Sweating little stuff

_B5A9441 - Version 2, snowy owl,

The classic beauty.

Remember how sages used to tell people not to sweat the small stuff? And then someone had the audacity to say it was all small stuff? They were wrong!

I started out trying to photograph big, dramatic scenes – ideally with a bear in them. I can sometimes be my worst critic but too many of them ended up as nice photos … the dreaded nice! For a photographer like me, that is absolutely nowhere. If it’s bad, I can delete it. But if it’s nice, I’m left with a glass below my usual half full.

In the few heart-pounding seconds that are often all I have to get a key shot, there are quite a few things to focus on like exposure and … focus! Once those are hopefully in range, I have learned to look for little things in the composition that start trickling water into my glass.

_B5A9441, snowy owl, kill

The classic beauty with a little something extra.

In our area, a classic snowy owl shot is on a power pole since that’s where they often hang out. One day I found a lovely snowy and aligned myself to get rid of the wires across its body. I ended up with a beautiful owl in a … nice photo. Don’t get me wrong, any snowy owl is incredible but I’d seen many versions of this photo before.
Then I noticed something on the wood beam below. It looked like leftovers from the owl’s last meal. Including that tiny bit of red dramatically improved the photo in my opinion. Despite representing 1% of the photo, it screamed for attention, drawing my eye back to it and then to the nonplused owl. Something clearly happened here and I am left to wonder. A photo with a story. Now my glass was getting fuller.

Or take another example. A loon in ice is pretty special.

2B5A0326A drop of water is inconsequential in the size of this photo. Except it’s not. 2B5A0325That drop of water falling off the beak changes everything. It’s impossible not to notice (double negatives and all). I’m still learning the fine art of bird whispering to get them to linger with a falling drop of water.

What makes a good photo? It’s a lot about sweating the small stuff. And maybe starting with a smaller glass.

Latest Comments

  1. Dalo 2013 says:

    Wow, you have defined something that is so difficult to define ~ the difference between nice and “wow”. There is nothing wrong with nice, as I have to convince myself because that makes up 99.99% of all I shoot ~ but yes, to catch that one thing that can tip a photo into “wow”. Well done… As with my many “nice photos” which I think you describe well as a glass being half-full ~ I just add ice-cubes and I feel better 🙂


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Ice cubes. That’s what I’ve been missing. Great advice!!

      As I get fussier with my photos I find more of mine in the 99% nice category as well. The half-full part of that is pushing me harder to get the good ones. For the rest there’s always ice cubes.


  2. Tim Timmis says:

    I’m a big fan of water drops off the beak and it really adds to the Loon shot. Good job of being patient with your subjects.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes you’ve done some miraculous things with water drops off the beak. I’m still a bit surprised how all the little things can so fundamentally change the photo.


  3. hannele says:

    Wonderful post, Lyle. After learning all the technicalities and composition, the possibility to make one’s photographs into something special is created, and you often manage that in an impressive way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your photos!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I think I did that process only a different way. First I focused on composition but then got frustrated since the photos didn’t turn out. So I had to learn enough technical stuff to get that out of the way. Now I can concentrate on composition which is what I really like (until technical difficulties resurface again). Glad you enjoyed the post.


  4. Honie Briggs says:

    Details, glorious details! Nice photos, like fine art, are subjective. It takes a trained eye to capture a scene that causes us to pause and marvel the power of nature. No smaller glass, no sir, use a big glass and fill ‘er up!


  5. Birder's Journey says:

    Very wise points you’ve made-illustrated so well!


  6. Mandy says:

    And yet you chose the loon without the water drop as your main photo?


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Great question! There are two reasons I did that but I am not defending either as necessarily right. 1. I often leave the best photo as the conclusion to the story at the end depending on how this work out. 2. I had used that photo as the main photo before.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue says:

    The snowy owl is bad ass no matter what (I have owl envy) but I do get your point. Especially evident on the loon photo. Thank you!


  8. alba10 says:

    Great post and got me thinking 🙂


  9. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    So true. It is those little details (often captured by serendipity or luck) that make it go from good to great. Both the shots are very good, add the water droplet and the bit of food and they are great, special.


  10. westerner54 says:

    Yes! Looking for the story – that’s what makes your photographs sing. (Saw the first Sandhill Cranes of the season, yesterday, by the way. Have they reached you yet?)


  11. Mary says:

    The incredible stoic large stuff and the indescribable stunning small stuff – it’s the tenacity and discipline to wait, statuesque for the one, that one shot that you know will come. This is how I feel about your photography – I always take time to absorb and admire the small stuff you sweated. For it’s what has made you “world class” with your lens – the capture is very much worth it. This series is spectacular ~ thank you for sharing.


  12. krikitarts says:

    It’s the gift of the moment, and it helps a lot to have a photo angel looking out for you. I’m sure that you have one, too.


  13. Gunta says:

    I’ll have to work on that smaller glass bit. 😉 Hard to imagine anything lacking from your glass.


  14. Lavinia Ross says:

    Your photos, with the extra attention or not, are always eye-catching, Lyle. Your personality comes through loud and clear on all your shots. I do love that extra drool on the loon though!

    And thanks for posting the snowy owl photos. Every time I see one of these beautiful owls I think of my uncle, many years deceased now.


  15. Girl Gone Expat says:

    I think they are all great pictures – but the additional drop falling off the beak definitely makes the difference! I also like the ‘little’ extra in a photo, unfortunately with wildlife photos you sometimes don’t have the time for that and are just happy get get a crisp, clear shot before they are gone! 🙂


  16. Phil Lanoue says:

    That water drop really does make the loon shot something extra special. Good idea to maybe notice rather than sweat the small stuff. Glass looks pretty full to me as well with the outstanding snowy!


  17. renxkyoko says:

    These are excellent, very attractive photos. ( most especially the owl’s )


  18. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    I like the extras in your photos. So beautiful and so worth the little bit extra you chose to include. I disagree though, having a nice image really means it is wonderful. I happen to like when people say a photo is nice, much better than no acknowledgment at all.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It’s great to find those little extras to push a photo to a higher level.

      I’m glad you felt the freedom to disagree with me. I’m probably harder on myself awns perhaps words have different meanings to people.


  19. Brian Main says:

    Beautiful shots Lyle. Love the story behind them. I also agree. Sometimes it’s those little details that make difference


  20. Seenorway says:

    That snowy owl is fantastic, <Lyle


  21. anotherday2paradise says:

    Fabulous photos! Yes, that little something extra does make all the difference. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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