I think landscape photography is too often focused on locations, especially on social media. The qualities of landscape photography get replaced by simply showing a new location and it begins to take the form of travel photography. The photographer shows up once, takes a photo of the conditions when they were there and leaves. In my mind, this is not landscape photography. It’s entirely possible to get lucky with a great display of light when visiting a location, but that only shows what it was like on that day and likely fails to capture the essence of a landscape or location. Of course, it’s not possible to visit distant locations on a regular basis to know the subtleties but over time and repeated visits, once can become more familiar with a location.
The other option is to not consider landscape photography as photographing a distant landscape that you rarely visit. I bet most who are reading this have a place close to them to photograph. It doesn’t need to be a grand landscape, it can be a local park, river, field, etc. Visiting these places on a regular basis and noting the changes of seasons, how it looks in different weather, different times of day or when it’s dry or wet is a great place to start. By seeing the same place in varying conditions, you’re able to distinguish the ordinary from extraordinary. You’ll begin to understand the nuances of the place and you can use this to create better photographs.
Applying these same ideas to a landscape you don’t visit as often is challenging but can be rewarding as a landscape photographer. You may visit a more distant location once or even a few times a year and with DSLR’s, you can easily make many images. I just challenge you to consider if these images are documenting what a landscape looked like when you were there or do they show some of the magic of the place? It may mean you get ONE image from a week vacation to the Grand Canyon. By being highly selective of your images and visiting locations repeatedly the photographs will begin to go beyond what a place looks like. Maybe, just maybe, the photographs can convey what it feels like.
I’ve shared 2 images of clouds to represent these thoughts. The locations of these clouds are completely irrelevant to the image. As with landscape photography, locations are often irrelevant to the image. Whether or not you agree with this, give this a try with your images sometime. Remove the location information from your image and see if the qualities of the photograph communicate that sense of place. I’ll discuss using clouds in a landscape photograph in a separate post, stay tuned:)
Thanks for reading,
Close your bodily eye, that you may see your picture first with the eye of the spirit.
Then bring to light what you have seen in the darkness,
that its effect may work back, from without to within.
~ Caspar David Friedrich ~
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.
~ Carl Gustav Jung ~
The only way to understand painting is to go and look at it. And if out of a million visitors
there is even one to whom art means something, that is enough to justify museums
~ Pierre-Auguste Renoir ~