Sometimes I ask myself why I like to take photos. Is it to document an event or animal or place or thing, or to capture a moment, or for nothing other than enjoyment? I’m not sure. Sometimes I feel like I have to do it; I’ve spent all this money on equipment, I’ve paid for this website. I hate it at those times. But that doesn’t, and should’t stop me from shooting. Sometimes when I don’t care as much, I take better photographs.
And then comes the moment when you take a photograph, the mirror flips, the viewfinder turns to darkness and the world disappears leaving only that last fleeting millisecond engrained in your mind, and you know you’ve taken a decent shot. It feels great. And every time you look at that image, it feels great.
Regardless of your thoughts on photography as an art form, a form of expression, of documentation, of anything; the images that you see are often more than you realise. For the photographer, they hold personality, memory, thought, reflections, advice – many invisibles.
Here is a beautiful portrayal of the depth an image can have, and the inspiration for this post: 10 National Geographic Photographers Give Thanks for the Photos That Changed Them
For me, the image at the bottom of this post is my go-to favourite picture. Something about it just rings true for me. It was taken in the Serengeti in July 2010. It was the first time I went somewhere really far away with the main focus on taking some decent photographs. I had just reached a stage where I was shooting manually pretty much the whole time, which was a significant step in my own control of the images I was creating.
I learnt a lot on that trip, not just about photography, but about animals, and about our impacts as tourists on an economy and on a culture – but that’s an issue I will approach when I eventually sort through the 7500 pictures I took on this trip, and write another post.
The male lion in this image was the opposite of a photograph I’d hoped to capture before I set off; the image of a lions face, framed by a huge mane, looking beautiful and bold and majestic and full of pride and grace – the King of the animal kingdom. We spotted this male lying under a bush, hiding, his face covered in scars. He walked with a heavy limp, and it was of our guides opinion that he had been pretty badly injured in a fight and wasn’t likely to survive for too much longer, cast out by the pride.
To me, that defeat was beautiful. It reminded me that nature isn’t what we want it to be – it doesn’t matter how we perceive it, or how we want to perceive it – it simply is how it is. Eppur si muove.
I remember that realisation that the king of the animal kingdom could be defeated by something as trivial as an injured paw, it’s a sentiment that rings true now in many areas of my life. The mighty can fall. It’s one of the few photographs where I really feel I captured what I wanted to present. The focus was taken away from the king, and aimed instead at the leaves in the foreground, symbolising to me the fragility of the mighty. Instead, the focus resides on the overriding power of nature reflected in the leaves that occupy the majority of the frame.
It was also a time in my life when I realised that I was not studying zoology in order to become a wildlife photographer – as initially planned – but to get involved in environmental preservation and conservation. I can see myself as the lion in this image; the focus taken away from myself as the photographer, and pointed instead towards the bigger picture, the grander scheme. In the same way that the lion as a mighty individual is sacrificed in this image and in the real-life story of the photographs creation, I changed the aim of my career, shifting from what I can now see as the selfish ideas of self promotion to the importance of the bigger issues in life.
Somehow, this image holds all of those ideas, all of those feelings and all of those realisations. That’s why I like taking photographs.