This is a guest post from Hugh Nourse, a photographer and friend from Georgia. I think it is very interesting how he and his wife found a home for their nature photography.
Some thoughts on my focus in photography by Hugh Nourse
Our first photography was street and travel photography when I was in the military in Japan. My wife, Carol, and I bought a Petri rangefinder and used Kodachrome 25 slide film. Returned home to graduate school and then an academic career in economics, so photography became shots of the family.
We came to photography a second time near retirement when trying to identify wildflowers. I bought a point and shoot to capture images to check with the field guides. Showed image of photos to a friend, and he said join my camera club. Within six months I was carrying a tripod and an SLR with a 100mm macro lens.
When first learning photography, we were told to get closer. We liked using a telephoto macro close-up to get a simple green background. We learned to think about five things for better flower photography:
- What is the subject? Close in until you are just showing the subject.
- Where is the subject in the frame?
- Does the background enhance the image?
- Does the foreground enhance the subject?
- What is the light on the subject?
Today we are volunteer photographers for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and we get the most raves from the editor (as well as the graphic designer) of The Garden Newsletter for close-ups we provide. They also use overviews and scenes.
For a while, I tried stock photography. Even though I had thousands of images, it was not often that I happened to have the “right” image. Furthermore, since I had been taught to do close-ups, the ones I had did not show the flower in a garden setting, so someone else got the editor's attention. But I did manage to get some photos into American Gardener and was given picture assignments by the editor. We also had images published in Nature Photographer, Backpacker, and Wildflower magazines.
We have also donated images to the US Forest Service "Celebrate Wildflowers" website, to identification guides to wildflowers (maybe five such guides), to University of Georgia extension web pages on wildflowers, and to Tipularia, the magazine of the Georgia Botanical Society, and to their bi-monthly newsletter. Since retiring from college teaching, Carol and I have published three books with University of Georgia Press as photographers and authors: Wildflowers of Georgia, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and "Favorite Wildflower Walks in Georgia.
We have just finished a 7 year effort to provide photos of plants and their habitats for a Guide to the Natural Communities of Georgia, which involved a great effort to visit over 67 natural communities in Georgia with ecology authors. For this book we were pushed to photograph ecological processes, such as prescribed burns, or other indications of change, i.e., storytelling. All royalties on this book will go to the Department of Natural Resources for Georgia.
Now we are about to embark on a Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Georgia by Natural Communities. The author, Linda Chafin, is a fine field botanist. We have worked with her before on her book, Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Georgia. She is a good friend.
We like doing plant identification images and plant habitat images, but there never is any money. Our reward is that the images get published, and that they are used in a wonderful cause -- improving the botanical knowledge of the public so that they may support conservation causes. Identification images are not necessarily close-ups, since you need to show the critical identification characteristics to the viewer. Sometimes a flower is so small, or the characteristic is so small that one-to-one photography is needed.
Mostly you need to find good backgrounds in good light for a portrait. I used to be able to hike many miles with tripod, camera, and macro lens. Today I am physically limited to about a mile to hike with this equipment. Longer hikes with equipment cause back pain, so I am working to find alternative equipment such as the small mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.
One does not get rave reviews from the camera club for this type of work. So be it. It has been a great retirement.