Saturday, September 11, 2010

Landscape Photography - Make a new vision on the spot

(I'm moving my newsletter to this blog. This was issue 4 of 17.  Read from #1 up!)

So, you spent all that time researching, planning and visualizing your photo, but nature has other plans.  So how do you make a new vision when conditions are changing so quickly?

In the previous blog entry, I discussed how important it is to plan and visualize the image you wish to make.  However, no matter how much energy you put into being in the right place at the right time, what you hoped to see is rarely what you get.  Therefore, often times you need to let go of your hopes and create a new vision on the spot.  Sometimes you only have a few minutes of good light remaining so time is of the essence!

The best way to do this is not to think about my advice or the advice of others, but rather to think about what you like most about where you are at the moment.  What really strikes you the most?  It might be the way the light filters through the trees, or the reflection of the clouds on the water.  Just forget about everything and focus on the moment.  Otherwise you get distracted, just like an athlete that is still upset about a recent failure, or is worried about failing again.  Sure, there is a good chance that the weather may turn bad and dash your hopes of witnessing something really special.  That is the nature of randomness.  But if you are distracted and that special event happens, you will probably not see it, or see it too late.

Landscape photography can be a form of meditation.  Even if you do not get that amazing shot you had planned, the process of opening your mind to the possibilities and letting go can be its own reward.  And it can prepare you for better things to come.  Sometimes I come home without even taking the camera out of the backpack, but I am almost always happy because I had a great time with the exercise of doing photography.  And I always feel as though I've improved just a bit on each outing.

Repeating this meditative process as often as possible also helps you to improve, just like other forms of practice.  It takes years of focus and concentration to calm your mind and eliminate distraction.  And it can take years to understand how your mind works.  However, I believe that if you go with a free and open mind with the intention of enjoying the process of witnessing nature, the intangible qualities of your photos will benefit.  And people will notice and appreciate the effort.  Also, even if you show your photos to nobody, you will enjoy looking at them more.  I must admit that I take photos so I can look at them over and over again.

I suppose that what I am writing so far in this blog is not advice in a conventional sort of way.  I have not discussed camera settings, techniques, or anything like that....yet.  It is really about understanding the interaction between your mind and heart, with the outside world.  Sure, understanding nature and how to use the camera is a prerequisite.  And I'll share my techniques.  But knowing yourself is at least as important.  Even though there is a proliferation of photography books, workshops and critique websites, there never seems to be enough advice to satisfy people.  It is like that with new diet fads too.  That is because there are as many ways to have a good diet, as there are people.  And there are as many ways to do landscape photography, as there are people.  So really, I would guess that each person would have to try millions of diets or photo workshops before a compatible one would be found.

This is why I say that you must find your own way of seeing the world so you can show it to others or at least preserve it for yourself.  And how am I finding my own way of seeing the world?  I'll leave that for the next blog entry.

Examples from a single outing:

(This is the scenic view I had planned, but it was too dark and gloomy on this morning.)

(But just to the left, I saw this and gave up on my original plans.)

I never would have expected this! (Excuse the small size.  The big version looks much better!)
A 1200 pixel version on Flickr
Comments on this photo


Patrick Smith

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