Every time I go out to capture new images, I heed the call of my subject. How is this possible you ask? When I come to a junction along a trail, do I take the fork to the left or the right? I figuratively choose the path where my photographic subject dwells. I “listen” for my name. I wake from my tent and note the dominance of clouds. I “listen” for my subject to beckon me to its lodge or tell me it’s a bad light day.
Sometimes the voice is loud, other times it’s a gentle murmur and at times it’s simply a compassionate whisper. While I may not hear a vociferous, “Russ,” I make the decision based on the voice that guides me. I stand on the trail that goes up or down the mountain. I ask my inner psyche for advice—ascend or descend the hill? I wait for a reciprocated call from my subject. I listen carefully, and upon hearing my name, I know a mutual connection has been made.
When my photographic subject and I encounter one another, the conversation begins. If what I hear is but a whisper, I may not make the picture. If what I hear is a beckoning boom, I switch to motor drive. The voice may come from a regal bull elk or simply the sweet light of early morning caressing an open field of wildflowers. It may be a solitary fall-colored aspen tree that enchants me or an entire mountainside painted with yellows, reds, oranges and green. It’s not the subject that’s important. What matters is when you hear your name, you know magic is established. Let the magic happen to you.
The “voice” I mention above is but a metaphor for what intuition, experience, gut and knowledge constrains me to do. While not literal, it is very important to make a connection with your subject in order to return with RAW captures you can’t wait to optimize. What is it that motivates you to rise from under the sheets at 4 a.m.? What is it that coerces you to drive three hours out of the way? What is it that necessitates eating generic ramen noodles to save your nickels and dimes to purchase a new flash? It’s your subject that calls your name. Your subject may have you cash out your 401K to go on safari while you’re physically fit to endure the rigor. The voice that calls your name obliges you to call in sick because a very rare species of bird decides to take up residence three miles from your home.
I encourage you to listen to your voice. The more I acquiesced, the more frequently I returned home with winners. I concede there were times I went home empty-handed, but overall, the cards have fallen in my favor. There is one guarantee. Unless you give in to the voice, you’ll never get the opportunity. Give yourself permission to listen to your voice. When the sound is deafening, accept it as fate and follow the sound to your photographic subject. You just may develop frequent future conversations!
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photo safaris to Tanzania.