The summer sun shown warm on the mesquite covered rangeland as I walked around the stock tank in search of anything that might present an acceptable photographic subject. Stopping at a small mesquite shrub near the waters edge, I noticed a flurry of activity within the limbs and leaves. Robber flies, rather intimidating looking insects, were busily flying about, some appearing to be in hot pursuit of other insects and actually making successful captures from time to time. Grabbing my camera with a macro lens attached, I began watching closely and was amazed to discover that these wonderful insects were actually capturing wasps, deer flies and other flying brethren for the purpose of having a feast! After making the capture, the robber fly would land on a branch and proceed to stab its proboscis into the thorax of the victim and for the next few minutes literally suck the body fluids from its prey before dropping the desiccated carapace to the ground. For the next several hours I had a great time in photographing these fascinating creatures as well as developing an appreciation for their tiny world and the fight for life and death within.
The macro world is an often overlooked aspect of photography that can be both an educational tool as well as an alternate source of subject matter that is most fascinating to the readership.
I purchased my first macro lens in the late 1970’s in a Canon FD 50mm f3.5 with an extension tube. In order to facilitate working in low light conditions I also purchased a ring light which would enable me to work in situations ranging from total darkness to normal lighted locations. Although having started my photographic career with longer lenses and bigger subjects in mind, the side trip to macro introduced me to a world easily as wild as the larger four legged quarry and, despite the small critters occupying that niche, quite barbaric in nature!
Many budding photographers find that the cost of a macro lens is a bit prohibitive but alternatives are there and most affordable. A set of extension tubes will cost less than 200.00 and allow photographers to utilize even the more common lenses that come attached to cameras when purchased. Go to your favorite camera outlet and order up a set of three “Extension Tubes”, my favorite being Kenko, and experience a whole new aspect of photography! Be sure and specify the manufacture of your camera when ordering. A sturdy tripod will be essential as camera shake must be held to a minimum when working at such a close and personal distance. Enjoy!!
Terry Diggs was a man of medium height, slight build but possessed the bluest eyes of anyone I have ever seen. Very poised and dignified in his presence, I took a liking to the older man immediately upon our having met. A gentleman to the core but also one that took no flack from anyone, I learned shortly after our meeting that he was a veteran of WWII and a B-17 pilot whose service for our country was cut short after being shot down over Germany and suffered three years in a POW camp therein. Needless to say I felt honored to have Terry as my instructor and drilled him often on the time he spent under the unwanted supervision of Adolph Hitler.
I respected Terry and loved the fact that he treated me possibly like he was treated during his own flight training. Abrupt and quick to point out my short comings in handling the little Cessna, I felt compelled to do my best for Terry and within about four months of training had attained my credentials as a private pilot.
It was not long before I began carrying my camera aloft to photograph the design of the land that slid beneath my wings on so many early morning flights and began collecting a good file of images describing our Texas from on high.
Within a couple of years I was honored with the opportunity to check out in a 1946 Aeronca Champ, a little tail wheel plane that offered even better options for aerial shots as I could remove the door and shoot past the wing strut with little difficulty. For years I shot from this little plane and loved every minute of being aloft in the cool hours of early morning when the atmosphere was so fresh and clean, offering a view of the land below in colors so rich and vivid.
Along with my own flights came many hours aloft with my good friend Knut Mjolhus, a college buddy from our years at Texas Tech and a pilot of unparalleled skills. From a Cessna Caravan, Cessna 206, Hughes 500 helicopter, Bell Jet Ranger and Robinson R 22 and 44, we flew to so many wonderful locations around the state in order that I might document the beauty of our state from this perspective so high.
Today, thanks to my friend Bob Moorhouse, I am still able to enjoy shooting from above while flying Bob’s little 1946 Aerona Chief, the near twin brother of my first tail wheel plane in the Champ. I would like to take a moment and share with you a few of these images that define our state from a perspective seen and appreciated by too few. Put on your googles and imagine the groan of an engine as it strains to gain the altitude that will support a photographic essay of our Texas from the sky!
Every photographer who has engaged in the business on a professional level will, in time, produce an image or images that defines a style that is the signature for that person. Be it color, angles, lens choice, etc. each individual will eventually put forth images that are synonymous with the name. Margaret Bourke White’s coverage of the Great Depression, Ansel Adams and his work in Yosemite, Elliot Porter and his elegant exhibit of birds, Ernest Hass’s wonderful color of the Four Corners region and Robb Kendrick’s haunting tin types are but a few that come to mind as examples of great photographers from both past and contemporary.
During the twelve years that I was honored to be on faculty at Texas Tech University my approach to instruction was always consistent with each class and that being to insist that each student develop their own signature work. A semester is such a short period in which to fully achieve this goal but I stressed that it would be a beginning. I can proudly say that a few of these students have continued on and attained that goal, producing work that is garnering each one a level of notoriety that will resonate in the photographic arena.
I recall quite well some 30 years ago when I was visiting with a New York art director and he intimated that he liked my work for the color and angles that I chose to shoot various wildlife species. With that phone conversation I realized that I had established a style that would define my work from that point on. Various small changes occurred over time but the basic approach and ultimate production would be “my way”. What a memorable moment for a budding magazine photographer!
I would like to offer you, the reader, a selection of images that I consider exudes “my way”. Some of these date back some three decades while others have yet to be published, but all have been or probably will be recognized by editors and my readership as, “that has to be Wyman’s work”. Enjoy and best of luck in your own work to this end!!
I am going to steal a line or two from the acknowledgment in my 1998 book, “Texas Sky”, and describe the sky as I see it. “….A shroud of mystery and element of hope”.
I well recall a time over 50 years ago when I would gaze into a summer sky in wonderment, watching with awe the maneuvers and churning of those great white battleships in that spacious ocean above. Although I did not understand what made those elegant clouds roll and churn, the fascination that I felt was a prelude to a lifetime of hopeless fascination with the dynamics of a power so great that even in these times of fantastic scientific achievements we still wither in the wake of a sky that has gone wild.
In “Texas Sky”, “Between Heaven and Texas” and “Inspiration Texas Style”, the images published therein are the visual expressions that resulted from that lifetime obsession nurtured over 5 decades as a student of our great land and sky. To once again pillage my own words in Texas Sky, “…I have come to view the sky as a great amphitheater in which are played some of the greatest dramas know to humanity….I am forever intrigued by the mysterious transformation from the mundane to a show “Which would charm the lover of Rembrandt”.
Through the millenniums mankind has expressed some level of intrigue that has manifested itself in many ways not the least being through early day paintings of the west with a surreal sky and fantastic light radiating over a wild and surly land. What encourages this intrigue can only be known from the explanation of every person who is asked and I would guess the answers would be varied. Color, unbridled power, cloud structure, or simply the mesmerizing effect of a celestial body so colossal that we shrink in its wake, all potential interpretations from mortal beings gazing upward.
I offer you here a glimpse into a wildness unparalleled in its combined beauty and potential might and I think you just may agree that, “this is a tribute to the singular most dynamic and spectacular natural phenomenon which has mesmerized and inspired Texans for untold centuries”.