There are many types of photography, but all of them aim to achieve the same basic principle: to stop time.
The role of the photographer is to choose what portion of space is to be frozen in time, for what length of time, and what is the focus of the image. I have personally become quite accustomed to journalistic photography, which focuses primarily on capturing people and places in action. Most of my blog so far has displayed this form of photography, capturing BotS in many of the unique locations we visit, usually pointing at, picking up, or sampling some interesting element of the site. This past week, however, has urged us all to take a completely different approach to this skill.
Cub Kahn, a geographer and nature photographer from Oregon State University, guided the BotS students on an accelerated course in nature photography. The most important lesson of all was to slow down and take our time. To emphasize this, we used tripods to stabilize our cameras, and to slow us down, giving us time to consciously consider the subject and to compose a specific image. While you can get lucky shooting at will, and photoshop can correct for a multitude of sins, a skilled photographer focuses on careful, deliberate composition, taking the best possible photo in the camera, leaving very little to do in adjust for after the fact. Despite what one might expect, it is not necessary to have an expensive dSLR camera with a several thousand dollar lens collection to do exceptional work, you can do a great deal with a very basic point-and-shoot camera.
What started out as a short week (returning from Fall Break on Wednesday), became a very long, but equally intense and rewarding project. After a morning session going over the basics of photography, composition, and fundamental camera operations, we began an intensive project, “26 hours in the Life of the Susquehanna.” From Wednesday afternoon through early Thursday evening we visited five sites in the Susquehanna watershed:
1) The Bucknell Natural Area, a stream and second-growth forest
2) Tall Timbers, one of few old-growth forests left in the watershed
3) Shikellamy Overlook, high cliffs rising above the confluence of the West and North Branches of the Susquehanna River,
4) Northumberland, a Susquehanna rivertown
5) Montandon Marsh, a wetland near the Bucknell campus and adjacent to the old Pennsylvania canal
Over the course of that time, I personally shot 835 photos, not counting ones deleted in-camera in the field, burned through my battery supply for not one, but two cameras, and pushed the limits of my skills and knowledge of photography. Of course, it is one thing to take hundreds of photos, but it is the post-production process, the art of selecting which images tell the story you want to share, and deciding how to share that story, which takes as much or more time, and can be even more demanding than shooting the photos.
The final product of the nature photography selection was five 41×62 inch posters, produced on Friday morning through mid-afternoon, then displayed at the 5th Susquehanna River Symposium, which was hosted at Bucknell. Since I had nearly 100x the number of photos needed for the project, it took hours to cull out the photos unsuitable or irrelevant to the concept Brian and I had selected to illustrate.
“Stop…Look…Listen” was the theme of our poster, displaying a variety of macro (close-up ) images and landscapes that encourage closer inspection of the world around us. This, and four other posters made up the BotS contribution to this year’s Susquehanna River symposium. The event spanned Friday night and into Saturday, with presentations by scientists from schools across the watershed who have been studying the river, tributes to Native American heritage, and speeches from leading government agencies from within the basin. A thoroughly enlightening event, the symposium captured the essence of the Bucknell on the Susquehanna Program, displaying academic work from all disciplines that is being done on “Our Valuable Resource,” the Susquehanna River.
What follows are further images shot during “26 Hours in the Life of the Susquehanna”: