How Many More Spring Nature Images… Compulsories

In many elite sports such as figure skating, body building, gymnastics there is the practice of compulsories during competition – basic maneuvers that have to be proficiently completed. There seems to be an unwritten code that there are compulsory image types to complete if you practice nature photography. You have to have the one flower with a blown-out bokeh background. Your have to master the basic composition rules, and then break them. Then there is the field shot and the wet flowers after a rain with drops on them. Flowers with a sunrise background, sunset direct light, sunset back light, etc. And you get big bonus points if you can work in any baby animals into your nature shots!

If you look at the prevailing photo sharing sites it seems that the swing is to more dramatic light/dark range. Check out the most popular on 500px and there will be many ultra-dramatic nature images. A few years ago it was HDR. Speaking of HDR, here is graph of a photographer’s artistic progression from five or so years ago (link location). It was popular back then simply because of its accuracy and universality. I have certainly progressed that path – a couple of times unfortunately. I do not learn my lessons very well!

So where does this leave creativity? True creativity that matches an internal vision of how you connect to the world? That is for another post and a few drinks. But until then, there are few more compulsories to post. More Spring 2015 nature images from our land follows. But this is it for the compulsories.

Why? Why pick up the camera?

In my prior post, actually the first post on this blog, I discussed what was missing in my photography. Let’s expand on that a bit.  Why do this art called Photography?  Why at 15 years old did I pick up a Pentax manual camera loaded with black and white film and carry it along with me as I walked through the Missouri woods where I grew up? Why do I today pack my backpack with my Olympus m4/3rd’s kit when I hike in nature?

Photography is the vehicle that lets me see clearly and deeply into a subject, it lets me experience what is to be that subject, it connects me to the subject.

seeing -> experience -> connection

If truly successful, I exist in the image. I know it when it works and does not. And when an image is truly complete, it is myself and the subject that gets printed. I am lucky if that happens a dozen times in a year. Only 12 images! If it is a good year!

I just looked at my lightroom library and I average around 10,000 images in each year.  That is after I have deleted ones I do not want to keep and also many of those were five image brackets. Plus, I keep usually three images of each subject and/or view. It probably narrows down to about 2,000 unique images per year.  Out of all that only 12 real connections. But those 12 are magical and are the reason why I return to my camera again and again.

I will offer this image up as a connection example. I was all over this river but it was not until I stopped shooting and just watched/listened/smelled it, felt its spray, for a good long while – then I finally got it. Got it internally, got in the camera and got it on paper later.

Big Thompson River, Rocky Mountain National Park
Big Thompson River, Rocky Mountain National Park

It happened again here in this image. One of my favorite Austin city places to shoot is Zilker Botanical Garden and this day was one of those glorious days where everything was going right. I watched this Koi for a good while and felt that connection.

Don J Schulte Photography
Koi and Stepping Stones, Zilker Japanese Gardens

I am a Photographer

Just what the world needs, another photography blog.

I have been down this road before having started and stopped two prior blogs on photography. This is my last attempt — sustain this or never attempt another. So what caused this leap into blogging again? When I was closing my last photography blog I was writing an end piece entitled “I am not a Photographer”. At the time I truly felt that I was just playing at photography. While I had a small, side business at it, generated some revenue, placed images in magazines and web sites and shot some events there was still something at its core missing. I finally figured out what was missing. Connection.

Recently I got around to printing some of my images large. Opening the packaging and revealing those 16×20 and larger prints was amazing. The physicality of those images made them real. And I thought, for the first time, 100% sure, “I am a Photographer”. Some of these prints had a power mysterious and soulful – they had life in them. My life.

I was not happy with all my printed images. I tend to be very critical of my own photographic works. But there are a couple of them that jumped off the paper into my heart. Or maybe they originated somewhere inside me and now resided on paper. There is something special about them. Here is one of them and a good start to this blog. It was a wintry day at Pedernales Falls State Park in Texas and the wind was skimming along the dry, cold bedrock while I laid on the ground to get this shot.  Tripod spread out wide, camera inches from this small pool of water, framing this shot, I heard the earth’s poetry whisper.

Winter is Lonely
Winter is Lonely
winter is lonely
just one, lone stank stained coffee mug
 grounds 'nd a taste of cold bottom brew
 plus the burn of crap whiskey
 ...winter is lonely
the wind makes a different sound in january
 shrill whippings through naked branches
 cooling a granite stone bed
 ...a grey haunting sonnet
pebbles and shells strewn into a chilly message
 "hope is eternal for those who believe"
 and for those who don't?
 ...there is no rhyme
 ......only cold reason
winter is lonely
 a grey haunting sonnet
 that has lost it's rhyme