A Big Light Night – Are You Too Old for Trophy Hunting Photography?

I wrote a blog post awhile back about Contemplative Photography – Letting the Place Speak to You. That post was a result of an outing with friends Wayne Simpson and Ian McGillvrey to Kananaskis Country near Calgary, Alberta. One night during our trip we had big glory light (see below) and we were hoping for the same the next morning but instead we had drab overcast light. That previous post was about letting the place speak to you and pulling out the good stuff that is offered up in any light even if at first glance the light looks boring. That ‘drab’ morning was truly a contemplative experience!

This post is about our big light night, about the ephemeral nature of dramatic light,  and about  the lack of connection I feel when chasing big light. Trophy light lasts for such a short time that I find myself rushing around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off . To get ‘trophy’ shots you need to put yourself in the right place at the right time, you need to to know your gear, and you have to work quickly to pull off a decent composition. For me, trophy photography is like sprinting – you never know your result until you cross the finish line, and it all goes by in a blur. The experience is not contemplative at all!

In big light I rarely ever connect with the subject I am photographing! My memories have more to do with the hunt than the thing hunted! I focus on lens changes, filters, exposure, and tilting and shifting. I am cursing the camera gear, the dead batteries, filled CF cards and stupid bugs! I’m watching the light and not my subject. In short, I don’t  connect at all with the subject I came out to photograph, namely nature! Sometimes I wonder what’s the point?

In the end, I much prefer the slower contemplative approach that overcast light nurtures. I feel whole and calm when I experience nature at my pace. The race demanded by trophy photography is less and less satisfying as I grow older. Maybe trophy hunting is a game for the young photographer? Many of my older photographic colleagues who were big light trophy hunters in their youth are now contemplative photographers searching to making the extraordinary out of the ordinary. In my opinion, these old guys (few women hunt trophies) are producing deeper and richer work than ever before (women seem to do that much earlier than men). Maybe it is just part of the evolution of the photographic artist to look deeper in themselves by practicing more contemplative photography. Or maybe trophy hunting is just too hard for old guys 😉

Anyway here are my ten photos (not sure if they are trophies) from the night I barely remember ;-). Stupid brain!

Be sure to check out Wayne’s blog and Ian’s Blog for their own unique way of seeing the world on this photo outing.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

22 Comments

  1. Carolyn
    August 8, 2012

    And they are truly amazing . . breathtaking actually!!!

    Reply
  2. Bill Martin
    August 8, 2012

    Personally, if I want to be contemplative in nature, I leave the camera at home; and I often do. I trophy-hunt (if that’s what you want to call it) because I love the exhilaration, the chase, the feeling of reverence when I am gifted with a one of a kind shot, and having the wherewithal to capture it properly.

    I don’t believe trophy hunting should ever be discouraged – as long as you’re doing it for you. It’s really a personality thing and there is no right answer. Photography means something different for everyone. In the end, whatever makes you feel joy, is what you should follow.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      August 11, 2012

      Bill. your first statement is soooo true! A camera often gets in the way of truly connecting with nature.

      I should be clear, I do not wish to discourage trophy hunting, just discuss why for some photographer’s it does not appeal on a ‘deeper’ level.

      And your last statement is the best; “whatever makes you feel joy, is what you should follow” — great advice!

  3. Stephen
    August 9, 2012

    Exhausting, panic and a blurry memory but the rush and adrenaline is exciting.

    Reply
  4. Stacy
    August 9, 2012

    I can relate to what you are saying. I’ve done both types of photography, and while many times I do enjoy the result of “trophy hunting”, I don’t enjoy the process quite so much and I have a hard time getting myself to do it these days. I enjoy the challenge of finding the extraordinary within the ordinary far more satisfying, and frankly, more convenient.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      August 11, 2012

      Making something from nothing is much more enjoyable now for me than capturing a grand scene in big light. I find the former much more challenging! But, truth be told, producing the extraordinary from the ordinary is still probably looking for a hidden trophy that others overlook 😉

  5. Wayne Simpson
    August 9, 2012

    Great post with awesome images Darwin! I could not agree more that the true joy comes from a slower paced shoot. Since I have started to do more intimate/detail shots I have also noticed that these “simpler” images seem to sell more prints than the trophy shots. This may not be the case with everyone, but this is what I have noticed in my own work (not that prints are flying off the shelf!). I think they are easier to match with decor since there is usually more of a dominant colour theme and the subject matter a little simpler.

    Reply
    • Stephen
      August 9, 2012

      That’s true. It’s much harder to hang a large fire lit sky on the wall. That wow impact will wear off sooner than a more subtle image. This is very apparent when you walk into modern home decorator or design stores.

    • Darwin Wiggett
      August 11, 2012

      Wayne,

      I am not sure any of these images will stand the test of time. They are OK but not likely to end up in my favorites folder! The hidden gems found during contemplative photography have much more meaning for me and in the end seem to resonate over the long haul with other viewers as well. I see your intimate landscapes as fine art that really tugs at my senses. Keep doing that stuff, you are fantastic at it!

    • Wayne Simpson
      August 13, 2012

      Thanks Darwin, I appreciate that coming from you!

  6. Anna
    August 9, 2012

    Enjoyed hearing your thoughts about the different shooting experiences. Sounds like whether one is process or product oriented comes into play, or is part of the equation. Regardless, looks like you’re one of the “old guys” that is still good for the sprint, but revels in the slow meander. Your images always make me want to be there, except maybe some of those bitter cold scenes and then I’m happy to just view your captures 🙂

    Reply
  7. Susan Osborn
    August 9, 2012

    These images are so beautiful. I so miss Canada. This is the 1st year in 3 that I have not visited. Your photography is very sensitive whether you are shooting with a chasing or contemplative focus. You are my favorite photographer. I love your images 90% of the time. You inspire me to keep learning and trying.

    Reply
  8. Ian McGillvrey
    August 9, 2012

    Darwin, you got some great stuff that evening! I totally get what you’re talking about and couldn’t agree more. As much as I still enjoyed this evening, I found myself much more relaxed and in the end more satisfied with my results from the following morning at Wedge Pond.
    I agree with Wayne and Stephen’s comments above about the appeal of simpler detail shots as opposed to the trophy shots. It seems that once the wow factor of the trophy shot has worn off, there isn’t really much reason to keep looking at the image. I find a great detail image keeps you coming back to study what’s going on and holds you attention so much more powerfully.

    Reply
  9. Aruna
    August 10, 2012

    Each day in the morning I check your blog for new postings. I have been doing this since 2010. Looking at your images of the Canadian Rockies inspires me and most of all gives me a fresh feeling to the start off my day.

    I studied in Edmonton and fell in love with the Canadian Rockies when I first worked in Banff as a student in 1990. I had to move to Ottawa to find work in my computer related field, but kept dreaming of coming back “home”. Last year I tried working remotely from home, and moved to Abbotsford, BC. There I got to personally meet you (Darwin) and Sam at a photographic seminar. Last month I had to move back to Ottawa, with much sadness, due to work. But I will keep trying to come back “home”, permanently. Still I have been making my yearly visits to the Canadian Rockies religiously.

    My first backpacking of Berg Lake trail was because of a blog you (and Sam had written. End of this month I am planning on backpacking Rockwall trail in Kootney NP.

    Thanks Darwin for your photography. They are simply amazing and inspiring.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      August 11, 2012

      Aruna,

      Thanks for the nice compliments! Have a fantastic time on the Rockwall; it is amazing in every sense of the word!

  10. Richard Douglas
    August 11, 2012

    Hi Darwin,

    Perhaps it isn’t age that has created your lack of enthusiasm for the trophy shots but your desire to grow as an artist. All of the images above are beautiful and well-crafted, but the only one that made me really appreciate nature was the last image. A simple rock, water, light and most importantly your creativity, produced a beautiful timeless image.

    Well seen and crafted 🙂

    If all of the above images were taken in one evening, I have a question for you. Which of the above images do you think you will love and appreciate 20 years from now? If only a few, consider slowing down, enjoying the beautiful scenery, and use your incredible talent to make one great image for yourself.

    Take care

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      August 11, 2012

      Richard,

      Sounds like a great assignment for me. I am only allowed to take one image per session — make it count! Sounds kind of MasterClass-ish to me 😉

  11. Charlie
    August 13, 2012

    I read your blog post last week. It was perfect timing and perfect advice since its hard to juggle a vacation and photography with out some compromises…..or making other vacationers angry. It let me relax a bit….besides I am getting old 🙂

    Reply
  12. Ted Griffith
    August 14, 2012

    It has only been in the last six years or so that I have begun to be more intentional (I prefer that term to being ‘serious’) about my photography. Being tethered to the work-a-day world throughout the week and the time needed for family and other obligations had left me little time to ‘chase the light’. For me, photography has become the search of finding the extrordinaly within the ordinary that I am presented with, reguardless of the light. Using the camera actually makes me see, not merely observe. (And yes, I am definately getting older!)

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      August 14, 2012

      We agree with your second last line: “Using the camera actually makes me see, not merely observe” But seeing is easier when you are not rushed by big trophy light 😉

  13. http://tinyurl.com/bilidykle12921
    January 11, 2013

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    into writing throughout “Are You Too Old for Trophy Hunting Photography?
    | oopoomoo”. Thanks a lot for all of the actual facts.
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    Reply
  14. Ansel Adams On What A Mountain Means » Landscape Photography Blogger
    June 13, 2013

    […] A Big Light Night – Are You Too Old for Trophy Hunting Photography? by Darwin Wiggett […]

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