Mandar's Question - Journey as a Nature Photographer

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Mandar's Question - Journey as a Nature Photographer

Postby Ganesh H Shankar » Wed Apr 17, 2024 2:19 pm

Hi Mandar,

Further on your image:

image_id: 21299

The critique gallery software has some limitation on the length of the comment. I could not fit this reply as a comment. So here it goes!

Back on the thread about question you asked:

Is this only me who thinks like this or did this happened with anyone else or is this just a phase of journey? It would be great help if anyone can explain this phase and how to overcome from this situation?

Let me summarize my 30+ years of photographic experience sharing some examples of each of those phases to relate to them better. Please note, photography was never my profession. I had a different profession to make a living. Whatever I wrote below is just my experience as a passionate non-professional "Nature Photographer". Please note all of these may not be applicable for a professional photographer. I do understand professional photographers need to make what their clients want to see. That said, many folks here in this forum do have an alternate profession, or practice different genre of photography for a living while pursuing Nature photography as hobby. For those some of what I wrote below may be relevant.

Back in early 90s, after I got into a job, I just bought a point and shoot camera to make images of Western Ghat landscapes. I was born and brought up in a village near foothills of Western Ghats. As a school going kid I always loved huge line of Western Ghat evergreen mountains near my home. While I enjoyed seeing those mighty mountains, I started making some images using my point and shoot camera, using Kodak print films. I really enjoyed getting small post card size prints of the Nature around my village. Below are a few images from my post card album of 90s:


This was the initial phase of my photographic journey, the Phase 1, if I may call so. Let me summarize Phase 1 as:

Phase 1: I then loved Nature and these little (humble) prints served as memories of being part of the nature. I was not a so called 'Nature Photographer' then.

This phase was later followed by purchase of an SLR film camera and in 2005 an SLR digital camera. A few friends who looked at my images in 90s suggested I buy what is called an 'SLR' camera. My friend Umashankar, who is part of this forum, got me my first SLR camera, Nikon N70. The hobby slowly started turning into a passion. I started working on closer portraits, macro images etc. That part of the journey was characterized by images like these:


After making a few thousands of images of this kind for a few years, I started feeling these images are results of the equipments which I could afford - especially macro lenses, using sturdy tripods, good techniques, long telephoto lens like 600mm F4 etc. I started feeling these are made by my equipments and not "Me"! Of course it demanded lots of hard work, time on my part but I don't wanted to confuse hard work with a "memorable unique image". I then thought I need to "make" an image not "take" an image. I started feeling I need to have a "signature" in my images. That is when some of us came together and started this group in 2008. What followed was a restless photography for many years, probably for a decade. I wanted to make very creative images with a style of my own. I wanted to make very unique images, often using special techniques like camera triggers, involved difficult technics like very slow shutter speeds, speedlights, etc etc. This phase was characterized by some of these images I posted earlier here in CNP.

You may click on each of these thumbnails to see the relevant descriptions, comments and some thoughts.

image_id: 1379 image_id: 49 image_id: 2471 image_id: 2677
image_id: 3047 image_id: 3760 image_id: 3771 image_id: 3941
image_id: 4365 image_id: 5004 image_id: 5202 image_id: 5572
image_id: 5921 image_id: 5953 image_id: 6013 image_id: 7447

I convinced myself that this is what "Creative Nature Photography" is all about!
If I were to sum up this phase of my journey, here it goes:

Phase 2: "I" want to be creative and have my own signature!! Nature has become more or less secondary. Did I forget Nature? Still thinking...

These were some of my so called "creative" attempts at portraying Nature uniquely. I wanted to make images which not many tried then. I must admit that I was focussing more on "me" than Nature! Was it an inevitable part of the journey? I am not sure.

Next a few years were dedicated to art in Nature Photography! I worried a lot about the very question, "What is Art?" Fortunately I found a book by Tolstoy with this exact title - What is Art?. I was sold on the Tolstoy's thoughts that "art need to communicate feelings and emotion". Picasso's thought that "Art is point of view" was not very appealing to me. I then started feeling, faithful portrayals, "as is" representation of subjects in Nature is also not a work of art! It may be creative, but it may fail to convey emotions and feeling. I then felt, "Fine Art Nature Photography", the one which conveys some feeling and emotions and at the same time it is very unique is what I wanted to pursue. Can I use twigs in Nature to convey a feeling of love and separation? Questions like these inspired my photography for next many years. A few from such attempts are here in this forum [you may click on the thumbnails to see/read further]:

image_id: 4779 image_id: 5060 image_id: 5986 image_id: 6613
image_id: 6734 image_id: 6761 image_id: 6963 image_id: 7303
image_id: 7178 image_id: 7645 image_id: 8154 image_id: 8827
image_id: 10152 image_id: 8832 image_id: 8854 image_id: 9844
image_id: 9932 image_id: 10813 image_id: 10856 image_id: 11052
image_id: 11064 image_id: 11071 image_id: 11040 image_id: 11312
image_id: 11345 image_id: 11453 image_id: 11485 image_id: 13907

I hope you get a feel for what drove my interest for next many years. I happily named this as "Fine Art Nature Photography". If I were to sum-up this phase:

Phase 3: I want to create "art" (whatever that means) using subjects in Nature, that conveys feelings and emotions. An offshoot of this was Nature became a second class citizen in my photography, focussing more on me and my emotions.

I had a very difficult personal life around 2016-2017. My mother at home, in her late seventies, had a mild stroke and dementia and she was losing functions one after other. Balancing a demanding profession,
feeling helpless due to mother's difficult illness, feeling guilty, were all part of my everyday routine. I ended up surrendering myself to philosophic literatures. It was Spinoza and DVG who gave some courage to interpret what was happening in my life and to remain sane. Here is a short trip summary after my mother passed away. By then a lot changed in the away I started seeing Nature.

That is when I went back to my drawing board on my Nature Photography:

What is Nature in Nature Photography?

What Makes a Great Photograph?

All these years Nature offered me something but I tried to see these in my own way, often by twisting and turning, trying to introduce "my way of seeing". There was nothing wrong with my way of seeing. However, Nature did offer something much superior to what my little mind could turn them into. I did not realize Nature offered me a magic/mystery to start with. I transformed them to a short lived "opinion" of my own, may be a creative short lived expression. I failed to take a deeper look at what Nature had to offer. My ego came in between and superseded my opportunity to see Nature deeply. As noted in my article above, we don't understand well the spectrum of sub-atomic world to cosmos. Yes, there are theories which are unproven. We don't have definite answers, probably we will not have at all. But the questions themselves are far more beautiful than what I can turn the subjects of nature into using my tilt-shift lens! All my current attempts at portraying Nature is about portraying those mysteries of Nature as questions. Or in other words my images are now questions, not assertions or my personal opinions about Nature.

I would like to call this attempt as: Philosophic Nature Photography.

Here are a few attempts, I am still struggling with them.

[you may click on the thumbnails to see/read further]

image_id: 21022 image_id: 21200 image_id: 20937 image_id: 20907
image_id: 20696 image_id: 20661 image_id: 20539 image_id: 20379
image_id: 20318 image_id: 20237 image_id: 20189 image_id: 20151
image_id: 19931 image_id: 19846 image_id: 19457 image_id: 19199
image_id: 19022 image_id: 18701 image_id: 18189 image_id: 17914
image_id: 17735 image_id: 17396 image_id: 16346 image_id: 17269
image_id: 17335 image_id: 17181 image_id: 16787 image_id: 16651
image_id: 16649 image_id: 16524 image_id: 16561 image_id: 16514
image_id: 16131 image_id: 16069 image_id: 15857 image_id: 14413

To summerize this phase of my journey:

Phase 4: Philosophical Nature Photography. I now have pantheistic approach (Nature is God) to Nature photography. My role here is a humble submission as a photo frame which refutes: Leaf, is leaf, is a leaf - No it is not.

My journey has been in this path for a few years now. I don't see anything more compelling than this at this time. I may still at times do images like this these Birds in Flight like earlier, but the heart seems to be elsewhere. There was a time when I travelled for long along the path of light/shade/forms/shapes/colors/abstracts/simplicity/tonal ranges/emotions/feelings/etc etc, but now I seem to understand where I (helplessly) stand amidst my mighty subject, Nature. Creativity in my image making is now about creative ways of portraying the mysteries of Nature as questions. Or in other words, images themselves are questions, not assertions about Nature.

A few years ago I tried to document this journey as a "self interview" which is below:

Nature Photography: Beauty, Art and Truth - A conversation between me and myself

And this beautiful journey of "Nature Photography" (whatever that means) continues...


Interestingly, I am now very close to where I started, but not back at the same point, fortunately :)

Mandar, I hope this is more than what you have asked for!
Ganesh H. Shankar
Wishing you best light,

Fine Art Nature Photography
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Re: Mandar's Question - Journey as a Nature Photographer

Postby Madhav Jois » Thu Apr 18, 2024 8:58 pm

Went through couple of times Ganesh. This is a gem!! The way you have categorized your journey into phases with supporting images goes to show the level of clarity in your mind. Happy to be around you and CNP.
Best Regards,
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Re: Mandar's Question - Journey as a Nature Photographer

Postby Sarthak Agrawal » Sat Apr 20, 2024 12:34 am

This is so nicely put! Thanks for sharing this and thank you for putting in so much effort and time to answer the question. I am sure many will benefit from this in years to come. Forever grateful!
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Re: Mandar's Question - Journey as a Nature Photographer

Postby Nevil Zaveri » Fri Jul 05, 2024 12:22 pm

Agree with every word of Madhav .. incredible insight, journey of 'self' n discipline too!, Ganesh.
Thank you for sharing.
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