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Highlands Light

When I first became serious about landscape photography, I read all kinds of books on the subject, both technical and aesthetic. I wanted to learn as much as I could about it, including the history of the early landscape photographers, and how they practiced their craft. I read many books on Ansel Adams alone, including his autobiography, and all of his well known instructional books including the trilogy “The Camera”, “The Negative”, and “The Print”. I also looked at and read many books by contemporary photographers including greats such as David Muench, Art Wolfe, Galen Rowell, and William Neil.

I wanted to know how they got started, what equipment they used, and how they were able to sustain a career as artists. I was both intimidated and inspired by what I read, and still continue to re-read many of these books today for inspiration and motivation. And I continue to see their great photography in different ways as I learn and develop as a photographer myself. Learning is a passion for me, and it seems the more I learn about landscape photography, the more I realize I have yet to learn.

However, it seems today as though there is a complete saturation of information available via the internet, books, and videos on photography and the technology that surrounds it. You can literally take a workshop from one of the worlds top photographers right from the comfort of your own living room. From a convenience standpoint, this is really amazing, and allows much greater access to information that a few years ago would have been much harder to come by.

Yet sometimes I feel there is a disconnect between the knowledge and the actual practice of photography. While I became extremely knowledgeable about landscape photography, it wasn’t until I started to use the info I had acquired that it really started to make sense to me. The only way to really internalize concepts is to practice them, preferably on a daily basis. I learned this the hard way in my earlier years as I started to push my own limits with my camera, and realized I wasn’t capturing what I wanted due to lack of real-world practice.

I made a commitment to learn my gear until it became second nature, and this included not only the camera, but any other accessories I used on a daily basis. I became intimately familiar with my lenses, their strengths and weaknesses, and which would be best for what I wanted to achieve. All of the reviews I read only got me as far as a purchase, the rest was application in the field, which sometimes wasn’t consistent with what I had read in the review.

In order to achieve my goal, which was to capture and convey my feelings about a landscape, it depended on not letting the equipment get in the way. Only then did I really start to “see” more, and the camera took on less of a role in the overall mental process of capturing an expressive photograph.

The digital camera is a fantastic tool, and I continue to learn as much as I can about the technology and what it can offer. But getting out there and experimenting with it’s features, having fun, and making it a regular practice is the only way to really become fluent in the language of photography. I have grown tired of the endless websites offering specs, analysis, comparisons, ratings, and ultimately recommendations based on this information. It is certainly valuable , but ultimately your own expression and vision is what is going to make a difference. Knowledge is great, but practical knowledge is even greater. At least that has been my own personal experience.

What do you think?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This is a great article for me. I have been experimenting with all of my equipment and it amazes me how different shots can be with just filters and timing. Thank you for all the recommendations on reading material and of course your blog.

    1. Well I am a perpetual student – I love to learn and hope to never stop, it makes life interesting regardless of your age or mindset – I have a very bad book habit…

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