Professional or amateur, beginner or expert, those who take the time to photograph landscapes all share one thing – passion for the craft. It takes a great deal of time, patience, and skill to be a landscape photographer. The single most important advice I can give to every single photographer – shoot what you love. There are too many schools of thought on what you “should” be photographing. You hear things like “Stay away from icons” or “Only shoot original subjects”.
Let’s take a look at the problems with these supposed words of wisdom. First up, the icons. There’s a reason they are called icons; they are stunning scenes of nature. I can’t imagine NOT being able to photograph them! There are photographers out there who study thousands of images (myself included) and those who occasionally scan an online photo site. Before I photograph The Watchman in Zion National Park, I’ve studied hundreds of images beforehand. Viewing those images is a great inspiration to photograph a beautiful scene. As an added bonus, I like to challenge myself. Can I do something unique with the scene? Or is it best to approach the scene as others have, but try to do it better than it’s been done before? For those who haven’t seen images of The Watchman but are led there on a tour or advised to go there, why should the fact that it’s been photographed before count against them? It really is simple for me: landscape photography is about the relationship between the photographer and nature. Notice that photographer is singular. It’s not about what others have done. It’s about what YOU want to experience and photograph.
As for shooting original subjects, is it rewarding to seek out unique compositions in landscape photography? You bet! I will discuss the catalysts for original work in the landscape photography world in a later blog post. But to insist it’s the proper way to approach landscape photography is a limited view and does not apply to this growing field. There’s only one rule in my book: when it comes to what you shoot, there are no rules!