We had a great turnout this Saturday at my free talk on photography titled “The Making of a Landscape Photograph”, and I am most grateful for those who attended. The response was overwhelming for those who wanted to attend, and I apologize to those who were not able to register in time. A large part of the reason I limit the size is because I prefer more intimate settings where there’s more discussion, more opportunities for questions, and just a sense of conversation versus lecturing – kind of the atmosphere on workshops. I am looking into future venues, so stay tuned.
For those that didn’t make it, here are my opening remarks from the talk, together with a few images. Tomorrow I’ll share some resources and books I had on hand that I’ve relied on for inspiration and education.
What Makes Landscape Photography Different?
In my opinion, landscape photography is one of the hardest disciplines of photography, and the reason is simple. It pushes the limits of creativity, originality, and perseverance. And it demands the most from the photographer personally. You can’t hide behind the camera, or a pretty picture, or a trendy subject. To quote Ansel Adams,
“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”
Yet the subject is a vehicle for the photographers story, his imagination, his vision. And the best landscape photography demands interaction from the viewer. It asks questions, and often those questions change over time.
There’s an investment that is made when an artist fully commits to his work, and that’s a very scary thing. I’ve been dealing with fear, insecurity, and second guessing all my life. It’s the fear of failure, rejection, and criticism. I’m so used to it that it’s like a friend now, who appears predictably, always on time, and always ready to claim victory.
But trust is the only way to beat fear, even if the war never ends. Over time you learn that sharing your opinion, your particular way of seeing, and finding that important emotional connection to the subject is all that really matters. It’s the only thing that really feels genuine and worthwhile. Trusting in your conviction, and your desire to do something for its intrinsic value, means the praise of others becomes less important, less likely to influence your approach. Less likely to affect what you tale pictures of.
When executed properly, a photograph is a window into the photographers mind and heart.
If the investment hasn’t been made, it’s about a location, a place, a vista. A postcard.
Now what is this investment? It’s a journey of time, emotion, connection, opinion, and deep retrospection about why that investment matters. What makes it worthwhile. What makes it meaningful.
And meaning is what is severely lacking in much of todays photography, and especially landscape photography.
Any discussion about making images for me starts way before we even talk about cameras, technique, prints, or even vision for that matter. It starts with a questioning of motives, a sense of my place in the grand scheme of things, and what nature means to me.
In nature I find those things that make me a better person. A more generous, loving, kind, person. And if that’s the effect it has on me, than I trust it can have the same effect on others. To me that’s one of the greatest gifts I can give.
Perhaps generosity is at the heart of why I do what I do.
The point is that I’ve thought deeply about these questions for decades. And I believe they’re essential to anyone who wants to find meaning in their images. This doesn’t need to be a deep metaphysical exercise, though that would certainly enhance the questions and the answers.
But rather a simple understanding of what really matters to you.
From Meaning to Vision
Sharing what matters to you starts with vision. There are many definitions of vision, but for me it’s when what you see becomes something you relate to, something you need to share, a way of seeing that is more than just what’s in front of your eyes.
Vision is what happens when what you see causes something to change in your mind, or better in your heart. When you recognize that change, when you can feel it, then you start to become familiar with vision, what it is, and what it isn’t.
Vision is not seeing a beautiful sunset and feeling warm and fuzzy. That’s just human nature, and we have billions of photographs of sunsets to remind us of that.
Vision is the particular way you see something different in the mundane, the ordinary, the commonplace.
“Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.” – Jamie Paolinetti
As always, thanks for reading, and please share your questions or feedback below, your thoughts are always valued.