Eddie Soloway is passionate about the natural world; he expresses his passion through photography, writing and teaching. Writing became an extension of his photographs. It began with an essay next to each photograph at art shows.
Eddie’s love for teaching started during college at the National Audubon Society teacher education camps. In 1995, it was rekindled when Sam Abell of National Geographic and Reid Callanan of the Santa Fe Photography Workshops presented him with the opportunity to present a new workshop in Santa Fe – “A Natural Eye”. Eddie’s workshop is about developing a natural eye first, and then learning about the camera and the technical skills.
In January 1998 Eddie was honored as the first recipient of The Santa Fe Center for Visual Arts’ Excellence in Photographic Teaching Award.
“I want to tell stories. Stories about art and making art. Stories of my own about the nature of experience and experiencing nature. Profound stories from other people with kernels of insight or inspiration. And of course, stories captured in an image.” Eddie Soloway
Nature Photography Tips:
Change Your Perspective (Move around to make the familiar fresh and different)
Lie down, peer through, climb a tree, look up, look under . . . by changing your physical perspective you can bring freshness to the photograph. Even everyday subjects take on new energy when they are presented from different angles and viewpoints.
These prairie sunflowers, growing in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes already seemed surreal, but by getting down on my knees and putting the yellow petals up against the blue sky, I changed the viewer’s perspective and reinforced the whimsical nature of the image.
Where the Eye Moves (There are many ways to make a successful composition)
People get confused about how to best compose a photograph. Simplify your thinking about composition by creating a beautiful way for the eye to move through the image. Graceful lines, retreating horizons, a swirling of color can all take the eye on a beautiful journey through a photograph.
In the photograph of the spring wildflowers in the Texas hill country, a wide angle lens allowed me to create a strong foreground of flowers that lets the eye step into the photograph, giving an intimate way to first see the image.
The image of the tumbleweed in the burnt orange sand dunes feels like a play between symmetry and asymmetry, with both the cloud and tumbleweed being similar in shape, yet different, and likewise the fields of blue and orange are similar in size, yet different a color.
Finally, in addition to making an appealing composition, check to make sure that nothing is getting in the way. Things poking in from the sides, big areas of washed out sky, and a jumble of competing objects can take the eye in other directions.
Work it (Hang out with a wow, and it will get better)
It can be tempting, especially in great light, to take a picture and run off to the next. That’s the way I felt along California’s Big Sur coast at the end of one particular day. Every time a wave came through the sea cave it seemed like a bucket of yellow, orange, and pink paint was being tossed towards me. And down the beach, enticing sunset light was being tossed around by the waves.
I made a quick photograph of the sea cave, was about to move on when I stopped myself and asked whether I wanted to make a lot of okay photographs or focus on one I was really happy with. I stopped, realized the first image had way too much black in it, and then thought about the idea of a beautiful doorway through which the waves come through. With that thought I moved in closer and committed myself to making many exposures, from one to several seconds, knowing that the movement of water was always different.
When you find a moment of magic or light that makes you stop, honor it by hanging around and working it.
Distracting Backgrounds (Move your feet to control what the viewer sees)
You are excited about the subject, so excited you forget to look behind it, and there, coming right out of the top of a friend’s head is a telephone pole. The same thing happens in nature all the time, though sometimes in such subtle ways we don’t see a problem until after the fact.
When I was making the photograph of the iris in the foggy pond I remember moving up, down, left, right, and even forward and backward to find the right positioning of the plant in relation to the background. Consider, for example, if had I made the photograph from a position a few inches lower, the iris would have collided with the distant rocks.
A good photographic habit is to move your feet. Remember that you are in charge of how the subject relates to the background, and you do not have to take the photograph from the first place you see it.
Creative Backgrounds (Surround the subject with beauty)
Sometimes the background in a photograph is a much larger area than the subject, and if used well can create the atmosphere for the entire image.
“Iris Dreams” was made by focusing on just a single flower petal while also selecting a very open aperture (such as f2 to f5.6). With a wide aperture, the flowers in the background went out of focus, giving the entire photograph a dreamy quality. The area of sharp focus provided a spot for the eye to land, and then wander around amongst the pastel colors.
Separate Key Elements (Little movements pull apart visual collisions)
In the same way that moving your body can take control of how a subject relates to its background, little movements can separate keys elements of the photograph.
To make “Aspen Path” I moved myself left and right to separate the aspen trees along the path as best as possible, while also revealing an enticing amount of the path for the viewer. On a much smaller scale, a little movement to the right separated the two mushrooms from each other.
Nature is a busy place, yet sometimes small movements can avoid collisions between key elements and add an openness to the overall photograph.
Check Your Edges (Move your eye around all four sides)
It can seem like a lot to remember, but so much of the working part of photography becomes intuitive with time. That’s the way it is with moving your eyes around the four edges of the photograph to make sure what is inside is thoughtful, and what is outside stays outside. If you find yourself photographing through something, let’s say branches, press the camera’s preview button if it has one, and you might see a big out of focus branch show up that the lens had focused past. It is also common for many cameras to capture more of a scene than you can see through the viewfinder. It makes sense to learn this and come home with one hundred percent of what you envisioned rather than crop things away later.
Consider the two images I have selected. When it came to deciding the four edges, “Tender New Leaf��� was relatively easy given there was very little to distract the eye once I moved in close. “Autumn Canoe” presented lots of possibilities, but when I made the decision not to include any land, just reflection; it led the way to choosing edges that let the image be a celebration of the canoe surrounded completely by reflection.
One of your biggest tools is the ability to make an image completely sharp from front to back, partially in focus, or not at all. Kidding aside about all the unintentional soft photographs we have made, there can be very solid reasons for choosing different kinds of focus. In the first image of the reflection in the pond, I wanted everything sharp all the way from the blades of grass up close up to the clouds reflecting in the pond. In the photograph of the mushroom I thought a little sliver of focus on the tip of the mushroom surrounded by a soft ethereal quality to the rest of the image might create a feeling conducive to a visit from a leprechaun, whereas by taking away all focus on the last image of the spruce needles, I could move away from literal into dreamy.
The tool to create the different kinds of focus is the lenses aperture. Closed down (like f16 or f22) you will get the maximum focus the lens can get from front to back. A wide open aperture (like f2.8 or f4) will place a narrow band of focus through a piece of the composition, and lastly, turning the lens out of focus will bring you into the interesting realm where you need to decide if your creation is too out of focus, or just right.