Changing subject matter when photographing in nature

It happens from time to time that we go out to photograph with a subject matter in our mind, then despite of our preparation and intentions we need to change course. I am as much of an outdoorsman as a photographer. During my decades in the business I often found refuge in the outdoors where I was shooting for relaxation as opposed to meeting a deadline. However, it happened many times that my intended aim to photograph a subject didn’t yield any results. Like this fall when I was hoping to get some late migratory birds photographed. Warblers, phoebes, kinglets and many other took an early flight south. The few remaining ones were hiding deep in the bush awaiting for another good day to take off.

I have learnt it many years ago that there is no need to get upset or to lose my enthusiasm when I fail to find my intended subject. What I came to realize was that regardless what, there is always something to photograph. At the end of the day you still may come home with some images that otherwise would have been passed upon. Several of my best selling images were shot unplanned on outings when I didn’t find my intended target. So the day didn’t get waisted. I had a good day in nature and I still managed to find something to photograph. Like this latest couple of days when I visited some of my favourite nature reserves around my neck of the woods. I was hoping to take photographs of some little migratory species, well,  there was none. However, there were a couple of other birds around, not too many though. I managed to spot a little elusive Brown Creeper that I had never been able to photograph before, then some Northern Flickers and Blue Jays posed for a few seconds.

When birds are not around I change my attention to plants and if the season still allows it then to butterflies. On a warm late autumn day some butterflies that haven’t yet left or haven’t gone into hibernation may surprise the photographer. Then there are some plants that took on their fall colours or dried up to form an interesting subject. I conducted workshops on fall days when we ended up photographing quite different subject matters than our original plan called for. Regardless, we still had an enjoyable day and harvested many images that ended up as large displays on our walls.

So, in closing I strongly suggest to all nature lovers and photographers to enjoy the day as it presents itself. No matter if it is a light rain or the lack of birds that derails your day, you can turn it around and find something else that will fill the void and give you memorable images to cherish. It can be a dried thistle or a leaf floating on the pond, some late butterflies surprising you on a warm autumn day, a dried cluster of leaves or a colourful shrub backlit by the sun. It is the creative view that you have, mixed with your love of the outdoors, that will give you those images that you’ll be proud of.

Below are a collection of images that I collected when “nothing else” was there to photograph. I hope that some may inspire you just as much as they inspired me.

  • The seeds of next year's flower
  • Backlit shrub
  • A well figured orb spider
  • Lily pad turned its colours
  • Painted Lady in autumn sun
  • Eastern Marbled Orange spider
  • Bronze leaves
  • Yesterday's bird......
  • Northern Flicker high in a dead tree
  • Monarch on fall Aster
  • Common Buckeye on Aster in mid October
  • Monarchs and Cabbage Butterfly on fall Aster
  • Autumn coloured Comma butterfly
  • Mushroom on tree stump
  • Northern Paper Wasp on Golden Rod
  • Blue Jay against golden backdrop
  • Northern Crescent on fall Aster