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Landscape and nature photographers often talk about being in wonder and awe of nature, and of being humbled by the beauty, power, and majestic qualities of the natural world.

The term “humility” comes from the Latin word “humilitas”, a noun related to the adjective “humilis”, which may be translated as “humble”, but also as “grounded”, “from the earth”, or “low”, since it derives in turns from humus (earth).

While we often think of humility as something that we do, humility or being humble can be thought of as something that we are. But what does that really mean?

Here are a few definitions I’ve learned from others that have helped me understand what it means to be humble, and how that relates to landscape and nature photography, whether shooting, teaching, sharing, learning, or any other aspect of life in general.

  • Recognizing our limitations
  • The willingness to learn
  • Realizing how much there is to do, vs how much we’ve done.
  • Letting go of conceit (or the constant habit of comparing ourselves to others)
  • Learning to ask for help
  • The willingness to be corrected
  • The willingness to share our faults and our strengths.
  • The willingness to appreciate others, or find something to appreciate in others.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller

Are any of these familiar to you? Do you have any other suggestions for what being humble is? Does it matter when it comes to landscape photography? Please share your feedback…it helps us all.

RR Jr

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I think it matters quite a bit in landscape photography. The risks of a loss of humility are many: complacency, inhibition of learning and discovery, and a disconnection from your subject and audience.

    What is difficult to reconcile is the intersection between humility and confidence.

    1. Michael – thanks for the feedback and thoughts. Yes there may appear to be a conflict between confidence and humility, yet there are many examples of those who possess both. Ansel is the first example that comes to mind – where his confidence was grounded in a reverence for nature, art, and the desire to continue to learn his craft. Conceit was something he would never be accused of, yet it was his confidence in both his vision and commitment to stay true to his instincts that made him a great teacher and artist.

      RR

  2. A highly relevant and well-presented post, Robert, especially for landscape photographers. I just wish many of those who need to read this most would. I’m glad I saw it. It is full of good reminders for me because I am continuously rebalancing between confidence and humility, as Mike alludes to. In my opinion, such old fashioned practices as answering all correspondence unless it is spam, returning calls when someone is wondering something even if you don’t have the solution and other general acts of courtesy and etiquette also are part of humility, or at least they are signs of a lack of arrogance, which runs rampant in our society today.

    1. Many thanks for the feedback David, and you are right about how it’s so difficult to find humility in our culture today, even amongst photographers. It’s great when technology allows us to find and associate with others that have not only common interests. but values priorities as well. I’m thankful for your friendship and support!

      RR

  3. Humility to me is a quest not a state: sharing the beauty I see and hoping to elevate the spirit of others, not my own. My images become secondary to that fulfillment..

    “I care to live only to entice people to look at nature’s loveliness. My own special self is nothing. I want to be like a flake of glass through which light passes.” – John Muir

    1. Hi Jerry – thanks for the feedback and perspective, which is different from my understanding of it, but valid just as well. And I love that quote, one of my favorites for sure – thanks for sharing it with us here.

      RR

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