Why bother with beauty? (600 words)

iNaturalist is not Instagram. This platform, at root, is about sharing observations of biodiversity for the advancement of citizen science. Why, then, should it matter how we compose our findings? Why bother with beauty?

Too often on my feed, I see pictures of blurry, overexposed, heavily-cropped plants, fungi, and more that could have been improved significantly had the naturalist spent only moments more with the subject.

Let’s say, for instance, that you come across a patch of what you believe to be Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) by the side of the road and wish to add this observation to your life list. Certainly, you could whip out your phone, grab a quick shot of the plant, and be done with it. But it seems to me that this would be a waste.

The Daucus genus contains some striking flowers—increasing in complexity and allure the closer you look. So, wipe off the back of your smartphone lens, steady your hand, and give this organism the attention its epochs of evolution deserve. Here’s how:

First, Queen Anne’s Lace rarely grows above three feet. So, try lowering yourself to attain a view at its level. This will add intrigue to your composition by offering a perspective we don’t normally see. Second, the thousands of tiny white flowers reflect a lot of light. So, try reducing the exposure on your device slightly to bring out more detail in the blossoms. (To achieve this effect on iPhone, simply slide your finger down the screen while shooting). Third, the Daucus genus exhibits near-impeccable symmetry. Satisfying as this may be, it’s generally not compelling to your viewer. So, try implementing the 'rule-of-thirds,' a popular photography technique whereby the subject is offset to create more tension and drama in the shot. And finally, Queen Anne’s Lace usually produces multiple heads of flowers. Try focusing on the prettiest in the foreground and let the others recede into the back, growing increasingly blurry with distance. This will add crucial depth to your composition.

Take your time with this. Make the most of your skill level and equipment to present the organism in the most flattering light possible. This may not come naturally at first, but, as with many things, it gets easier and faster with time.

All this goes without saying that the closer up you get to a flower (or insect), the more markings are revealed, allowing the iNaturalist algorithm and experts to better discern what you observed. Granted, it helps also to have pictures of the leaves and the immediate environment when making an identification.

I encourage people to practice this exercise through photography of all varieties because it quite literally changes how you see the world. When your job (or even hobby) revolves around seeking out and capturing the sublime, you acquire an eye for aesthetics that you didn’t have previously. It’s not that you see the world through rose-colored glasses; rather, it’s that you see the rose that others didn’t even know was there.

We are hard-wired, biologically, to respond to beauty. And through photography—through the pursuit of beauty in unlikely places—I’ve found myself becoming a more content and grateful person.

If this essay is popular, I would be happy to publish simple, straightforward, smartphone-oriented photography guides for each of iNaturalist’s major categories of organisms. Of course, we have more control over some (plants, fungi, etc.) than we do for others (birds, mammals, etc). Still, there are techniques that can be implemented for each that allow us to observe our planet’s bountiful biodiversity in more detail and elegance than ever before.

Thank you for reading.

Publicado el julio 16, 2023 11:50 TARDE por christopherbonis christopherbonis


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