Misconceptions in Landscape Photography
Part one in a series of shorter posts, in which I want to discuss a few misconceptions in Landscape Photography. I listen to many photographers, read many photography articles and am generally immersed in Landscape Photography so I often hear information or discussions about Landscape Photography which shouldn’t always be taken for truth. Nearly every time in the field I’m confronted with examples in Nature which defy such truths and I thought I’d share a few in a series of posts which may help illustrate this point.
The purpose of doing so Is to help you think a little more creatively and freely in the the field and to pay less attention to those truths which we hear over and over. The results of thinking more freely and creatively can lead to more meaningful images for yourself which I imagine is a great part of why you shoot Landscapes in the first place.
Misconception 1: Location, Location, Location
This is perhaps the biggest misconception of them all when it comes to Landscape Photography. We’re constantly fed locations and images and told we have to be at the best spot at the best time. If this is true, let me ask a question: How many more images of Tunnel View do you need to see? How about Mesa Arch? How about..and so on and so on. I believe there is so much more of importance when photographing a landscape than a specific location at a specific time. This is a formulaic approach which yields predictable and completely unoriginal images. It’s one thing to go to a location to “get the shot” but I have to believe there is more to Landscape Photography than this, don’t you? Perhaps this is a different genre, “Viewpoint Photography”?
Let’s expand this topic a little and think of another location: Zion National Park. There are a few known locations there (The same old bridge shot) but wouldn’t you think there are a million other locations inside this 229 square mile park besides the same ones you’ve seen a thousand times? There are. The point is that there are many popular locations but that alone doesn’t define Landscape Photography. A simple step away from any given road in Zion National Park will lead to unexpected discoveries, new compositions, surprises and scenes far more rewarding than something predictable and repetitive. This same approach can be taken at any location you’re already aware of and usually leads to a more interesting photograph and always one which you can call your own.
One last point with specific locations is regarding growing and learning as a landscape photographer. I could easily tell you which exact location to be at and at the exact time and the exact camera settings needed which will likely get a nice photograph. Then once you (anyone) approaches the next landscape they will need the exact same information and have learned nothing in the process. Instead of this approach, I tend to assist in discovering a composition, evaluating the light and conditions, working through the why and how of the image and assist in coming up with an alternate composition. Learning throughout the process of composing and capturing leads to developing new skills which can then be used as you (anyone) moves on to the next landscape. Skills which can be applied to creating more meaningful images and compositions that you can call your own. This skill and approach has nothing to do with a specific location and is all about how you evaluate and interpret a given landscape in any condition.