If you’ve recently taken up landscape photography or you’re aware that a refresher of inspiration is in order perhaps these tips and thoughts will be of interest.
In my practice, I can forget how to approach shooting and become overwhelmed or unable to start. To prevent or to manage these cycles of motivation slump or of ignoring the basics, I have compiled a small list of priorities and energizers.
Choosing a location:
The landscape is everywhere, on expensive safaris, cruises, jungle excursions, and in our backyards. Remember- vistas, unseen moments, and places to rediscover are everywhere because the environment is always changing. The light is always different; the seasons change, and so does our perspective on it. Don’t be afraid of revisiting the same place over and over again! That’s the beauty of the frame. A small shift in light and frame gives us a new window. Try to look at your backyard, the local park, or the nearest expanse of unpopulated nature in a new way. Today is a new day, and that is the magic of landscape photography. A difference of inches proves miles of creative adventure. Go back to that familiar place again!
Alternatively, we can venture out into places we dream of seeing. Research is helpful here! Get to know your target location, which brings us to the next section.
Knowing some history:
Where are we shooting? Knowing a little history of the region will bring a deeper context to what we are shooting, even if it is a mountain range. You can do a deep dive into history or research a little on the human impact here. This gives a great depth of meaning to the image we take and, in my experience, makes it more clear what and where to shoot. There is a more in-depth story to our shot if we are aware of our place in the history of the landscape.
Wandering. Following your instinct. What was it like to watch the horizon line change shape in front of us, the trail wander and disappear when we were kids? Remembering this is a way to tune in and bring the lights back on. Often this is best done with people we trust so that no one will bicker or interrupt the natural process of going with the flow. When I do this, photographs emerge, which could never have been revealed if I knew where I was headed. This is a profound practice, which is the core of why I take photographs.
Not looking for the Holy Grail:
There is a desire for many of us to find the ultimate image. Something spectacular. As we have likely found in the past, the most amazing and beautiful images are revealed through small moments and with the unexpected. Look for the little things: small moments and irregular angles and scenes. The spectacular awaits in unforeseen places often just adjacent to the site where we thought we would find it. Keep looking and look in a fresh way at what we thought was most beautiful!
Not everything fits in our frame. Not even the full moment of beauty we are seeing will fit. We have to choose borders. When the imagery becomes complicated, and the story of the scene seems to lead us to want to see what lays outside of the frame, this can be both a useful thing and a dangerous one. We should choose what kind of hints we are placing in the frame. If the image is an iceberg and there is a hint of other shapes near by, what are we are saying about these other shapes? Is the environment around the iceberg overwhelming and full of large objects, or is it empty and desolate, and our object is the only focal point? What are we saying about what is not seen? What is the focal point of our frame? Is it off centre, centred, discrete or overt? All are fine but decide and then frame the remaining objects based on this quality.
In the end, if you have a view finder, you’re in luck. Holding a traditional camera to the eye and viewing your frame without peripheral distraction is the hallmark of “authentic” photography. This natural engagement means we are choosing the image in a way that is unique to traditional photography. Beyond this, well, there is a whole site here to explore gear options!