I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. - Ecceliastes 1:14
A New Approach to Landscape Photography
This blog is about a paradigm shift in my mental approach to taking better pictures. It’s about a little tweak in my psyche that has produced a more rewarding and gratifying experience while roaming the wilderness. However, before I tell you what I’ve learned it is necessary for me to explain where I’ve been.
Earlier in my career, my travels revolved around finding that next superior image. In other words, a goal oriented search for that show-stopping picture, which I could proudly display to the world as the culmination of my hard work. It’s what you could call a “world-class” shot or one that screams, “Look at me!” The type of photograph that anyone would love to call their own.
Hiking Versus Landscape Photography
I sometimes think that my intentions were more noble when I was just a mere hiker and didn’t bother carrying a camera during my travels. I was just as passionate as I am now only not so concerned with the light. Sunrises and sunsets were mostly viewed from the car and trips were based on my calendar and the weather. Nothing more. The main purpose of my journeys was for the fulfillment of feelings, both physically and spiritually. In other words, it was personal.
Serious, high quality landscape photography changed things. Now there was a new prize. A different outcome. A new reason for everything. What was once private now needed to be shared with the world.
Initially, this new pursuit could be viewed as superior. For instance, while hikers find solace in just being there, landscape photographers must be present at that exact, optimal moment of the day. Ready to successfully capture it forever.
Eventually, I began to understand the subtle nuances of light and started thinking through the abstract, mental lens of a camera frame. All of these aspects (and others) resulted in a more aesthetically pleasing experience. Through the duty of photography, I was able to actualize transcendent moments like never before. It was like hiking 2.0.
It is easy to get your priorities mixed up while wandering the wilds alone in solitude trying to take pictures for a living. While the actual art of photography is one of many wonderful aspects of my occupation it is not hard to put the cart before the horse. Or in my case, the product before the process.
Somewhere along the line I became jaded. The personal contentment and spiritual nourishment that fueled my love for the outdoors gradually changed. Maybe I took things for granted. Spending time in the wilderness became diluted by the pursuit of the superficial, an act which involved capturing something that I had no control over.
You see as a hiker I was just happy to be there. Now, everything had to be perfect. This idea resulted in a errant, incorrect approach to my craft. I had fallen into the trap about caring too much about what other people think.
A New Change
What I’ve learned is that approaching photography from this point of view leaves one feeling empty. A shallowness associated with vain pursuits. While the art of taking pictures can be psychologically draining, it should never get to the point where the reason for your first love is lost and what you are left with is the pursuit of something unattainable.
For me, the great outdoors was never about photography. It was my photography that was about the great outdoors. Unconditionally accepting everything that nature becomes helps me to accept the wilderness for what it is – wild and unpredictable. It is always changing and never stagnant. With that approach, finding contentment my surroundings will always be more important the discovering the perfect picture.