James Ingwell’s Speech to the Colonial Society of Nature Photography

Photograph/Gabriel Fuchs

Photograph/Gabriel Fuchs

This story was originally published in May 2011.

Lately, I watched the live webcast from the Colonial Society of Nature Photography where the famous nature photographer James Ingwell gave a speech about his work. Being a fan of beautiful nature myself, I am happy to share some excerpts from James Ingwell’s eloquent speech.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am most pleased to speak to you today. Nature photography has been my life and joy since I first experienced it. However, over the years, I have also met many young and old nature enthusiasts and I have come to realise that there are many misconceptions about the nature of nature photography, as well as about the nature itself. Today, I hope to clarify and to permanently dispose of some of these erroneous impressions . Nature should be considered far too beautiful to be permitted to be misunderstood.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that nature is wont to hide herself. I can only agree. Nature only comes to those who look for it. As for nature photography, this means many long walks in the early wee hours in order to be where nature presents it self in its full grandeur. It also means even longer walks in order to go that extra mile.

Nonetheless, this perceived element of arduous discovery must not mean that people take the easy road to picturing nature. There is actually little to misunderstand, yet the outcome of many nature works are less than natural. Still, I want to underline the importance that nature is all around and awaits whomever blessed with open eyes, an open mind and an open camera bag.

Some say that nature photography is easy because it has the advantage of picturing non-moving objects. Supposedly, all you need is a tripod and a wide-angle lens and you are all set. I agree that mountains rarely move, but the clouds do, the light does, and therefore should the photographer move. I have spent five hours climbing steep hills in Wales, just to discover once I am where I want to be that there are clouds below me in the valley. Not a single photo was taken and I had to do the whole thing again next week, which I did not because it was raining. Whoever said that nature photography is easy because the nature is always there does not have the patience for this kind of photography. Yes, the nature is always there, but to discover it, you need to find the moment. Even though Aristotle said that in all things of nature there is something of the marvellous, it gets more marvellous if one makes an effort.

A gaudy sunrise over the Welsh hills in the early spring is worth carrying all that bulky equipment for the greater part of the late night and early morning. Furthermore, it is a healthy challenge to realise that nature is not that static after all. It may not move like a child, but it is nonetheless just as unpredictable. And yet, most of us still like children.

To appreciate nature, it is not enough to be at one with it. Woody Allen, less Greek than Heraclitus and Aristotle, yet just as philosophical, stated once that he is at two with nature. That helps if you really want to discover the obvious beauty that nonetheless seems so difficult to see for so many. One does not do nature photography for the action or the fame; one does nature photography for the inner peace and the outer attraction.

James Ingwell’s speech to the Colonial Society of Nature Photography So what are the secrets to good nature photography? Well, it is 80% patience and 20% light. The light is always there; the patience is needed to wait out the right light. Then add 50% of practice, practice and practice, and another 95% of passion. Adding this up, you will have the necessary 245% of true zeal that will lead you on the path of becoming not only good, but appreciated and revered.

Ladies and gentlemen, nature photography comes down to simple math coupled with enjoying nature and being outside. And best of all, the often found solitude when doing nature photography gives the natural environment for reflection about nature’s workings and fascination. Let me finish my few words to you with a quote by John Muir: “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

Thank you.

Tags: better photography, may 2011, Gabriel Fuchs, James Ingwell, Colonial Society of Nature Photography