There are many “rules” in Landscape Photography and even ways to break these so called rules. The 3 P’s of Landscape Photography which I’ll discuss, aren’t another rule or a way to break the rule though. This series of techniques will naturally lead to more personally meaningful images, whatever that means to you. Read on and perhaps you’ll discover a technique you can apply to your work.
3 P's of Landscape Photography - Participate, Practice and Play
Participation in landscape photography means more than going to a location. You’d think that by doing the act of photography you’re participating enough by being among Nature but there’s more to participating. The type of participation I’m referring to here is slightly different and will help you build photography skills.
One simple way to participate is simply going for a walk and getting out of the car. There are countless places to do this near home and while traveling. Go for a walk in a local park or along a river or lake, somewhere away from a road. I shoot from a car frequently and I understand the temptation when the weather isn’t pleasant but I know from experience that every single walk among Nature leads to some sort of discovery. This comes from simply walking with your eyes open and is the simplest way to participate.
On the other end of the spectrum is a more physically challenging way to engage and participate with Nature. I’ve done countless (100’s) overnight or multi night trips in the wilderness, with and without photography in mind. Some people find their creative zone while in the middle of more physically challenging activities. Climbers, skiers, mountaineers and many more are examples of such engagement. For myself, I find inspiration from wilderness adventures but I do know my creative zone is from a more relaxed mindset and a slower pace.
Participation is about including an activity of some sort besides photography. Moving through the landscape and interacting with it is such a great way to open your senses and to get the creative juices flowing. Give it a try sometime and see if it changes the way you approach Nature with your camera.
The 2nd technique is commonly not practiced despite knowing it would be helpful. I say this because I hear it all the time from clients and it’s completely understandable. Many people shoot when they travel but when they’re home they don’t shoot much or at all. There are many issues which come up in the field as well as missed opportunities from simply not practicing at home.
In my 20’s I skied a lot and began to ski competitively, averaging 150 days a year skiing. I say this because there’s something interesting that happens after about 100 days of skiing for the season: It gets easy, everything flows, you don’t get tired legs, and you just feel good. But it takes 100 days for it to just click and the feeling is light-years away from Day 1 of the season when everything hurts. I think you can make the comparison to photography on your own here.
The point of that analogy is to think of what else you’d see and capture and create if your hands and eyes and mind were already warmed up. How would you use your camera when you travel if your mind was already feeling creative before you left?
Practicing photography at home will often lead to an unexpected joy or discovery too. So many photographers have discovered photo projects or series all near their homes. And that’s just the bonus! The real advantage is just stepping out to practice using your photographic eye, practicing with your fingers and becoming a little more in tune with Nature.
Lastly, and possibly the simplest technique of all these is to play. Completely let go of expectations and try something new with your photography. Always shoot color? Try Black & White. Always shoot f/11? Shoot f/4. Always have sharp photos? Try a longer exposure. The point is there’s always a way to go the other way and try something you haven’t before or tried in a long time.
One example of playing would be to go for a walk with your camera, somewhere near home or convenient. Attach one lens to the camera and bring nothing else, no other lenses, no batteries, nothing else. Then go and see how long it takes to forget about the stuff you don’t have with you:) With only one lens, your eye will begin to adapt to the possible compositions based on whatever focal length the lens is. One of my favorite lenses for play is a 35-70mm manual focus Nikkor macro. It creates interesting bokeh and just fits how my eyes see so it just feels natural for me. One interesting thing is that lens was also used for every image on this blog post too:)
3 P's: Participate. Practice. Play.
These 3 techniques are all simple but so often overlooked as ways to build photography skills. They’re all 3 examples I use extensively in my own work and have gained skill from following. There’s obviously a lot more to building skills as a photographer but participating, practicing and playing will likely play a large role in your journey. They certainly have for me.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you outside!
Palouse Photo Workshop
Week 1: May 14-18, 2023
Week 2: May 21-25, 2023
Week 3: June 11-15, 2023
Small Group (4) and Exploring the Palouse. Grab your coffee and telephoto lens, let's go!
Small Group (4) and snow covered hoodoos. Bryce Canyon is EPIC this Winter!