What makes an image iconic? Why do some nature photographs captivate viewers, even those who wouldn’t call themselves nature lovers? These are the questions that motivate photographer Scott Linstead’s new book, Decisive Moments: Creating Iconic Imagery. Scott has quickly risen through the ranks of pro nature photographers in just a few years’ time, and has defined himself as a unique artist in a field that is becoming ever more crowded with beautiful, but conventional, images. I had a chance to read a pre-press version of Scott’s book this weekend.
The book is about photography, but it isn’t a technical how-to. Instead, Scott uses images from throughout his career to explore that all-important question: What makes an image iconic? With each image, he gives readers a taste of the inventive thinking that helped him to capture the moment, and he shares his thoughts on why the image works. A non-photographer won’t be interested in every technical detail behind an image to understand how it was captured. So Scott focuses on the unique challenges that had to be overcome to capture each image – the careful planning, the specialized equipment, and the clever techniques that made the photograph possible. By focusing on these essentials, Decisive Moments will be an engaging read for photographers and non-photographers alike.
But the images alone are worth the price of admission. Many would call Scott a “high-speed photographer,” because he specializes in capturing fleeting natural moments. And yes, many of his images depend on fast shutter speeds and high-speed flashes. But I prefer to think of Scott as an animal behavior photographer. Many of his images show animals performing rarely witnessed behaviors, ones that occur only at night or in places we are unlikely to look. And some of his images show behaviors that simply can’t be observed by the unaided human eye, because they just happen too fast. Regardless of the behavior, Scott’s images reflect a keen artistic sense and impeccable technique. Looking at some of the photographs in Decisive Moments, you may find yourself spending minutes discovering all the intricacies of a moment that lasted 1/10,000th of a second!
So what does make an image iconic? There’s no simple answer to that question – if there were, we’d all be creating iconic images all the time! Scott identifies many of the elements that make his images work, but to me, the common thread in Scott’s work is a clear creative vision. He knows exactly what behavior he wants to capture and how he wants to depict it, and he goes to considerable lengths to create the images he has envisioned. He learns the biology of his subjects and uses a diverse assortment of field and studio techniques to make the image happen. With this intentional, meticulous creative process, Scott has created more memorable images in his young career than many photographers create in a lifetime.
You can buy Decisive Moments: Creating Iconic Imagery at Scott Linstead’s website here.