Photographers, like all artists, need inspiration. It can be the National Geographic contributor, it can be the anonymous bird shooter on Instagram. It can come from the colours, it can come from the composition. It can be in your field… or not. It doesn’t matter, as long as this person’s photographs touch you and push you to try new concepts and improve.
I, myself, have my own sources of inspirations. My “heroes”.
Ray Hennessy is one of them. A bird photographer from New Jersey, he has always captivated me by his advocacy of “small in the frame” and backlit photography for birds. He always has stunning compositions, he always has stunning lighting, and he really tries to think of creative ways to show his birds. I have followed him for a couple of years now, and it’s always a pleasure to see his daily post.
Recently, he and his fellow photographer Scott Keys started live discussions, on Facebook first and now on Youtube. The principle is very simple: they choose a topic (How to approach wildlife, How to post-process bird pictures…), they talk about it, showing their own photographs, and they answer questions you can ask via the online chat. Those videos are pure gold, they contain a lot of useful info for any beginner wildlife photographer, and I have hugely benefited from them. I cannot watch them live (hello time difference), but they are quickly available afterwards on their Youtube chain, aptly named Wildlife Inspired. Sometimes, they invite friends to talk about specific topics.
The last talk was named “We were all beginner wildlife photographers once”, and it covered basic but often overlooked aspects of wildlife photography: light, background, perspective, to name a few. Before the show, they announced they would review two portfolios, and prompted us to apply for it. I applied, without too much hope (it only happens to others, you know).
And I was chosen. I was really excited, of course. Imagine, one of the artists you admire will look at your pictures and tell you what they think about them. That’s going to be incredible feedback, right?
I wasn’t disappointed, for the discussion was both enlightening and pleasant to watch, and I got some great comments on my images (it starts at 57.00).
“A stellar image”, “beautiful composition”, “your images are spectacular”… that’s gotta feel good, right?? I was also delighted to find that some of my more creative edits (the tern in flight, the dark Siberian jay) worked. Many friends compliment me on my pictures, but when it’s a person you admire as a photographer, it has even more weight. It also brings more responsibility on me: with such praise and ways to improve, it’s as if I had no excuse anymore: I know I can produce good images, now I just have to go out and shoot, more! “Y’a plus qu’à”, as we say in French.
This review provided a huge boost in both confidence and motivation; with some beautiful days ahead here in Helsinki, that was probably the best time for it. Below is the first effort resulting from this new resolution. Oh, and I’ve also updated my portfolio 😉
Are you a wildlife photographer who wants to improve the quality of their images? I warmly recommend the Wildlife Inspired chain, that’s a good starting point.
Before I leave you, there’s something I would like to mention: Ray has always answered the questions I asked on his Facebook posts. That’s another key learning: when you want to know something, ask. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t receive any answer. Often, though, people are happy to share 🙂
One last thing: THANK YOU, Ray and Scott, for this review and for the wealth of information you share with us all wannabe nature photographers.
Life is good