Don’t be a photographer, be a photonaturalist

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Photo by Steve Berardi

Do you remember why you first got into nature photography? Most likely it was the mesmerizing beauty of nature that inspired you to buy a camera and attempt to capture those precious landscapes, or that wonderful flower, or that unique wildlife.

I remember clearly what inspired me to buy my first SLR camera–the American Southwest. I still cannot describe what I love about the desert so much, but maybe it’s the desolation, or its ability to prove the infinite strength of life. Ever since seeing the desert landscape, I have been on a mission to capture all that glorious natural light.

As you become a better photographer and get caught up in learning all the latest tricks and buying the latest gear, it’s easy to forget what originally inspired you to learn photography.

Our mission here at PhotoNaturalist is not only to make you a better nature photographer, but to remind you of the beauty of nature and to inspire you to always expand your knowledge of not only photography, but more importantly–for you to expand your knowledge of nature. So, instead of just being a nature photographer, strive to be something more–a photonaturalist.

Being a passionate naturalist is essential to getting great nature photographs because it makes you appreciate nature on an intimate level.

For example, instead of dreading an early wakeup to get that awesome sunrise shot, embrace it and remember what makes the sunrise so special–the sun’s rays being refracted as they travel through the thick of the atmosphere. Think of how simple that concept is, and the effects it creates as a result.

Here are some quick tips to help you shy away from the label “nature photographer” and instead obtain the title of photonaturalist:

  • Don’t be disappointed if you come home on some days with no good photographs
  • Leave your camera at home sometimes and just enjoy a nature hike alone (I only bring my camera on about 60% of my hikes)
  • Don’t just read books on photography. Also read books on ecology, natural history, geology, or whatever part of nature fascinates you most

As a computer scientist, one of my favorite quotes is by Hal Abelson, “Computer Science is not about computers in the same way that biology is not about microscopes and petri dishes.”

I think the same idea applies to nature photography:

Nature photography is not about the camera, it’s about a naturalist trying to capture light into a box.

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or the Mojave Desert, both located in the beautiful state of California.

Comments

  1. YOU ARE SO RIGHT . WE NEED TO TAKE TIME TO ENBRACE ALL THE BEAUTY THAT IS AROUND US, BUT WE GET CAUGHT UP. SOME TIME I FIND THE WORLD IS JUST MOVING TO FAST.

  2. Steve, great article.
    I’m 67, and ready to rid myself of working for the man.
    And in designing my new business card, I’ll think I’ll
    change the last line from SIGN SITE
    SURVEYOR
    & PHOTOGRAPHER
    to; PHOTONATURALIST

    AND THAT GIFT IS FROM YOU, THANKS VERY MUCH, KEEP THE ARTICLES COMING.

  3. @Annette – sometimes I feel like the world is moving too fast too! That’s one of the reasons I love to go on long hikes, to escape it all! And, taking photos is a great way to capture those moments..

    @William – wow, thanks! I think that might be the best comment I’ve received 🙂 Glad to hear you’ll no longer be working for the man! He’s such a horrible person to work for!

  4. Really appreciate your perspective. :o)

  5. I like your concept of “photonaturalist”. I have found that I have expanded my knowledge the natural world through photography by wanting to know more about that bug, flower or bird.
    Thanks for your hard work.

  6. Hi Steve,
    Your articles are extremely inspiring for me. I’m a beginner and would like to call myself an advanced novice, if you will, and I take a lot of tips from your posts. I can definitely say I’m doing a better job and seeing the world in a far better light despite the damage and destruction we’ve already bestowed upon it! Thank you for your insights!

  7. Very good article. I will take your words to heart. Thank you!

  8. hi! love your website!! i love nature. and i enjoy taking photos with nature. for me, i can find the true beauty.

  9. ratkellar says:

    I am surprised the author carries a camera on only 60% of hikes. Even jogging on nature trails in cold seasons, I will slip my S95 into a pocket “just in case.” The journey is my main goal, so most of my good photos are accidents.

  10. kanditolentino says:

    i really love your article because it is the same reason that i bought a camera. It is really important to read books because it makes you appreciate nature and how things are like that. =))

  11. It’s so wonderful to read this about you & feel your passion, I just love the name “photonaturalist” it say’s & means so much more.

  12. Hey,

    I really appreciate it!
    We people & most photographers forget about this issue & thanks for your rminding on this. Please keep writing more!

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