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In A Creative Rut? See This Photographer's Secret For Breaking Out Of It.

Eric Ward (@littlecoal) is a photographer who makes breathtaking images of the natural world, travel adventures and majestic wildlife. A member of the Alpha Imaging Collective, Ward is a true storyteller who uses his unique perspective to make stunning frames. Whenever he needs a spark of creativity, he sets his alarm early, grabs a camera and his 24-70mm GM lens, and heads out in nature. That's how he captured this image that we saw on Instagram. He tells the full story behind the shot below.

Photo by Eric Ward. Sony Alpha 7R II. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/4000-sec., f/6.3, ISO 640

Photo by Eric Ward. Sony Alpha 7R II. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/4000-sec., f/6.3, ISO 640

The incredibly simple, yet incredibly effective thing that photographer and Alpha Collective member Eric Ward (@littlecoal) to stay creative.

Breaking A Creative Rut

I love when opportunities arise that allow me to travel and explore a new location, but I also love being able to share images created in my own local community. If you ever find yourself feeling in a rut creatively, I would encourage you to set your alarm for before sunrise and get out into nature. I say this, because it works for me every time. I don’t always end up with an incredible image at the end, but the discipline and fresh air always leads to a renewed spark.

On this particular morning, I arrived just before sunrise at Sidecut Metropark in Maumee, Ohio (Toledo Metroparks), hoping to find a few of the deer who call the park home. The Maumee River runs alongside the park and around sunrise the deer will often make their way toward the water’s edge to feed on the plants found along the banks and drink from the river. 

After about 20-30 minutes of waiting near this location, several deer made their way out of the nearby woods and approached the bank of the river. The low mist, rolling across the water’s surface only added to the final image. I was able to quietly enjoy observing and photographing them for quite some time before I continued on along the path to explore more of the morning light throughout the park.

Gear That Lends Itself To Storytelling

At the time, I was shooting with my Sony Alpha 7R II paired with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. The Alpha 7R II and its 42 MP provided plenty of resolution, quick autofocus in situations like this, and plenty of dynamic range. The 24-70 GM lens is still my favorite lens for these moments, allowing me to not have to physically move in too close, but also the ability to change the framing of the image by pulling back to the 24mm and opening up the edges to better tell the story by including my environmental elements. 

Patience & Peace

The key to any sort of photograph involving wildlife, even including deer at a local park that are fairly used to people being around, is to be patient and predictable. I love creating these dramatic silhouettes, so shooting into the rising sun gives me that opportunity, while also proving that warm, morning light. 

As the deer continued to forage along the shore, I slowly followed and continued to look for natural objects to use as a frame. The deer was seemingly unbothered by my presence and would only on occasion lift its head to see where I was and that I was giving it enough distance. I was shooting at 1/4000-sec. at f/6.3 with an ISO of 640.

For me, this photograph is a great reminder that, while travel adventures are amazing, there is incredible beauty and peaceful or powerful moments to be found all around you no matter where you find yourself.

Keep It Natural With Minimal Editing

To keep the natural feeling of this image, there wasn’t much editing done to the final version. I pulled all of my raw images into Lightroom where a few small adjustments were made using some of the basic features.

See more of Eric Ward’s work on Instagram @littlecoal.


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