No Restrictions

August 03, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

I wonder if you can figure out what the images posted below have in common (aside from the fact that I was the photographer)?

Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMist Meets FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River

Near Lincoln, New Hampshire

Room With a ViewRoom With a ViewView of the Teton Range from the ruins of the Shane Cabin

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church.

The "Little White Church" at Crystal Lake
Eaton, New Hampshire
Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky.

T.A. Moulton Barn
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The Neglected Fence VIIThe Neglected Fence VIIBonneville County, Idaho Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois Obviously it's not the location or time of year. It isn't orientation; there's a mix of portrait and landscape. They're not all in color so it can't be that, either.

Here's the common thread: I would've (generally) avoided making every one of these photographs way back in the day. Why? Because each composition includes something manmade. 

My rationale for steering clear of that type of subject matter, though it seemed logical at the time, was misguided. Fortunately, I course-corrected early in the game and lifted the self-imposed restrictions. 

If I could give just one piece of advice to photographers first starting out, it'd be to shoot what interests you - whatever that might be. There's no "right" or "wrong." Broaden your horizons. You'll spend more time with the camera and find many more opportunities to shoot. That's essential in terms of developing both skill and artistic style. 

Don't worry if your interests are eclectic. That's an asset, not a liability. Photographing a broad range of subjects and disparate styles will sharpen your eye, enhance your creativity, expand your understanding of the camera's capabilities, and improve your ability to problem-solve.

While my main focus is the natural world, I also shoot cityscapes. Architecture. Professional tennis. Air shows. Christmas lights. Abstract still life.

Some disciplines can overlap, like wildlife and sports. The lens selection, camera settings and techniques used to capture fast-action sports is similar to what you'll use to photograph birds in flight. Other subjects might be a bit more idiosyncratic, like air shows. To properly photograph a propeller-driven aircraft overhead requires a slow enough shutter speed to blur the action of the prop - but not too slow: the fuselage must remain tack sharp. Fighter jets are another story altogether. 

You'll take a very different approach making landscapes at a low ISO working from a tripod. And so on.

Shooting without restrictions also means not being constrained by what you think people want to see, or what you feel you ought to capture. Photograph what speaks to you. Compose in the way you think is most effective. I've said this before: you can't please everyone so don't try. That's an exercise in futility. 

Of course if you're on assignment output is dictated by the client. Otherwise, you're the client. 

Give yourself permission to photograph whatever interests you, in whatever way you think is most effective.

About the Images

1) Persistent precipitation created nearly perfect conditions on this early morning in the White Mountains: saturated color plus a combination of mist hanging over the Pemigewasset River and low fog overhead. (Kancamagus Highway near Lincoln, New Hampshire).

2) The "Shane Cabin" (Paramount Pictures, 1953) on the edge of Grand Teton National Park was originally the Luther Taylor homestead before Hollywood came to town. The park service is no longer maintaining it, so the structure is falling into disrepair. This is the view from its west window.

3) The "Little White Church" stands on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire.

4) Long shadows extend from a cluster of cottonwoods to the T.A. Moulton Barn in mid-winter.

5) This derelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence in Bonneville County, Idaho is a great "close to home" subject.

6) Beautiful summer sky over a wheat field in far northern McHenry County, Illinois.

Local News

It's been hot, hot, hot here for weeks, so why not think about snow? The lottery is now open for 2022-2023 winter permits to snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park without a commercial guide. Visit now through August 31 to apply. If you hit the jackpot you'll be notified early next month. (If you've never experienced YNP in the winter, I cannot recommend it enough. Hands down, it's the best time of the year.)

Turns out I haven't been imagining it being slower in Grand Teton National Park this summer. It's a fact. The park hosted a total of 497,531 visits in June - down roughly 34% from the same time last year. I'd expect July's numbers will reflect another decrease. After the record-breaking crowds in 2021, the extra breathing room has been fantastic.   


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