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Why Does Landscape Photography Have To Be Such Dammed Hard Work?

16 June 2020


I find myself meandering through my local woods with a rising sense of desperation. Where is the killer shot? Thoughts enter my head like, ‘I bet [insert famous landscape photographer] would have found a stunning shot by now’. What a frustrating past-time. Particularly when time is so precious (and often the subject of intensive home negotiations…). To have set an alarm for 4am* (*lie alert: I confess, I never get up that early) only to come home with sweet nothing to show for it can be deeply frustrating. Then a frazzled Mrs T, having dealt with the wildlings alone all morning, asks how it went…well, to say I didn’t even take a photo just isn’t really an option is it. I’m sure I’m not alone with these photographical problems and wanted to share some ways to help reduce the frustration levels and improve the odds a little.



It’s Not (All) About Photography…

Try to let go of expectation. I think the first point to focus on is why we do landscape photography in the first place. For me at least, it’s really to get myself out of the house, clear my head and to appreciate the natural world we’re so unbelievably lucky to have around us. The photo is very much secondary and I must remind myself of that when frustration levels well up. So I’ll just stop for a few minutes, listen to the chattering birds and think about how amazing nature really is.


Not Failures…Scouting Missions

I don’t think a great landscape photography shot can really be conjured up like some magic trick. It takes so many factors; the right light, weather conditions etc etc etc. Even the best photographers I’m sure (I hope) have plenty of missions with little to show in terms of RAW files in a memory card. But these are not “failures” - they’re always useful scouting missions and pave the way for future trips when conditions are just peachy (“peachy”?! I think I’ve been watching too many US box sets recently). But the next time you venture out you know a wonderful little spot to go straight to. So I try to reclassify those “total failures” as “exploration missions” and trick my simple mind into believing it wasn’t so bad.

Lady in Red - An ICM image taken in Burnham Beeches on a bright day

Improve The Odds

I might head out with an instagram image with 30 gazillion likes burnt into my retina and think, I’ll just pop out, point my camera at something and emulate that. Wrong. That thinking is the path to the dark side my friend. While some vague ideas can be useful, I think the scene should construct the photograph, not the other way round. I’ll talk about this in a future blog but I find it really helpful to have a mental Rolodex of different styles at my disposal as this greatly improves my odds. It might be a black & white photograph day or perhaps some camera movement would lead somewhere. Rather than looking at the wider view, perhaps just getting in close is the way forward. You get the idea but trying to be style-flexible certainly really boosts my landscape photography hit-rate and I rarely come back with nothing.


Tree Spirit - Taken on a bland day which lent itself to some multiple exposure photography

No Blank Pages

And last but not least, just take a shot of anything. I liken it to a writer scribbling on a blank page but I do find that taking a shot of anything, even rubbish scenes, often stimulates some little creative juice in the corner my brain. Pictures then start to flow much more easily.

Of course, you should do as I say, not as I do: this shot was taken after three hours traipsing around the woods finding the square root of zero to shoot. I stood dejectedly in the field behind my house, wondering how much my camera might fetch on Ebay and then spotted this little fella. At least I had something to show Mrs T…


So there you have it for my first landscape photography blog. I hope you took something positive away from this and thanks so much for reading. Please do get in touch to let me know what you thought and subscribe below to be notified of new blogs, my latest news and upcoming workshops.

All the very best,

Simon

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