Desert Palette, Zion National Park
Nature photography is more than just finding beautiful scenery and snapping pictures. It is what I like to call a “transformative” art. What do I mean by this? Basically, good photography is the art of transforming a subject into something else, involving a process of abstraction and seeing the world in terms of shape, color, and tone. This art includes taking a beautiful scene and transforming it into a compelling photograph. It also includes taking the mundane and transforming it into the sublime—or, at the very least, something far more photogenic than meets the eye.
Take, for example, this scrubby patch of desert brush (click on the image to see a higher resolution version). Normally, it is something that wouldn’t even warrant a second look. At the right time, in the right light, and with the right composition, it is transformed into something worthy of attention. Back-lighting helps bring out the autumn colors, and creates strong shadows that provide compositional structure and texture. I composed carefully to create a repetition of shapes and colors, aiming to create an image that looks more like an impressionistic painting than a photograph.
Even more critical to the success of an image like this, however, is attitude. By being willing to look at the world a little bit differently and opening yourself to possibility, you will find that you are more able to spot these transformative moments when they occur.
Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 100-400mm lens (@330mm), ISO 100, f/11, 1/50 second.