Open your eyes

So a thing happened on this trip. It’s happened before. I’m taking pictures of something, and a man (it’s always a man, don’t @ me) feels the need to point out that I shouldn’t bother photographing it. He knows better.

It happened again in Greenland. A man on the ship, of a certain age (they are always of a certain age), pops out on deck, snaps one image and looks at me and says “That’s nothing special.”

I looked at the steep, heavily glaciated mountain gliding by and the small icebergs in the water, the way the milky sunset light was just glancing off the snow that had just fallen a couple of days before and thought: “Alright. If you can’t see it, I’m not going to point it out to you.”

The picture I was taking when he said that? This is it:

Greenland. Scoresby Sund.

Yep. Nothing special. Why do I even bother?

Moral of the story:  If you don’t see what someone is so excited about photographing, you can always ask them. You might learn something. Two photographers can be looking at the same scene and see two totally different things. It helps to open your eyes.

Just add light

Greenland. East Greenland National Park. Kong Oscar Fjord. Antarctic Sound.Greenland. Northeast Greenland National Park. Kong Oscar Fjord.

It’s easy to get caught up in taking photographs of things. After all, that’s how your brain works. You look at things. Categorize things. Evaluate things. But making photographs is about capturing light.

You want to find good light, then take pictures of the things you find in that light. Here’s an example. These images are of the same grounded iceberg in  Kong Oscar Fjord in Northeast Greenland. The top image shows the flat, steely light we had right before our shore excursion.

The bottom image was taken just afterwards when the fog descended down and the snow began to fall. That light too might have seemed bad, but one thing living in San Francisco has given me is a lot of experience shooting in heavy fog.

So you let the fog be fog. You let it be dark. You let shapes emerge from it.

And you get a good picture.