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The Importance Of Familiarity In Landscape Photography
Boulder Light, Arches National Park

Boulder Light, Arches National Park

It’s been pretty hectic schedule wise since I returned from southern Utah last week, so I really haven’t had much time to finish several articles I have in rough draft on camera lenses and new Lightroom plug-ins. Hopefully I’ll get them done soon as well as a new video podcast featuring a tour of my work/print studio. Stay tuned!

When visiting such iconic places like the national parks in the southwest, it is so easy to get seduced by the scenery and make images from common and popular viewpoints. That’s fun and always worth doing, but ultimately I want to explore off the beaten path and try to find something that inspires me away from the main attractions. Familiarity is so important for this to happen, so I always spend time just scouting and really just “hanging out” in the environment. Such was the case with this image, when I spent an entire sunset here thinking about how the light would be different the next morning. I looked at patterns, shapes, angles, and tried different focal lengths to see which perspectives I liked best.

When I returned the next morning at 5am, I had a much better understanding of what I wanted to achieve, and spent the time just studying the light and how it changed both the composition and my emotions. Yes, when that light rises above the horizon and illuminates the scene in front of me, it is a feeling I find difficult to describe but so familiar and intimate, like an old friend I never tire of seeing.

The transition from shadow to light and what that means to me is what I tried to convey here, and the composition was based  on the s-curve that brings you to the light from bottom left to top right. The angle, direction, and influence of the light was something I also tried to work with, especially the shadows and where the fall in relation the other bright areas. It works much better in the large print I’ve made of this image, and as I’ve said many times before, that’s the final product of my efforts where I really decide if the image works or not.

Want to maximize your photography in a new location? Scout, scout, and scout. Learn the geography and study the environment. And most of all find what makes you want to get up at 4am everyday for a week – I’m sure that is NOT the new camera or lens in your bag. It has to be something that makes you feel inside.

 

 

 

RR Jr

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This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. I couldn’t agree more! I do this not because I like shooting with my equipment, or latest toy, but because of what the time, place, and setting invokes in me. It’s truly a stirring occasion at the deepest level.

  2. Your photograph here is at once quintessential Southwest and different from other photographs. I believe this is part of what makes a good photograph, the creation of a NEW icon rather than a new angle on old ones. Your emphasis on scouting and getting to know the land is of course much in line with what my father taught for nearly 60 years. He used to say that knowing a place produced a completely different kind of image than the ones made by those merely passing through.

    1. If there is one tenant to all of my teaching it is that successful photographs come from scouting, familiarity, and taking the time to think about your feelings, and your reactions to what is present in nature, no matter where you are. From a gut reaction, I have the same feelings towards beautiful light whether in my backyard, or on an exotic location – this is when you know passion is involved…thanks as always David for your wisdom and generosity.

      RR

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