Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Reflections on life, life’s lessons, parenting and just being a 40-something in Dayton, Ohio

Ethics and Wildlife Photography | At What Expense ?

This story came to my attention yesterday via posts and messages to my photography page on Facebook. What’s funny is that people posting and messaging me thought that I was the “Jim Crotty the wildlife photographer” interviewed in the story. I’m not. It just happens to be a coincidence that this photographer and I share the same name! But this news items brings up a good question regarding what is considered ethical behavior with wildlife photographers when it comes to photographing these animals.

The controversy in this story centers around the issue of “baiting” Snowy Owls for those “spread wing – open talons” shots. I agree with the other “Jim Crotty” in this story. I do think such tactics place both the animal and the photographer in danger. But that’s not the only area of controversy involving wildlife photography. There is also the issue of photographing captive animals in a natural environment and mislabeling the images as true wildlife photography as well as stalking wildlife to the point of harassment and harm.

Truth be told I have photographed the big predators – bears, tigers, wolves – at a wild game farm in Montana. I’ve also spent time photograph raptors at rehabilitation centers. Do the images look as if they were captured in the wild ? Yes. Do I identify the images as being captive animals ? Most times, yes, when it needs to be identified as such.

What I will add is the fact that in both cases the animals were very, very well cared for, and in some cases were rescued from deplorable conditions at zoos and circuses. Still, some “purists” consider this to be cheating. I can easily argue on behalf of the safety and care of the animals being photographed. At least I’m not pursuing a bird to the point where it abandons its nest and/our young or chase it into starvation.

But baiting-in wildlife for me crosses the line into what I consider manipulation of subject to fit the photographer’s needs versus capturing the true spirit and nature of the animal. Yes, it’s not illegal but as stated in the story, “is it ethical?”

One of the reasons this issue is gaining attention in the media is due to the large influx of Snowy Owls into the Midwest (and even as far south as Washington DC) due to the severity of this winter. Wildlife photographers all want that “money shot” of these impressive birds swooping in for the kill. But is it placing the animal at risk at becoming another casualty on the side of the road or tangled in the fishing line used to cast the toy mouse ?

It’s been my experience that people have a unique sense to tell if a photograph has been pushed too hard by a preconceived notion of the photographer, to the point of manipulating the subject into submission. It comes through. Perhaps subtle but most people can pick up on it.

I’ve learned that the images the generate the most positive, honest response are those that were unplanned and a result of a spontaneous interaction with the subject, whether it be portraits, landscapes or wildlife. The greater skill for the photographer is gained through patience and fortitude, and always, always, respect for his or her subject.

What do you think ? Can you tell which images below are of captive animals and which were taken in the wild ?

Jim Crotty Commercial Photography Wildlife Photography by Jim Crotty Great Blue Heron on Hilton Head Island South Carolina by Jim Crotty White-tailed Deer Doe and Fawn on the farm property of Photographer Jim Crotty Golden Eagle Aquila Chrysaetos by Ohio Nature Photographer Jim Crotty Wildlife Photography by Jim Crotty Red-tailed Hawk in South Carolina Maritime Forest by Jim Crotty Siberian Tiger at Triple D Wild Game Farm by Jim Crotty

True and Original | The Coen Brothers and the Art of Expression

“Like something out of a Coen Brothers movie.” There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation and I suppose that’s why I find my best sources of inspiration in other mediums than still photography. I admire the work of the masters such as Adams and Weston, but I never want to imitate it. And that can be a challenge sometimes. But to be inspired by prose and poetry, music, film, design, sculpture . . . that’s where energy in the art of expression is renewed, again and again.

For example, the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. They don’t bend to popular whims nor do they film to please this particular group or that particular audience. They hold true to their own creative vision and all else falls into place. They also stay true to those components or pieces that best serve their vision, whether it be the musical genius of T. Bone Burnett or the understated performances of John Goodman.

The Coen’s nail it every time because they have the courage to be who they are and not mold themselves to the expectations of a fickle audience, and the studios come to them. Sure their best work often gets snubbed but there’s no mistaking one of their films from those of a sea of other filmmakers.

The universal connection found in the art of creative expression that is unique to each soul is life and light set to a harmonious interludes of wonder and joy. To be true, even it means long stretches of hanging out there by your lonesome, that’s the place to be. Life was never meant to be a popularity contest. The posturing and posing and pandering leaves everyone wanting. I’ve seen a lot of that in my life. There have been many times I’ve been guilty of falling into that trap as well. It served as a painful reminder of the importance of being true to self, always humble and thankful to a higher power and love without conditions or false intentions.

Life is meant to be lived in the courage of your own convictions and expressed through the work of your own hands. Talent fully utilized may on the surface be seen as selfish but when serving the higher purpose of inspiring others (and always in gratefulness) it is actually quite the opposite, and beautiful to behold.

Awesomeness : Looking Through the Lens of Kindness | Measured in Moments

2013 Christmas Challenge: Day #13…Looking Through the Lens of Kindness | Measured in Moments.

It was incredibly rewarding to once again participate in Help Portrait Dayton. It was something I missed after moving away in 2011. I am very thankful for the opportunity to jump back into this great event of donating professional portrait photography to those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it. In December 2010 Help Portrait Dayton provided a full day of portrait photography and prints to families of military personnel based at Wright Patterson AFB. This year the event was held at the Church on Third Street in East Dayton. It’s a blast to come together with other pro photographers and volunteers and to brighten the faces and holiday of many families in our community. Thank you Kelly Maroney @ http://kellymaroney.wordpress.com/ for the great behind-the-scenes shots and blog article.

The Photographer’s Journey | Deeper and Higher

There’s an article that popped-up on my web browsing radar this morning (I gave up on TV news long ago) that tells the sad story of Canon Inc. cutting their annual profit forecast due to declining sales in the face of the rise popularity and capabilities of “smartphone” cameras. From the perspective of a professional photographer this would at first appear to be sad news with the assumption that everyone with a camera phone now can do just about everything a pro could do with a DSLR and several lenses.

True there’s some impressive imagery coming from shooters just using an iPhone. The new apps are amazing. Personally I’ve been having a ball with my iPhone 4S, Snapseed and Instagram . . . but . . . my iPhone won’t be replacing my DSLRs with those nice lenses. And it’s not a matter of greater technical capabilities of the equipment. It’s more of a case of making the most of the tools that are at my disposal.

The paintbrush and canvas don’t define the artist. The pen and computer do not represent the soul of the writer. What is more important is what is achieved with the tools available in representing in visual work how and why the photographer interacts with life and light around him or her and more significantly, if that work touches and moves the viewer – even if just one person – in a way that is affirmation in the positive and heartfelt.

It’s the connection that matters and from my experience it must be a connection that is honest, respectful and reflective of a gracious nature. Can that happen with a pic from an iPhone ? Sure can. Not often, but it does happen. One of the images posted with this entry – below – was snapped with my iPhone. Is it an award-winner ? Maybe.

Camera manufacturers adapt to the changing market. New, easier to use cameras come out to meet market demand. “Smartphones” get smarter. People shoot away. It’s all good. It’s all fun and once in a while very creative and inspiring. The one consistent will always be the grace and beauty found in the balance of light and subject and that hard-to-explain reason why we are all pulled toward artistic expression through the visual interpretation of our life experiences.

Sometimes I fight the urge to get a bit perturbed at the fact that the one thing I was (and hopefully still am) good at – photography – has now become so mass produced, mass marketed and mass consumed that I worry that I will be lost in the crowd, insignificant and meaningless. But in spite of all the noise and mass image snapping out there, the sense of accomplishment still remains when I touch and move just one viewer in a positive way.

It’s not about the gear. It’s not about the apps. And honestly it’s not about me. It’s about what I can accomplish by allowing my time, talents and tools to be used as vessels for reaffirming the blessings all around us and encouraging others to do the same. It’s about gaining the greater wealth when letting flow and letting go and to connect deeper and higher, in the sacred honesty of love, light and life.

The nice equipment and accolades are temporary. The connection is forever.

NovemberWhentheLightEchoesbyJimCrottyFW Photo Oct 08, 7 35 26 PM ThreeMapleLeavesEarlyOctoberbyJimCrottyFW November Morning by Jim Crotty ToSetAglowbyJimCrottyFW

 

A Beautiful Mess | Leaving The Leaves Be Where They Fall

A Beautiful Mess. Of leaving the leaves where they fall and letting go of expectations.So much of the stress we place on ourselves resides in the inheritance of the self-imposed pressure of meeting unrealistic expectations – of not disappointing those who will never be willing to freely release their approval in the first place, no matter how hard we try. Why is it that we so willingly give over the power of approval to those who are reinforced by this negative energy when God has already released us from such binds ? There is a beauty to the simple grace that arrives when we not only learn to let go of our own pride-filled expectations of others but also when we regain the rightful inheritance of peace based on an unconditional and all-powerful love. There is never a need to earn what has already been given. Declare today to stop the cycle of the sinful inheritance, embrace the gift that has already been given and just enjoy the beauty of all the simple graces of each day, including a yard full of fallen leaves!

ABeautifulMessbyJimCrottyFW

Betwixt and Between | Coming Full Circle, again

It’s always the unexpected that makes for the best experiences and images with landscape photography. One such experience occurred this past Friday evening. Good friends of mine here in the North Dallas area of Frisco, Joel and Julie, invited me to come photograph a hidden away patch of Texas prairie that had not yet been developed into a subdivision. It was land that bordered the farm property they both were renting for raising Arabians, chickens and just having a welcome retreat for me to escape to. But even here they were already making plans to buy farm/ranch acres of their own, several miles to the north near the Oklahoma border. Sprawl was coming.

We hopped on the ATV’s and headed over to where Julie wanted to show me an incredible display of spring wildflowers. Through a face-load of pollen we came upon on a scene that I had always imagined how a North Texas prairie should be – an unbroken field of wildflowers (in this case Indian Blanket) with a horizon line not ruined by power lines and roofs. It was there and just as the setting sun was breaking through rain clouds I jumped off the ATV and began composing my captures.TexasAwesometicitybyJimCrottyFW

The bad news is that just on the other side of this field trees were already being taken out and the land surveyed for a new road, and subsequently new subdivisions. I live in one of those subdivisions just a few miles away.

The building-out and growth north of Dallas has not let-up since the 1980’s. Frisco is in the top five of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. Thousands of new residents are pouring in as more and more employers realize the benefits of favorable tax incentives in Texas. It’s all very good for the local economy but the nature photographer in me sees the downfall. There is very little in the way of set aside green space. There is nothing that even comes close to the Five Rivers MetroParks I had access to back in Dayton, Ohio. The situation presents a bit of a paradox for me. One the hand I can’t complain about the quality of the Frisco public school system. I have daughters in 6th and 8th grade here in Frisco and I have to admit, the quality is at par or even surpasses what I’ve experienced in the past with private schools.

But I can’t help but miss all those beautiful hills and woodlands back home in Ohio. It’s where I built my reputation as one of the top pro nature and landscape shooters for that area. It’s a big reason why I am returning to Ohio next month. The decision did not come easy. I don’t exactly enjoy being torn in several different directions. There was some tempting reasons for returning to South Carolina as well. Ultimately I have to be true to myself and my art. That truth is back in Ohio.

Rapid economic development and growth can be mostly good, however, I won’t be so quick to be as harsh on Ohio in the future. There is a quality of life issue, an ease of living, where closeness with nature plays a bigger role. There’s the essence of home that’s rooted in a familiar landscape and a rhythm and balance to distinct seasons. Texas is Texas. Ohio is Ohio and Ohio is home. I need to be there and my daughters need for me to be that touchstone to their Ohio roots. I need for me to be doing what I do best in the place I know best.

The Dayton Ohio area is also where I worked hard to establish myself as both a commercial and portrait photographer. Corporate clients, editorial clients, high school seniors, workshops. It was all just starting to hit stride when I picked-up and moved in early 2011. I will regain that momentum. I have to. What’s also interesting to note is that most of my portrait customers on Hilton Head were Ohio referrals ! I had a good thing going and now I fully appreciate it. And I very, very much appreciate all those beautiful metro and state parks and nature preserves.

DaytonSkyline080610byJimCrotty 10