter

I admit it… I like the great indoors and my creature comforts. When the weather outside is frightful, especially in winter, I can’t think of anything better than staying inside, cozying up with a pillow and a blanket on the couch, listening to great music, reading a good book, watching a fun movie or even getting a few crazy story ideas committed to paper. To me that’s heaven on a cold, blustery winter day… or pretty much any winter day, actually.

However, it seems that through my renewed love of photography and my commitment to keeping the Instagram account freshly updated, something changed. After the first snowfall of the season here in Ottawa, I suddenly found myself meandering outdoors, chasing after the ever elusive nature shots. How did that happen?

Let’s be perfectly clear. I might not be inclined to spend more time outdoors than I have to on a blustery, stormy day. That would be pure silliness. That is when I will invoke the aforementioned “creature comforts” clause.

But after the storm has passed and the pathways have been cleared, it might be a different story. I am definitely warming up to the idea of getting out on a crisp, sunny day, and wandering out in the winter wonderland to take shots of the birds that didn’t fly south or the squirrels still running around gathering food.
Squirrel

I admit, a fresh, clean blanket of snow can lend itself to a certain beauty and majesty not found in other seasons. When snow crystals glitter in the sunlight, it can have a magical effect. To capture it in a photo might be my “thrill of the hunt” challenge this coming winter. Continue reading

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The Fleeting Moments of Nature Photography

bluebutterflyIn rediscovering my love of photography, I found myself developing a new habit: grabbing the camera and heading outdoors to start capturing the beauty of my favourite season, fall. Little did I know that photographing trees and leaves would quickly progress into something else.

Before you could say “Squirrel!” I was distracted by the abundant wildlife going about its business in the crisp autumn air. I soon found myself following around the wildlife with my camera with the same intensity as Elmer Fudd hunting for “wabbits”.

I admit, the thrill of the hunt for the perfect photo was a little addicting, to the point that I started to forget about the original goal of taking pictures of the leaves and the trees.

It was in that transition that it occurred to me how nature photography is really a unique genre onto itself.

In the studio, when working with an inanimate object, I can stage it, style it, move it around, shoot it, adjust it, and reshoot it 50 times from different angles to get that one perfect shot.
In nature photography, when the moment presents itself, there is little time to think about it. The perfect moment is fleeting and the perfect picture is elusive. And when the subject flees, it is time to look for another subject. The creative challenge it presents is most fascinating to me.

Nature photography is a whole different ball game that requires time, patience, a good eye and the intuition to set up a shot that may (or may not) happen.

For example, as much as I would like to, I cannot tell a chipmunk to “hold still”, “smile”, “a little to the left”, “not so much”, “tilt your head down”, “turn around and try an over the shoulder shot”. Even though they work for peanuts, they are not the most cooperative of subjects.

It is a similar situation with birds. Continue reading

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The Wisdom of Flowers

FlowersThis past week I was most excited to come home from work and to be able to snip a few stems of fresh lily of the valley. While I understand that some people might classify these on the same level as invasive weeds, to me they are the ultimate example of why flowers are important and how flowers speak to us.

First, the wonderful fragrance of lily of the valley is a throwback to childhood memories of a simpler time. When it would peak in mid to late May, Mom would bring a bunch into the house, filling the room with that aroma that became synonymous with joy and the messages “end-of-school year” and “summer is almost here”, a Pavlovian trigger that remains with me today.

As an adult, I continue to appreciate its gentle whispers and reminders:

Hope: When we are in a winter that seemingly never ends or a spring that never seems to arrive, flowers are a reminder that at some point, the seasons will indeed change and the crocuses, tulips, lilacs and lily of the valley will be in full bloom. The eager anticipation for the sights and perfumes of flowers in bloom, to me, is synonymous with “good things come to those who wait” and “hope springs eternal”.

Carpe Diem: With lily of the valley, the window of opportunity is perhaps 10 days and takes a concerted effort to keep checking on them to not miss their peak. If you snip them too early, they aren’t fragrant. If you snip them too late, the fragrance starts expiring and then they dry out and die. The expression “stop and smell the roses” is a thoughtful parallel to the transience of life and how the good times are meant to be savoured.Lily of the valley

Adversity: To me, lily of the valley have been a source of fascination. When it came to experiments in my own garden, I tried growing some in rich soil but to poor results: they don’t seem to grow the fragrant bells, only the green stems. But when I plant them in poor quality, sandy soil (one foot away), they thrive and rise like a phoenix. Lesson learned: even in adversity, beauty and abundance is possible.

The cyclical nature of life: The beauty of gardening is when you can have a fun mixture of perennials and annuals reaching their peak of blooms at different times, providing colour and entertainment throughout the growing season. Lily of the valley might bloom early, but it is easy to find plants to backfill for them, and stagger the beauty of the garden throughout summer and fall. To me this is a floral reflection on “not having all of one’s eggs in the same basket” and that “variety is the spice of life”.

Surprises: Every now and then, I have been surprised by plants either blooming longer than expected or coming back for another round of late blooms well into the fall. I live for those serendipitous moments, not only in the garden, but in life as well.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.net. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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