Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Creativity

Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Bernabe Twitter AMA

Go Ahead. Ask Me Anything

If you feel 2020 has been like a strangely dystopian episode from The Twilight Zone, you’re not alone. To borrow and paraphrase a colorfully descriptive lyric from the pen of musician Gordon Summer, it’s been one humiliating kick in the crotch after another for humanity. It began in January – as most years do – with Kobe’s tragic death and limped into February with the persistently hellish brushfires in Australia, where 40 percent of the koala population perished. It’s estimated that the total area of torched land there, when the fires were finally contained, was equal to the size of Portugal. March smirked, said hold my beer, and unleashed a global pandemic on the world that forced almost every human being into a self-isolating lockdown with nightly rolling death counts and frightening toilet paper shortages. April conceived a vision of what a 1930s-style Great Depression might feel like and gifted us a flying demon called the murder hornet. And if all that doesn’t Sting enough, we’re not even halfway through May.

So, at the urging of some Twitter followers, I sheepishly offered an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with the hashtag #BernabeAMA on April 28 and 29, as a modest distraction from all the above. I chose some of my favorites and gave my answers here. I’ll try to address as many of the others as I can, but most were fairly redundant so an answer to one is an answer to many. I also tried to avoid most of the technical gear questions because….well, I think gear is boring, at least for what I wanted to accomplish here. I’ll get back to you personally about your camera gear and lenses. Hey, I do have the time.

So here we go. Thanks to everyone who participated!

What was your biggest photographic challenge? @IamnotMarilyn

My good friend Rick Sammon just completed a book titled Photo Quest: Discovering Your Photographic and Artistic Voice and I was honored to be asked to write the book’s foreword, which I happily did.  With regard to “finding your voice” I attempted to make two key points. First, it’s essential that you know yourself. Know your sources of happiness, your deepest fears, who you really are and what you’re not. Be honest since this is where the voice comes from. Second, as an artist, you need create for yourself. Be selfish. Don’t create to pacify the critics or impress your peers. Don’t create for the sake of “likes” on social media and don’t create for commercial success either, otherwise it’s not your voice. It’s the voice of someone else. By being selfish, paradoxically, you ultimately achieve perfect selflessness since there’s no greater gift you can give your audience than a piece of your authentic self.

Now I hear many of you shouting into your computer screen or phone.

“That’s sounds great, Bernabe, but how can you be a professional photographer or artist and make a solid living if you’re not listening to the market and what editors, collectors, and clients want from you and your work? How can you survive financially?”

The long answer to that question would make an excellent blog post or essay for another day. The short answer directly addresses your question as to my biggest challenge.

I have always admired your photos with symmetry of animals. And this is very different from a landscape. So, what happens first: luck or patience in getting the shot right? @40GRAUSS

Luck plays a much larger role in wildlife photography than any of us would care to admit but it still runs both ways. I’ve been in situations where I’ve done everything right and prepared for every possible contingency and it didn’t work out because of something completely out of my control. Conversely, there were times when I couldn’t be more inept if I’d forgotten to remove the lens cap yet still managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat. You take the good with the bad but good luck does tend to correlate positively with the amount of time invested in the field. Patience certainly helps but preparation and research are even better.

Can nature and landscape photographs be “too pretty”? @gregerts

I don’t believe you can have too much beauty in your life, particularly during these dreary times. But instead of relying solely on superficial beauty to carry your image, why not make it meaningful too? Better yet, make the images all about what’s meaningful to you and the emotional responses to your experiences. The real subjects of your photographs should be raw emotion: awe, peacefulness, power, fragility, joy, melancholy rather than the shallow, self-indulgent sentimental beauty you might find in a Thomas Kincade painting or John Denver song. Your personal vision and interpretation of nature should be the shortest distance between your heart and your audience so they can feel what you feel, not what your camera coldly captures.

Did you do formal photography study such as at school/college? Did you do an internship or work with a more skilled photographer in the beginning of your career? @MelindaAlfred

No, I’m completely self-taught which only means I have so many bad habits to overcome that I now rationalize my flaws as giving my work “character.”

I have mixed feelings about formal training for artists. On the one hand, the more you learn about anything, the better as a general matter. On the other hand, an untrained, motivated, insanely curious person with a strong personal vision might have a more intuitive feel for creative expression, but that’s just my uneducated, unlettered opinion.

How did you know your style? @fanni40877378

I’m allergic to the whole concept of style to be honest, to which anyone who has seen how I dress can attest.

When someone sends an email to say they’ve seen one of my published magazine photos while in the dentist’s waiting room, it’s a nice gesture that never goes unappreciated. But when they go on to say they knew the photo was mine because they recognize my style, I die a little on the inside. By having a style, it means I’m using the same conceptual formula time after time for each experience even if the location, subject matter, and circumstances are different. It’s muscle memory. It’s easy. It’s lazy. It’s not being creative.

I try to approach each situation with a clear and open mind, completely in the present moment, with zero influence from the previous day, week or month. Have a look at David Bowie’s body of work through the years. I respect the hell out of Bowie. He was always re-making himself and his music as something different from what he did before while still being different from everyone else. That’s why even now, Bowie’s music still sounds so fresh to me.

What is the progression of questions/attributes that you use when evaluating a scene for its photographic potential? @firthermor

My process always starts with an emotional/intuitive/right-brained series of questions regarding how the scene or subject makes me feel. I’m searching for an emotional core around which I’ll build the image. The process then transitions into conceptual/technical/left-brain thinking about how I want to execute it. This is almost always the methodology I use.

You can only use one lens for the rest of your photography days. What will you choose, and why? The format is 35mm equivalent, and it must be a real existing lens. @awilliamsny

If you’re going to put me in that predicament, I’d hold my nose and go buy a Tamron 18-400mm “ALL-IN_ONE” lens. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was such a thing until 5 minutes before writing this piece. But in the real world, I would keep my Canon EF24-105mm F4L IS II USM (Soon to be the RF Version) since 24mm is wide enough for wide-angle, near-far landscapes and 105mm would allow me to do some wildlife in a pinch, with a bit of cropping. It is, of course, the perfect “walking around” lens and ideal for street photography and general travel.

Beyond photography, music and writing are there other creative art forms that interest you? @mauramullarkey

Are you saying there’s more to life than that? I mean, beyond food and the love of friends and family, is there anything else I need? I’m a fan of any type of creative expression – movies, music, art, even poetry – that has the ability to inspire or move me to tears.

After another long hard day at the office, travelling, or shooting in the field, what’s your go to drink? @life_with_louis

With the exception of an occasional signature exotic drinking experience tied explicitly to a particular place (aguardiente in Colombia, pulque in Mexico City, absinthe in Paris, etc.), I prefer to keep my libations pretty simple: water, a double espresso, or red wine, depending how good or bad a day it was.

What is your favorite Seinfeld episode and why? @themahoneyphoto

The Boyfriend. I grew up in the shadow of New York City and I’ve been a Mets fan since I was 4 years old. Keith Hernandez, Art Vandalay, did you sneak a peak?, the magic loogie. No need to go on. But I consider the very act of asking a Seinfeld question to be openly flirting… so I see you, Jason.

What is that one elusive goal you have yet to accomplish in your career? @KristaBower411

I’ve always wanted to get arrested and spend a night in jail, but that goal has been a spectacular failure. You’d think it wouldn’t be so difficult or “elusive” but it has, mainly because of the many caveats and pre-conditions I’ve demanded. For example, it must be a real arrest, not some phony stunt. It must be a victimless crime yet not petty and pointless like shoplifting or trespassing. I’d prefer to be arrested and incarcerated in the name of some righteous cause such as a protest or sit-in while battling a social or environmental injustice. I could actually be proud of that and wave my arrest record around in public like a badge of honor. Also, one night in jail. Just one, thank you very much.

Why? Curiosity mostly. That and my environmental activist friends tell me I can’t be taken seriously until I’ve been arrested at least once. But yeah, it’s mostly curiosity.

Hey, you asked!

Creative Vision Newsletter




Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Iceland: Our Amazing Planet. FREE e-book

Iceland: Our Amazing Planet. FREE e-book

Bucket List

Iceland: Our Amazing Planet. FREE e-book

Iceland, Our Amazing Planet, explores the pure magic that is this small country in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Here are two dozen photographs of Iceland’s mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife, and beautiful light captured by renowned nature, wildlife, and travel photographer, Richard Bernabe.This virtual tour of Iceland will visually demonstrate why Iceland truly is one of our planet’s most amazing places. Come join the adventure with this 32-page e-book!

*  Depending on your particular mobile device and software/apps, you might have a problem downloading this PDF directly to your phone or tablet. If that’s the case, download to a computer first and then transfer to your phone or tablet.

Sample Pages

Creative Vision Newsletter




Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Favorite Images of 2019: A Retrospective

Favorite Images of 2019: A Retrospective

Inspiration

Favorite Images of 2019: A Retrospective

In early 2019, I was casually mugged by a teenaged reggae enthusiast in broad daylight while traveling in Mexico. Thin, lanky, with hollowed-out cheeks and a wolfish face, this young Bob Marley acolyte donned an oversized Rasta beanie and black tee shirt emblazoned with Marley’s visage and the suddenly appropriate words in block letters:

IF BOB SAYS DON’T WORRY, I AIN’T GONNA

Under the shirt, he kept one hand concealed, which for my sake was to imply a weapon of some sort. I happily obliged, giving him everything on my possession at the time: a first-generation iPad and two 100-peso bills (about twelve US dollars) each of which, before this interruption, were to help me score a mid-morning espresso in the city center of La Paz. This led to an uncomplicated, if not one-sided, transaction between me and the petty thief.

Expect the unexpected might be a tired cliché but that doesn’t make it any less true, particularly with regard to travel. Planning is admirable and always recommended but you should also assume that most of your plans will eventually be replaced by improvisation and gut instinct. Expect the unexpected. But why is the unexpected always biased toward the bad, negative, disappointing, tragic, or catastrophic? Bad travel experiences always eclipse the good ones because they make for better stories afterwards. No one wants to hear your boring tale about how smoothly your trip went off. No one.

Vehicle breakdowns, sickness, missed or cancelled flights, getting lost or even robbed are not necessarily to be expected but are never a total surprise either. My approach to the unforeseen and accidental is to remain calm, stoic, and philosophical as possible. This was expected after all, right? Besides, never in the entire known history of human travel has throwing a tantrum and acting like a spoiled, entitled tourist ever fixed a thing. Take a detached perspective of the situation as a curious bystander might do. It can be interesting or even slightly amusing if you don’t take the turn of fate too personally. It might actually be funny if not for the fact it was happening to you at that very moment. Rest assured, however, you will be able to laugh about it later.

On the dusty streets of La Paz, I wondered how Marley would feel about not only being a witness to this unfortunate situation but an unsuspecting accessory as well. I glanced at the shirt of my antagonist and imagined Bob wearing a pained frown of disapproval. He might even have said, don’t worry…

When the boy suggested that he follow me back to the hotel, presumably for the promise of a bigger and better haul, a wave of panic flooded over me. I looked him in the eyes, shook my head and emphatically said, “No.” No means no in either English or Spanish so he threw both hands up in the air (revealing there never was a weapon), backed away, and disappeared into the steamy La Paz landscape.

I hastily pulled myself together, checked to see if anyone had been watching, and returned to my room for more pesos. Coffee delayed was not going to be coffee denied and yes, every little thing was gonna be alright.

So, now on to some happier moments from this past year.

Silver Silken Blade
Gerlache Straight, Antarctica
December 6, 2019

But what of silver silken blade? I know this image isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine: moody and mysterious with just a glimmer of hope, glorious details of the Antarctic landscape combined with graphical abstract qualities as well. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100-400mm @ 349mm, 1/1000 second @ f/6.3, ISO 1000.

Okaukuejo Rising
Etosha National Park, Namibia
June 18, 2019

A big African sunrise over the Etosha Plains with a lone elephant kicking up a little dust for some lighting drama. Compositionally I like a asymmetrical balance created by counterpoising the two primary visual elements but I hate the horizon cutting right through the top of the elephant. Bad form by me. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 200-400mm w/ 1.4x @ 560mm, 1/1250 second @ f/11, ISO 100.

Meanwhile On Mercury
Cathedral Gorge, Nevada USA
November 12, 2019

This is a real landscape. On this planet. The scale, however, is extremely misleading. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 11-24mm @ 22mm, 1.6 seconds @ f/14, ISO 100.

After Glow
Pied Crows at Deadvlei, Namibia-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
June 13, 2019

I’ve been to Deadvlei countless times and it’s highly unusual to see any living things in this surreal place. After the sun set and there was no light other the the glow on the orange dunes, two pied crows set upon one of the most photogenic trees in the valley. This is why I carried my telephoto lens up and over the dunes. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100-400mm @ 248mm, 1/1250 second @ f/5, ISO 2000.

Destiny Unbound
The Camargue south of Arles, France
September 12, 2019

“She said, there isn’t even any road, our destiny was bound”

White horses, bright sunset light, slow exposure to create the illusion of motion, high-key processing.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm @ 105mm, 1/15 second @ f/5, ISO 1600.

Meraki
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
April 8, 2019

Meraki is a word used to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love. On the day I created this image it was cold, wet, and misty, with fog rolling in and out of the mountains, keeping them concealed for most of the time. In other words, it wasn’t the best of conditions. Then I found this composition and I created something new and meaningful, at least for me in this location. I was exhilarated! I remember thinking at that moment, “Holy #%*& I love what I do!” I might have even uttered it out loud. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100-400mm @ 135mm, 1/1250 second @ f/16, ISO 1600.

She Lit Up a Candle
Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico
February 14, 2019

The unfortunate title of this image is the result of an unfortunate essay i wrote about an unfortunate popular rock song. I’ll just leave it at that.

There’s an almost zen-like quality to this photo: a wildlife image with no conspicuous wildlife subject? It’s understood. I kind of like that. Despite the many images from this trip with whales in the water and in the air, this photo captured how I felt more than any of the other crowd favorites. This is a gray whale spouting at sunrise in Magdalena Bay, which is protected from the Pacific Ocean by the remote, sandy barrier islands of Isla Magdalena and Isla Santa Margarita. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100-400mm @ 263mm, 1/1000 second @ f/5.6, ISO 500.

Faraway
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
May 14, 2019

In Tanzania’s Ngorongoro crater, the hills (actually the crater walls) are never quite out of sight. Here you lack the big skies of the Serengeti but the multi-hued hills with the chiaroscuro lighting in the late afternoons are the type of palettes I prefer. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 200-400mm @ 490mm, 1/1250 second @ f/6.3, ISO 250.

Wrinkles In Time
Death Valley, California USA
March 25, 2019

It’s all about texture and movement here. The texture is obvious upon arriving at the scene but it’s also somewhat chaotic at first sight. What makes the image work for me is the visual movement. The subtle diagonal, left-to-rightward flow carries the eye through the frame like dancing barefoot through the desert. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm @ 91mm, 1/10 second @ f/14, ISO 200.

Paulet
Paulet Island, Antarctica
December 9, 2019

An Adélie penguin welcomes visitors to Paulet Island with an offer of a hug, northeastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm @ 35mm, 1/2000 second @ f/11, ISO 640.

Falling Down
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee USA
October 29, 2019

No dramatic light or special natural phenomenon. No in-your-face, complex composition or visual design. Just a quiet, peaceful photograph of a spacial place during my favorite season of the year. The overhanging tree branches do help to create a very cohesive composition here, however. Enjoy. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm @ 35mm, 1.6 seconds @ f/16, ISO 100.

You can check out my Favorite Images of 2018 here as well.

Follow all of my adventures by signing up for my monthly newsletter.

Here’s to Truth, Adventure, and Passion in 2020 –  Richard

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

PhotoWhoa Interview: Capturing The Experience

PhotoWhoa Interview: Capturing The Experience

Announcements

PhotoWhoa Interview: Capturing The Experience

Capturing the experience…. “Redwood Supernova” Sunrise through the fog in Del Norte State Park and Redwoods National Park in northern California, USA.

Richard was recently interviewed for the photo website PhotoWhoa. He talked about the importance of passion as part of the creative process and capturing the experience.

“I want to have as many apex experiences as possible where I am literally moved to tears by the overpowering beauty or the devastating sadness I see and feel. And it’s what I feel – not what I see – that’s important. That’s a strange thing, perhaps, for a photographer to say. The emotional content of a scene is the vital core around which I’ll build my image. Without it, it’s just a pretty picture. I want my viewers, who might be thousands of miles removed from the physical scene and experience, to feel what I am feeling, not necessarily what I am seeing. That is photography for me.”

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


Favorite Images of 2018: A Retrospective

Favorite Images of 2018: A Retrospective

Inspiration

Favorite Images of 2018: A Retrospective

I spent much of December at home with a thought-provoking read titled The Artist’s Journey by author and screen writer, Steven Pressfield. And while I don’t completely agree with everything he espouses, I do recommend the book for artists, writers, musicians, or anyone with a career in a creative field. Among the many views the author posits (you can read some of the more profound excerpts on Tim Ferriss’ blog, How To Undertake the Artist’s Journey) is that the artist’s intent should not necessarily be one of self expression, as you might have heard and believed most of your creative life, but rather a journey of self discovery. 

“Artists discover themselves by the work they produce,” Pressfield asserts.

Those eight words above have haunted me now for weeks. As I pored over this year’s work to make the following selections, I asked… What matters to me most? What is my life’s purpose? What three words describes me best? I had relatively adequate answers to those questions already yet I searched for new meaning in my most recent work, making little to no progress. But since I’m insanely self-critical (there are no framed pictures of my work adorning the walls of my home or office, for example) I did manage to extract the following threads of introspection: Is this really all you’ve accomplished this year? Seriously, what an utter waste of twelve months. You really should spend more time actually doing photography and less time writing and talking about it. Okay, fair enough.

In addition, he implores artists to “put your ass when your heart wants to be” – an inelegant way of phrasing, Do Whatever Inspires You. Great advice, I’d say, which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years, including this most recent one. So with regard to Pressfield, his book, and my journey of self-discovery, let’s just say it all evens out and continue to my favorite images of 2018, shall we?

Lilac Wine
Acadia National Park, Maine USA
October 12, 2018

Perhaps subconsciously inspired by Claude Monet’s series of impressionist water lily paintings, I caught the sunset sky reflected in a beaver pond along Duck Brook Pond in Acadia National Park in Maine. I liked the combination of abstract qualities with a touch of the literal found in the lily pads and reeds. Getting the right amount of balance and spacing of literal elements within the image frame was key. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100-400mm @ 400mm, 1/125 second @ f/16, ISO 500.

Dark Karma
Praia da Adraga at dusk, Portugal
June 1, 2018

Praia da Adraga is a place of dangerous beauty. The waves are big and powerful, the surf thunderous, and the rocks either too slippery, too sharp, or the lethal union of both. I anticipated an epic fail at every turn but managed to avoid disaster with each visit made. I wanted my images to convey this feeling of impending doom I carried in the pit of my stomach and Dark Karma came as close as any others. But alas, on my final evening at Adraga, while walking out in the dark, I suffered a violent, if not comical fall on the rocks, leaving a hockey puck-sized bruise on my thigh with all the colors of a Mediterranean sunset. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Irix 15mm, 30 seconds @ f/11, ISO 100.

Turning Away
Humpback whale, Johan Petersen Fjord, Eastern Greenland
August 21, 2018

Most of you know that wildlife conservation is a passion of mine, particularly the preservation of endangered species. The humpback whale is one of our rare success stories, with its conservation status upgraded from endangered (1988) to vulnerable (1996) due to the cessation of commercial whaling practices. But now the ocean’s plastics crisis threatens them once again. I like to imagine the displayed gesture as an anthropomorphic middle finger to the most “advanced” primates of the planet. If you look closely above the tail, you can see not only the outline of an iceberg, but also the edge of Greenland’s massive ice sheet. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100-400mm @ 158mm, 1/1600 second @ f/5.6, ISO 125.

Daughter of the Sun
Etosha National Park, Namibia
June 25, 2018

This Etosha giraffe appears to be bowing before the sun mere minutes before it dropped below the horizon. The sun is so large in the image from because of the focal length (560mm) and I battled all the usual bugaboos associated with shooting directly into the sun: flare, ghosting, autofocus problems, underexposure, and real possibility of being blinded in the process. All in all, however, it seems to have worked out well enough. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 200-400mm w/ 1.4x @ 560mm, 1/500 second @ f/10, ISO 250.

Promenade
Lake Clark National Park at Cooke Inlet, Alaska
August 10, 2018

My love-hate relationship with bears continued in 2018 with a visit to Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. The chosen image here teaches a valuable lesson for wildlife photographers who instinctively reach for the longest lens in the bag and zoom in as close as possible. Many just aren’t happy until every detail of fur or feather can be resolved fully in the frame. And let’s face it, this tendency is also an opportunity to show off some of your technical proficiency, am I right?  But the more compelling image is often the wider option. Here we have layers of sky, mountains, water, shoreline, bears, and their reflections. This is much more interesting than the conventional close up. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 200-400mm w/1.4x @ 560mm, 1/2500 second @ f/5.6, ISO 800.

Steel Rain
The Vestrahorn at Stokksnes, Southeast Iceland
February 24, 2018

Classic landscape layout; sweeping, wide-angle perspective, compelling foreground with patterns creating perspective progression, diagonal shoreline leading the eye to the mountains in the background. This was captured in some of the worst weather you can imagine with the temperature near freezing, rain, sleet, and wind (I did have friends and fellow photographers nearby with whom I could share the agony) but within the hour, the skies opened up and a rainbow appeared over the mountains. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 16-35mm @ 17mm, 4 seconds @ f/14, ISO 100.

Chasing the Light
Etosha National Park, Namibia
June 27, 2018

This is my personal favorite from 2018 and the most difficult image for me to describe with mere words. For one thing, I never remember taking the photo; it’s like a dream. I discovered the photo later that evening while reviewing images in my cabin. No animal is displayed in it’s entirety; the photo is all legs and trunks. The light is exquisite. The combination of backlighting and dust kicked up by the herd of elephants produces some curious visual effects such as the double edges where the light bleeds into the shadows and vice-versa. The composition uses layers to frame the young elephant farthest away from us, which is where our eye comfortably rests. I’m reminded of Robert Hunter’s lyrics, “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” The camera and lens were pointed in the right direction at the right time for a reason I can’t explain or properly take credit for. Maybe it was just the light. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 200-400mm @ 280mm, 1/1600 second @ f/9, ISO 640.

Quercus Angelus
Johns Island, South Carolina
November 26, 2018

This is my backyard, not quite literally, but nearly so. I’ve photographed this tree on many dozens of occasions, including this exact composition time and time again. And time is the most conspicuous dimension on display here, as the Angel Oak, as it’s been titled, is the oldest living thing in America found east of the Mississippi River. On this particular morning I had no people to work around, soft diffused light, and a touch of mist in the air which lent a dreamy look and feel to the scene. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 11-24mm @ 19mm, 5 seconds @ f/16, ISO 160.

Eternal Blue
Iceberg, Angmagssalik Fjord, Eastern Greenland
August 22, 2018

Here’s a perfect example of an intimate scenic; no foreground, no sky, no “sense of place” – just color, patterns, shapes, and lines. Intimate scenics always say much more about the personal vision of the photographer than it does about the place, however if one had to guess, Greenland would have been a good one. Grand scenics, conversely, usually rely more on the specific location to carry the image. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100-400mm @ 200mm, 1/640 second @ f/11, ISO 2000.

Take a Bow
Diamond Beach at Jökulsárlón, Southeast Iceland
February 4, 2018

Due to the extremely changeable weather in Iceland, rainbows are not an uncommon phenomenon. Despite this fact, however, they never fail to bring a smile since they always seem to be preceded by the foulest of weather. This 180 degree rainbow perfectly frames this lone iceberg on Diamond Beach at Jökulsárlón. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 11-24mm @ 17mm, 1/200 second @ f/14, ISO 500.

In 2019 I’ll be traveling to Iceland, Greenland, China, Patagonia (Argentina and Chile), Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Gabon, diving with gray whales off Mexico’s Baja California, returning to Antarctica, and more. Follow my adventures by signing up for my monthly newsletter

Here’s to Truth, Adventure, and Passion in 2019 –  Richard

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


Essential Photography: The Creative Principle

Essential Photography: The Creative Principle

Creativity

Essential Photography: The Creative Principle

The Creative Principle

Creativity is the process of making, or creating, something new and useful – in context, that would be a photograph. So in order for a photograph to be creative it must involve a scene, technique, or composition that’s new and unique – never been done before. But making something new isn’t nearly enough. There are an infinite number of ways to make new or novel images with your camera – including tripping the shutter as your tripod accidentally falls to the ground or firing it remotely after attaching the camera to your dog’s tail as it runs through the yard. The results would be new or unique, to be sure, but they wouldn’t necessarily be creative. Almost all of the photos would be failures, unless you “created” a random, happy accident. The photograph needs to be both new and useful, meaning it has to make a meaningful connection with the viewer. Art can never be the product of an accident, it must be purposeful. Composing a scene through your camera’s viewfinder is just one conscious, purposeful thing you can do as a photographic artist.

Following the compositional “rules” will surely lead to visually appealing images that are “useful” but they might lack the creativity you’re striving for since there’s nothing new in any composition recipes. You must learn to break the rules in order to achieve true creative results but you also must know the rules in order to break them. Actors and actresses are instructed to learn their lines so they can later forget them and improvise lines in the moment. The good ones do just that. Call it counter-intuitive if you wish, but I prefer to call it the Creative Principle. Feel free to break this one too since there are, in fact, no rules here.

It’s also crucial to understand that breaking the rules just for the sake of breaking them is not being creative either. What’s most important about knowing the rules is understanding why they work most of the time. Knowing why the rules work will lead to something akin to a higher state of compositional enlightenment: knowing when your photo is successful when not using the rules, or better yet, purposely breaking them. Once you get to that happy place, you will be on the path to true creative synthesis.

The last step on this journey to creative expression is actually putting The Creative Principle into action. The French artist, Henri Matisse once famously declared, “creativity takes courage.” It takes considerable courage to deviate from the safe confines of conventional compositional rules because trying something different could lead to failure. Your art should be an intimate expression of yourself so it’s easy to take failure personally. It’s important to remember, however, that artistic growth requires experimenting and trying new things. Failures will occur along the way but they’re a small price to pay for the creative breakthroughs you’re going to make by venturing outside your comfort zone. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, said, “an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” Don’t be afraid to try something new.

So consider the rules merely as guidelines or suggestions with which to take generous liberties. “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” Pablo Picasso offered as advice to fellow creatives. When I’m behind the camera, I am not thinking about compositional rules, guidelines, or suggestions but instead I’m working on more of an intuitive level. I don’t think too much about composition. I simply defer to what feels right. Later on, I often discover that I did, in fact, use one of the rules presented here (or I’ve discovered that I ignored all of them) but I’m never thinking that way while creating.

Remember, no one is born an accomplished photographer and master of composition. It’s not an innate talent. It’s not a gift. There are no child prodigies in the field of photography. Every great photographer has had to learn the rules, intentionally break the rules, then ignore them altogether. If you’re just starting out, rest assured that you are in the same place that I once was, as well as every other professional photographer. Learn the rules, adopt the Creative Principle, then follow your heart and intuition to a life of creative expression. Enjoy the journey.

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Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe.