Rob Sheppard is a well-known name in nature photography. He has enjoyed an impressive career as editor of Outdoor Photographer, that indispensable Bible for all whose vocation or avocation is photographing the natural world, his photographs and writings (do check out his Nature and Photography blog) continue to inspire and delight all who are interested in this field, and he is a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher of online courses at BetterPhoto.com.
Rob has just published a new e-book, A Nature Photography Manifesto, and I urge you to visit his website to download it. A personal nature photography manifesto is precisely what this book is: Rob’s philosophy about the relationship between nature and photography and how this informs his approach to his nature photography. But–and here’s why I strongly recommend that you download the book–he goes beyond that: he challenges you to examine your own relationship between nature and your photographic approach to it, and to ask yourself where you may be wanting.
Rob challenges us to go “beyond pretty pictures.” The trap inherent in photographing nature is that it’s relatively easy, with even a decent point-and-shoot and a basic knowledge of composition, to go out and get pretty pictures of nature scenes, some iconic and some not. But nature deserves better. The world deserves better. How can you go beyond the cliche shots, the merely pleasant pictures, to craft images that express your own unique relationship with nature and thereby make the viewer really sit up and take notice? This is what’s urgently needed today. People have an innate need for and a right to beauty. We can provide this through our photography. Further, the natural world depends on us to get our pictures out there–images that produce that instant “awe and wonder” reaction–to show the world what’s at stake, what we have to lose, if we don’t take proper care of the natural environment.
A Nature Photography Manifesto will probably make you uncomfortable; it did me. Which is as it should be. Discomfort is a major factor that propels us to grow, or to be healed of something that’s niggling us. But Rob doesn’t just leave you with that niggling feeling: four of the chapters end with “Consider these ..” — points for you to reflect on; questions or observations for you to ponder. Go back to these questions and points when you have time, perhaps even keep a notebook to write your responses. You’ll end up approaching nature photography with a strengthened sense of your own unique potential contribution to this increasingly important art (or, dare I say it, documentary) form.