Yesterday evening I presented “My Own Backyard” to the Brant Camera Club in Brantford, Ontario.
Regular readers will know of my passion for shooting locally – starting literally right in your own backyard and using it as an exploratorium for testing new equipment, ideas and ways of seeing. Taking that one step further, you can explore local parks and conservation areas (or downtowns for street photography) throughout each of the four seasons, year after year. Over time, you begin to develop a deep knowledge of where potential subjects are and how far along they are in their annual growth, allowing you to predict just when to be out looking. As well, being nearby, you can become the “expert” and be on site when the light is spectacular.
I’m always surprised by my retrospective of the past year’s photos. The year never seems to be quite what it appears. For example, the school trip to Galapagos yielded only a few real “year end” photos. [I must admit to there being a few more than a few due to the personal significance to me of the wildlife, rather than the actual photograph quality!]
What also surprises me is the comparative dearth of wideangle photographs. I see myself primarily as a landscape photographer and I love using wideangle lenses – the wider, the better. Yet, wideangle only accounted for about a third of my shots compared to almost 60% telephoto, of which over half were either 200mm or 300mm. This astounds me.
Here are some stats… Total # image files in 2015: 3191 (c.f. 2014: 3179; 2013: 3617).
Broken down by focal length, my shooting looks like this:
• Ultra-wideangle (18-23mm): 10%
• Wideangle (24-39mm): 27%
• Normal (40-65mm): 7%
• Short Telephoto (66-199mm): 23%
• Long Telephoto: 200-300mm: 35%
It’s interesting to see “spikes” in the numbers at specific focal lengths:
• 18mm (233 = 7%)
• 24mm (379 = 12%)
• 35mm (159 = 5%)
• 200mm (603 = 19%) and
• 300mm (499 = 16%)
These five specific focal lengths account for 60% of my photos, which seems to coincide with my approach to photography, in that I tend to treat zoom lenses as variable fixed lenses. In other words, with each set-up, I consciously choose the focal length based on the perspective needed for the vision I have of the scene, rather than standing there and zooming to crop. It appears my choices coincide with the extremes of the lens I’ve chosen, which is also inline with my thinking.
To break this down further, I’ll take a quick look at my most successful photos (3 stars and above)…
# rated 3* and above: 371 or 11.3% (c.f. 2014: 14%; 2013: 16%)
But, what does this mean? Am I becoming a progressively poorer photographer or perhaps more discriminating or…?
By focal length, this breaks down as follows:
• Ultra-wide: 11%
• Wide: 20%
• Normal: 6%
• Short Telephoto: 25%
• Long Telephoto: 37%
I’m nit-picking here, but, again, telephoto is even stronger.
One area I need to work on is my use of black-and-white. This year only 13% of my most successful photos (3*+) are B&W, yet, I love black-and-white and could spend the rest of my life creating only black-and-white photographs. The problem is colour is so seductive as is the instant gratification that comes with colour, both personally and from others viewing my work. It’s unfortunate the number of times I hear something to the effect, “Oh – you don’t have that in colour, do you?”.
So, I’ve whittled those 371 down to the 27 photos shown here. I think these best represent the work I am doing and what is important to me as a photographer. I am still very much an opportunist – one who takes advantage of situations as they arise, rather than being more purposeful in going out to create a specific series of photographs. Over time, I believe I am becoming more purposeful, but I have a ways to go, yet.
If you’ve managed to read this far, congratulations! Here are the 27 photos I’ve selected. Enjoy!
Creative, Contemplative & Close-up
A grouping of teasel flower heads stand out against a clear blue autumn sky with the setting sun at the horizon.
Brilliant and golden autumn sunshine streams thorugh a grouping of teasel in a field of dead wildflowers
The northern night sky with Ursa major, Ursa minor and Draco constellations and Polaris, the North Star, captured over a frozen lake lit by moonshine with white pine trees on the shoreline.
Logies Creek meanders past white apple blossoms and into the forest towards Tews Falls at Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada along the Bruce Trail on the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere
Day out snorkelling at Kicker Rock and Playa Cerro Brujo
A lone apple tree is out in blossom with a backdrop of coniferous trees and shrubs under a spring sky of billowy clouds.
Feversham Gorge was eroded at the end of the last ice age by glacial meltwater. The 24m-deep sheer-walled, limestone gorge now has the Beaver River flowing though it
The Boyne River has its headwaters in the Dufferin Highlands of Ontario and makes its way, largely undisturbed and wild, to join the Beaver River at the head of the Beaver Valley, along the Niagara Escarpment in Grey County, Ontario
Ojibway Prairie Provincial nature Reserve, part of the Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie complex – an endangered habitat and a series of protected areas – in Windsor, Ontario.
Backus Woods in Norfolk County near Port Rowan, Ontario is Canada’s premier example of Carolinian deciduous forest, which once blanketed southern Ontario as far north as a line from Sarnia to Toronto.
A calm evening of pickeral weed and spruce trees in the marshlands of the Amable du Fond river, which rises in Algonquin Provoincial Park and flows northwards, emptying into the historic Mattawa River at Samuel de Champlain Provincial park, Ontario, Canada
A freshly ploughed field sits in front of a misty line of bare trees in the golden colours of dawn.
Thick ground fog lit by the golden morning glow, settles on a ploughed field with a single tree emerging from the mist.
An autumn sun rises above a fenceline of dead and dried wildflowers
Fog swirls around the bottomlands of Ellis Creek,, filled with dried wildflwors and surrounded by the are branches of late-autumn trees.
Rancho Manzanillo Tortoise Sanctuary, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador