Very, a good photo is about chance and circumstance. It is the whole basis of the Paparazzi in Hollywood – you won’t get the shot unless you’re there. That’s an interesting aspect of photography: We need to be experts in more than just the use of our camera and gear. We also need to have some knowledge and wisdom about our chosen subject. Knowing a little about your subject will help you to create a better and more refined photograph. It is the difference between a circumstantial good photo and a great photo. That is the point I’d like to make as we discuss the photo shown here: Sea Gull in Black & White, by Byrne Chapman.
As the case may be, this shot could easily have been a chance occurrence. But lets give Byrne the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had planned for this shot. He might have wanted to know a little about the bird so that he know what to expect – it’s behavior, it’s habitat its preferred foods (though I recall Sea Gulls aren’t picky). He might have picked out a great vantage point as well. While sea gulls are fairly common, especially if you’re in close proximity to salt water, it’s fair to say that they are still somewhat unpredictable. And one certainly wouldn’t capture this angle from the ground.
Very often, I will preach about finding unique angles. That statement is, of course, relative. I should clarify my teachings by stating that such unique angles are relative. A shot of a child from the ground, for example, is the unique perspective in that case. Capturing a flying bird from eye level, as Byrne has done here, is the unique angle for such a subject. I suspect that Byrne was well above the ground somewhere near the bird. Perhaps he was on a balcony nearby. The 200mm lens he was using certainly would have given him some range and flexibility in this case.
One of the things that appeals most to me on this shot is how the bird is back-lit. The highlights at the edge of the wing really makes the bird pop, in my opinion – especially in black & white. But the background, which is foggy and abstract in nature. It really helps to give the bird some context and relativity without distracting from the main subject.
Bryne’s knowledge of his subject and his use of back-lighting, a unique subject angle and the excellent context of a background is why we chose his photo, Sea Gull in Black & White for this week’s Photo Inspiration. Feel free to be inspired.