What is the Subject?

The First Question I Ask Myself: What is the Subject?

Usually, I can answer this question easily.  For example, a flower, a tree, or a lake is a great subject.  However, when I came to this lava field, no simple answer came to mind. I was on the lookout to find an appropriate subject but at the same time I was overwhelmed by the scene in front of me.  What was probably a forest a few years back was now a sea of lava.  Scattered around me, some small green plants were trying to survive in this barren world.

The Thinking Process

At first, I looked around and shot some pictures of what seemed interesting.  I shot photos of the landscape as well as more detailed images of the plants and the interesting patterns in the lava. At the same time, I was exploring the area hoping that some true inspiration would come. Finally, I stopped, sat down, and asked myself… what is most important about this place? What strikes me the most?

Then it came to me. The most important part of this location was the life that was growing from all of the death. These small demonstrations of life were stronger than anything else.

But how to properly depict that in my photos?

Interpretation of the Subject

To me, death and life are like black and white. I knew that my desired result would have more impact in black and white rather than a color photo. Then I remembered my infrared modified Canon 50D that is always in my camera back (and rarely out of it). I knew this would be a good way to accentuate the contrast I was seeing between life and death. Once I had my end-result goal in mind, it was easier to work through each decision associated with capturing the picture.

Examples of infrared photography.

Birth – How does a first seed find water and nutrients to grow in this black sea of lava?


Examples of infrared photography.

Expand – Over many years, nutrients accumulate and life expands in these interstices.


Examples of infrared photography.

Multiply – Eventually, these small plants grow to the point of generating more seeds which creates new life.

These three photos depict the first stages of life triumphing over death. In a few thousand years, the lava will be history as life outgrows the current desolation.

About the Subject

The subject is not always something material. When it’s not something material, I need additional time to find the proper interpretation. This is why I need to pause and question myself to find ways to translate my emotions into two-dimensional photos…

  • How do I feel?
  • What is really important?
  • What do I want to say?
  • How can this have the same impact on others than it has on me?

When I succeed, I feel better about my pictures.

About Infrared Photography

I’ve owned a modified Infrared DSLR for over three years.  Although rewarding at times, using this equipment is often challenging. For me, learning to work with infrared photography feels similar to when I started learning general photography 35 years ago.

If you’re interested in the subject, take time to read about the various possibilities. Conventional digital photography has SO much to offer.

Tell me about your own interpretation of feelings and emotions.  What methods do you use to translate these into your pictures? Please leave comments below.

About Author Denis Grenier

I really love being outdoor hiking and taking pictures. I care about our planet and would like my picture to help influence others to take care of it. My passion in photography is showing its beauty to the largest audience possible.