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Saguaro National Park

ECOLOGICAL PHOTOGRAPHY

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Visual Story Telling
Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ


The word ecology, while having various definitions, can be defined as:

 

The relationship between humans and their environment.

 

We as photographers, are constantly connecting with our surroundings and the environments we explore and strive to photograph. My idea for using ecology for photography is to learn how to adapt and calibrate to any environment for more meaningful images and thought-through compositions.

It's about being flexible and using an ecological approach towards the landscape. Some extreme sports such as Jiu-Jitsu and Rock Climbing use ecological dynamics or "ED", to adapt and quickly self-calibrate to the challenges they face for each move, or climb respectively. The ED Model trains them to explore their relationships with each environment - and for good reason, as there's not much room for error. 

From a photographer perspective, we fight time, or the amount of good light over a short duration of time while making creative decisions as to what we include within our frame and what we exclude (composition choices). While not faced with the same dangers of a Jiu-Jitsu artist, or rock climber, seldom do we have perfect conditions. Our decisions to adapt quickly to our environment and to understand differential learning can make the difference between getting the shot, or entirely blowing the opportunity. 

I have only begun to explore this notion of ecological dynamics and how I might fully integrate this into my photography. But more so, how I might share this model with other photographers seeking to better their visual skills. It was through my friend Rob Cole, a Brazilian Black Belt and highly trained Jiu-Jitsu artist, that I began to learn about "ED", or what I like to call "EP" (Ecological Photography). He is among a specialized group of Jiu-Jitsu artists who use this technique for teaching and skill acquisition.  

For me, thus far, the experience and approach has been enlightening and rewarding. I have discovered that... not only have I learned to adapt better, but have also connected with the landscape and it's species on a much deeper level and insight, especially that of trees, and my love of capturing them growing over, through, or around granite. In particular, the characteristic Juniper Tree and how it, and other coniferous trees have evolved to grow on top of granite domes and mountains with very little soil, and often, adverse alpine regions. Why am I attracted to these? What am I trying to say? This is the art of going deeper with your vision, discovering yourself, and adapting to these environments while being open-minded and flexible. A WIP for me... 

From a teaching view point, an example might be to explain why you would use particular camera settings for a scene unfolding in front of you. Rather than tell you what settings you should use, by teaching you why they might work, you then begin to find solutions and adapt them on our own, memorizing techniques is not enough - they'll work this time, but I can almost assure you, they won't work the next time when lighting and weather will most certainly be different amongst many other variables in the environment. By learning and practicing EP, you'll then have the skills needed to attune harmoniously with your environment, although this process is a journey of continuous learning and adapting, it is very rewarding. 

By asking ourselves these simple questions like: Why am I drawn to this scene? What am I trying to say here? We soon discover that the answers may be more complex than we had realized, thus, driving us deeper into discovering ourselves, the environment, and what matters to us within these spaces. By using Ecological Photography, we solve problems we may not have been aware of. We can then move beyond the very road-blocks that may have hampered our creative process and begin relearning from a relational connection. 
 

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MARK HOUDE

Moke Lake,

Southern New Zealand

If you'd like to learn more about Ecological Photography, or how to apply this powerful technique, I teach EP in my workshops and tours.

Come travel with me to awesome destinations while having a blast! Learn Photography and begin a new journey toward integrating EP into your workflow. Visit my Workshops and Tours Page.

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Heck Yeah, I want this experience! Bring me on a photo adventure to nature's geological wonders.

No, I'm not interested in discovering awesomeness. Take me to the home page. 

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A gorgeous Juniper Tree grows on top of a granite dome. Olmsted Point, CA

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