I spent last week in southern Montana at Red Rock Lakes NWR, it is a gorgeous location and you never know what bird or animal will show up in your viewfinder. Weather conditions there can change from dense fog to the golden light of early morning rather quickly or from strong midday light to the darkness created by thick, foreboding storm clouds.
I was excited while I was on the refuge when a female Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) flew up from the gravel road and landed on a fencepost in a heavy, swirling fog. Not only was I seeing the beautiful owl, I was going to have the opportunity to take images of it in low light and fog. A challenge I was more than willing to meet.
Short-eared Owl in a fog at Red Rock Lakes, NWR, Montana – D200, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 400, 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 350mm, natural light, not baited
Oddly though there seem to be people who don’t like foggy or low light shots. I posted one of my foggy Short-eared Owl photos on a Nature Photography site where I am a member just before a friend of mine posted a Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) taken in the same area taken in clear afternoon light two days later. One of the other members there unfavorably compared my foggy owl image to my friend’s hawk photo. While I can respect that other people’s tastes differ from mine and actually expect it, I know I wouldn’t nor couldn’t honestly compare the two images of two different species, in two settings under extremely different lighting conditions.
The hawk image below is the same bird, on the same post taken the same day as my friend’s hawk image just at a different moment.
Juvenile Swainson’s Hawk along the road to Red Rock Lakes, NWR, Montana – D200, F7.1, 1/1000, ISO 250, 200-400mm VR at 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
Comparing apples to oranges.
Yes, apples and oranges are both fruit but their tastes are quite different, their texture isn’t at all alike nor is the fragrant aroma of the fruits. Personally I love them both and on any given day one might appeal to my tastes more.
I would not compare a Picasso to Monet, a Rubens to a Warhol or a Salvador Dali to a Cézanne. Their artistic techniques, personal styles and even their very brushstrokes are remarkably individualized. Though I can and do appreciate the unique flavors of their styles and techniques when I view their art.
I adore a good hamburger on a sesame bun, a burger suits my tastes just fine, but lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise only, skip the pickle and cheese please. I am also delighted with a serving of a perfect Châteaubriand drizzled with Béarnaise Sauce. It is certainly richer than a simple burger yet they are still both beef. Strawberry Shortcake or Pavlova, they have strawberries in common though their taste and texture are not the same.
It’s all a matter of taste.
I knew at a young age that because of the many geographic locations where I lived and explored combined with my unrestrained delight in not only seeing nature but feeling a strong attachment to it would inspire me to see the world; and now my photography, with my eyes wide open, delighting in the large and seemingly minute differences I am privileged to see each day in nature.
As an bird photographer I have worked to develop my own personal style, something that a great many excellent photographers do. I’m certainly not hesitant to take a leap and try something new with my photography, to appreciate another photographer’s personal style or post an unusual image to have other photographers whose work I appreciate and respect share their thoughtful, honest critiques.
Additionally I relish the possibility of photographing birds in different poses, settings, weather conditions and light and approach each day that I am out photographing with eager anticipation of what wonderful creatures I might see. Life will be far too short for me to become a photographer who has grown as stagnant as a pond with no outlet and far to little fresh water flowing in.
Maybe my tastes about the light in my images and the weather conditions are more varied than most or perhaps more refined. I’m perfectly fine with that and with my photographic work.