I began my journey in photography nearly 20 years ago as a thought experiment that…
How often have you approached a new location with the explicit goal of making your best landscape photograph? Or maybe a few good photographs? That sounds redundant doesn’t it? After all why else would you visit a new location with your camera bag?
But have you ever considered that this might be the wrong approach to take for success? That having the specific goal of capturing your best image yet may actually hinder your results? Is it possible that there’s a better approach? As you may have guessed by now, I think there is.
I believe the single most important factor in making meaningful landscape photographs is your attitude. My dictionary defines attitude as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.” For our purposes here, I’ll propose that a healthy attitude is a specific mindset, one that’s conducive to curiosity and open mindedness.
When you start with a goal, you limit your ability to change direction, to adapt to changing conditions, both internally and externally. Seeing is all about spontaneity, and a goal for a specific image is almost never as fluid as simply letting your vision lead the way.
Variability is the norm in nature and that requires a constantly changing and improvising approach when it comes to creative capture. There’s one thing I’ve realized over over again in my work, and also in the many hours I’ve spent working with students in the field. It’s the attitude that has the largest impact on forward progress in your photography.
You might be thinking at this point that forward progress doesn’t actually translate to great or meaningful images. But in fact progress and making your best images are intrinsically connected. You can’t make the best image possible if you aren’t making forward progress. At least not if you want to avoid repeating yourself—in other words, all your images look the same.
And I’ll assume if you’re reading this blog that you want to improve, want to push yourself creatively, and gain confidence and a greater sense of personal vision.
Your attitude affects what you look at, what you notice, and ultimately what you see. And as I mentioned before, it also directly affects your ability to connect with what’s happening around you.
How can you improve your attitude? Here are a few ideas to contemplate.
- Notice the light, not the time.
- Don’t ask if there’s anything to photography, ask “what can I learn right now?”
- After each press of the shutter, focus more intently on the subject, not less. (I almost never see this on workshops, it’s quite the opposite-the more images made, the less engagement there is with the moment, and the more I see students engaged with their cameras.)
- Finally, worry less about each picture, and focus on making lots of images in a way that keeps you inspired and motivated.
”Don’t worry about unity from piece to piece–what unifies your work is the fact that you made it.” Austin Kleon
Your attitude, why you photograph, and how that translates to your approach in the field, is what will have the greatest influence on your creative output.
And if you really want to push this idea to the limit, start with an attitude of gratitude, the rest will naturally flow from there.
“Take that tool in your hand and let it discover your joy.” – Robert Genn
Questions, feedback, and comments always welcome – lets learn together.