Parted yet together




Ganesh H Shankar
Parted yet together
In this interesting thread I expressed additional challenges that we face in nature photography - namely how a viewer can effectively relate to the
image ? How can we create images of nature that can grow in the minds of viewers beyond aesthetics ?

Some times we attempt at giving a meaning to an image of nature using our own value system. Here is one such - Parted yet together. Often it becomes a subjective exercise. Detailed thoughts in my own comments below..
Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:52 am
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Ganesh H. Shankar
Wishing you best light,

Fine Art Nature Photography

Ganesh H Shankar  Joined CNP On 24 Apr 2008    Total Image posts 977    -   Total Image Comments 7958    -   Image Post to Comment Ratio 1:8    -   Image Comment Density 38     -     Total Forum Posts 956

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Commentby Ganesh H Shankar on Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:54 am

Just wanted to illustrate the challenge that we are facing as nature photographer while making images that can grow.
Some of the images below are not related to the topic of creativity but helps convey the challenge that we as nature
photographers have to deal with in our language of visual communication - more so in our creative expressions.

Look at the image made by Kevin Carter in the below page of a girl and a vulture -

He went on to win Pulitzer Award for that image. You can read more about him on web (he commits suicide later) but the point I wanted to make
here is in these images we deal with our own value system, we readily can understand emotions and relate to it - interpretation of them
is not subjective.

Now look at this image of a dying deer. Assume you have a vulture in the frame too. How much would that impact our minds compared to dying Sudanese
baby ? Why so ?


Let me try to quote some more images which have happier notes in them. I came across unique images of wedding moments by a Swedish photographer
Philippe Wiget. See his Ceremony collection here. They are very creative and unique.
The point is they touch our souls more easily than a moment in nature that we often freeze - because we can relate to those language of expressions since we share
them in our life as viewers too
. We can relate to those expressions, those tears, those cheerful moods - overall result - the image grows in our mind as

Now, tell me how can I do this with a tiger in wild ? that too uniquely ? More so if I need to persue from creative perspective ?
The whole palettes expressions of human life - tears, joy, anger, sorrow, content.. are all not accessible to us as a nature photographers to express in our images.
While natural history plus creative expressions can bridge some gap for making effective images but my fear is the disconnect of the language
will remain for ever for effective flow of expressions in nature photography. No, I am not giving up nature photography :)
but recognition of this challenge helps me explore alternatives, it makes nature photography very very challenging...

I would love to know your thoughts..

Ganesh H. Shankar
Wishing you best light,

Fine Art Nature Photography

» Last edited by Ganesh H Shankar on Thu Sep 01, 2011 5:23 pm; edited 4 times in total

Commentby Nilanjan Das on Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:35 am

Thanks for posting this one Ganesh. Let me try and explain my thoughts on this. Death, it has many forms, call it human or call it animals. Does death always signify a story in our mind ? Imagine a very old person dying of old age in a hospital with tubes and everything attached to the nose and mouth etc. Will it invoke the same kind of response as it does in the image by Kevin where a person is subjected to torture and inhuman activity ? That was Kevin's way to create a stir in the minds of millions so that such activities come under protest and the Govt's of the most powerful nations do something to force and stop an activity like that. It truly depicted the story of human created misery. Now let me come back the image of the dying deer. Even a kill made by a predator or an animal dying from an injury inflicted by itself will never create an impression which the mind will respond to in the same way as compared to an image of the suffering of a tiger caught in a trap laid by humans or an elephant caught in snares. Those images show unnatural sufferings which do not pertain to an event happening naturally in the wild. As I also mentioned in the comments in response to your last comment, at times it is impossible to depict a story or even express a feeling in one single image. May be a series of images help to connect where the power of collective images create an impact. Till date CNP as a creative nature photography site has been showing the ability or the skill of an artist / photographer to just may be portray an image with subtle changes in them, like use of light, use of DOF, use of angles etc etc etc. At times may be we get lucky to show an image which expresses thoughts or an event which we can relate to as a whole, but how often does it happen ? Does it not happen regularly because we hardly spend time in the wild ? Does it not happen as we are more inclined towards only creating one single image where we give more importance to our image making abilities and our slight or massive difference in the ability to see from our peers or the rest of the viewers ? If you ask me we it mostly happens due to our own blindness, we get too happy to get one very good shot out there and think of the possibilities of winning awards and etc. But what we really need is to connect, may not be too dramatic, may be subtle, but to connect to those subtle changes is even more difficult. The approach towards wildlife needs a big change, we will not get to shoot many events which are created by man, fortunately in the wild, animals do not torture, they do not make others suffer, there is no one in the wild who is rich or poor, there is no rush to become a celebrity, animals do not cheat, that does not make them subjects of less importance or less impact. We get have subjects which show the true aspects of life, the natural life. All we need to do is open our eyes to visualize and accept such purity, more than the dramatics to make headlines, we can easily be comforted by the factors which revolve around the subjects in the wild, everyone of those moments are meaningful, let us not want as we want to see, let us try to follow the path where they lead us to. I am sure we will see more than we do now, it is 100 % necessary that if I wish to understand an animal and express it through our images, we should for a change not relate to humans. The key to survival of animals in the wild is to learn how to adapt to situations. Their babies die in their hands or they see their babies getting torn apart by other predators, if its an elephant calf they try to resist and attack but a deer survives by learning to accept, we need to see through these characters of their life and only then can we make images which touch our lives. Extremely difficult Ganesh, the more I think like this, it makes me feel that I will probably not even have 10 images in my life. Who cares ? A noble prize winner does not invent every day or does research based on what is the hot subject at that time, one work completed in my entire life ( even if it is only a series of 5-10 images ) will make me satisfied, will help me to think that yes I have created something. My ideas are changing so fast, do not know if they are right or wrong but I really doubt if I am creative at all or not.

Nilanjan Das Photography

Commentby Nevil Zaveri on Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:45 pm

very much human, ganesh. like the way you have powerfully portraited 'human' emotion, pov enlighted it to much higher level, i guess.

like these intriguing thoughts 'n discussion by you 'n nilanjan. indeed, a very difficult thing to comprehend in nature photograph without human, human-like or man-made things. sometimes (luckily?!), it may becomes little easier when we find something 'symbolic' to relate with our subject, to comprehend a particular feeling ... eg. we may find thorns to compliment the feeling of sarcasm.
i know, thing are not that easy ... but i m sure you'll find a way!



» Last edited by Nevil Zaveri on Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:48 pm; edited 1 time in total

Commentby Shivakumar L Narayan on Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:35 am

Its a very interesting topic of discussion Ganesh. I have tried and failed many times in answering this if not for atleast being able to relate something on the topic of photography.

I had written a blog post about it a while back > ... r-emotion/

The discussion here as well as the one in Nilanjan's image will make me go back and think again.

Shiv | +91 97390 36563 | | twitter | facebook | instagram | youtube

Commentby Vikas T R on Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:50 pm

I have a dumb question. why do we think that, what we see around us, should have similar emotions like what we humans have??
As they say, "one can not think beyond his/her experiences", whatever we see in nature, we try to relate to our past experiences.
Lonlyness, grief, sorrow etc etc may or may not be expereinced by all the creatures or they may experience it differently (i may be wrong here in my perception).

By seeing a photo, i can interpret that as the lonlyness whereas some one else may interpret that as the peace or nirvana.

When we attempt to show emotions in our "captures", that is the emotion that we have experienced and that may or may not be the "truth". Is the truth is limited to what we see and what we experience??sorry for going out of the topic with this discussion.

Am i saying same thing what Ganesh and Nilanjan has already said??

I feel many a times displaying in abstract is a better choice as the viewer is having the complete freedom of interpretation.
By giving a title, we are forcing the viewer to see into that photo from the angle what we have looked while capturing that photo.

Nilanjan has expressed very well in one of his posts. Why do we take photos? is it for us or is it for displaying to others??

Finally let me know, what i am talking makes sense or is it related to the discussion happening here (if not, i will remove the post :) )

"The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity."
PhotoGallery of Vikas

Commentby Ganesh H Shankar on Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:49 pm

Vikas, thanks for sharing yours thoughts. Such discussions strengthen our ability to make stronger images. I agree with your view that "truth" is personal in images like these. I was trying to express my feeling that all the pallets of our life not being available to us as nature photographers. May be that is a tautology.

Nilanjan, on your thoughts in the other thread on using set of images instead of one, I agree that chances are far better to express that way however I think it should not get into the different medium of expression (video) as a continuation of the that thought process. For example, I think the image of the girl and vulture is far more power as a single photograph than as a video showing moving child, sitting, vulture landing etc. The photograph in this case makes us focus all our visual energy on one single frame than several of them. Just my thoughts..

Shiv, I think I agree with "loneliness" aspect of the collection of images there :)

Ganesh H. Shankar
Wishing you best light,

Fine Art Nature Photography

» Last edited by Ganesh H Shankar on Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:50 pm; edited 2 times in total

Commentby Adithya Biloor on Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:50 pm

I have observed some points when the term 'art' comes. As I am trying to generalise the things there may be exceptions and need not all the art stuff should have these criteria.

A creation to become an art I think it should have the following criteria.

1.It should be capable of grow the minds of the viewer.

2.It should evoke the emotions/feelings/thought process in the minds of the viewer. The degree and the complexity of the em/f/tho.p.evoked determines the value of art. eg-an image of a beautiful sunset captured on a colourful beach may evoke a feeling of 'Happy' in the minds of a viewer who is new to photography and he may consider it as art. But for a person who has spent lot of time in studying photography it will be a one among the thousands and he will immediately forget the image. in the former case also if that novice continues his interest in the field and sees many photos,he too will forget that photo and no longer calls them as art.

I beleive, the impact increases when that emotion is not just the appreciation of beauty. And when the creation is more complex and tries tackle with human emotions/society /mind its value/ the time which remains the creation in the minds of the viewer increases.
I would like to give the same example which Ganesh gave in a similar discussion some time back, the works of Sanjay Nanda. These are some close-ups of wall paintings.What if we try same thing in nature photography? If we try to make the close-up of a tiger/bird it remains as a portrait. But in the farmer example since they deal with the human aspect they succeed to grow in the minds of the viewer and attain the attributes to become a piece of art. It is relatively easy to associate with them, hence the image grows. If we photograph the 'touch me not' plant where it has closed its leaves, it remains as documentation shot/ behavioral study. We can't associate ourself with the plant's feeling of fear/ protecting technique etc.

I think, we need to find new ways to 'express ourself through nature" and nature photography.

3. Somewhere it should be capable of cross the boundary of reality.
It's very difficult to explain what I am trying to.I want to give one of Nirlep's photo to illustate what I am saying.
This is an image of a very ordinary scene. but still it makes strong impact on our minds.It's a scene which we pass by everyday but fail to "see". As Ganesh said he has"transcended the reality into a kind of illusion".
One more example Vincent Vangogh's self portrait. In both the cases I believe creators have succeeded to overcome the boundary of reality.

Though this image of Kevin Carter is very haunting and lasts long in our minds since it doesn't cross the boundary of reality it falls in the documentary category and not in the art category, of course to my taste buds.

On a separate note, I broadly see two approaches in photography to accomplish one's desire to create art.

a. Being loyal to the medium.
Here I would like to clarify what I meant when I say "being loyal to medium'. Is it not altering the image to any extent? or is altering the the image to the extent where it was possible in the days of film photography? Then, now days one can use dodge/burn tool instead of clone tool in some cases. Can it be considered as retaining the purity?
Then also in the days of film photography technology was limited to that and as means to overcome that digital darkroom evolved. Then what is being loyal to the medium?
I found answer for this question in Nirlep's article. (It is the one of the best article I read about photography. I can't say even after 5-6 reading I have understood it fully. Nirlep, please correct me if I am mis interpreting your article.)
The characteristic of camera which makes different from its closest form of art, painting is its ability to freeze the moments instantaneously.
I would like to quote Nirlep's word here
"photography work comes as a surprise to the photographer.There is a strong element of serendipity involved in this pursuit. A shutter release stamps the instant state of the photographer. And because the instant is not evolved at all, it is terribly alone, cut off from the continuum of life which we inhabit."
"In the process of capturing moments the photographer becomes a strange attractor of moments. Each one of us must have had several occasions when in the process of making a picture the moment has travelled into the frame inadvertently, unannounced and silent. The visual alertness of the photographer instantly translates that moment into an element of composition thus transforming activity into an event."

b.Visualising or searching the opportunists to capture what we have in our mind. It's a process of realise and relieve the 'pain' inside us.
One of my image is one such example. Though I have done very little Pp to this image I hesitate to say I have been loyal to the medium as it's not a 'spontaneous' image.

The term art covers a vast area and I am not sure I have found answer for that (yes, even after this lengthy note.) My views may change over time.

BTW, I liked this image very much. Liked the soft feel and the mood.

Adithya Biloor

» Last edited by Adithya Biloor on Sun Sep 04, 2011 6:19 pm; edited 5 times in total

Commentby Ganesh H Shankar on Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:00 pm

Adithya, I was trying to emphasize the dimensions of human expressions not being available to us as nature photographers. I was not discussing much about art aspect of making an image. Yes, I do agree vulture and the little girl is a documentary.

That said, I think the question of what is art probably can only have a subjective answer. At best one can define what is art to her - at least that is what I think...

Ganesh H. Shankar
Wishing you best light,

Fine Art Nature Photography

Commentby Adithya Biloor on Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:36 pm

I was trying to approach the question from other way Ganesh. The facilities/opportunities which other forms of artists/photographers have when compared to nature photographers.
I completely agree with you on the difference in the impact made by above two images. As Nilanjan pointed out we need to finder new ways, like making a set of images, or a completely new way, to overcome the issue.

Adithya Biloor

Commentby Prithvi K on Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:43 pm

This is too good sir, such a simple subject. I loved it!.
I am sure that you intended the focus to be on the part of the stalk where the two are " Hugging" each other.
This selective focus made the image for me.
I am not sure if I can contribute to the discussion, but it has opened a new way of looking at things for me.