More than often when we are creating images we are performing a delicate balancing act between several variables. The lighting, weather, and tide times etc, all need to be considered when a location is researched, and a shoot is planned.
As you can imagine, with so many things to think about, and so many of them outside of our control, there is a tendency among landscape photographers, to grow frustrated with a location if things aren’t at first working as we had hoped. In the past I have struggled with this frustration more than some because I’m a naturally anxious person. Anxiety has struck with a sense of potential failure, making me want to give up if the conditions aren’t delivering what at first I was hoping for. All too often I have almost panicked at the thought of possibly missing out, believing another location is more suitable when I have not been able to see the potential already in front of me. Racing across the landscape from location to location in the hope of finding better, only to achieve absolutely nothing. Believe me when I say: “The grass is not always greener”
Moving on too early and never giving a location the attention it deserves has more than once been my downfall. There is a lot to be said for taking your time, being patient, and accepting the conditions whatever they may be, for the potential that they might hold. As landscape photographers, we must be adaptable and flexible in the face of unpredictable or unknowable conditions that are outside of our control. Embracing that chaos is part of the journey in becoming better artists; this is what improves our improvisation and compositional work on the fly. If we are to close our minds and remain blinkered about what is before us, then effectively we are walking past some potentially great images. We walk blinded by our desire to create something specific, stagnated by pre-visualisation, rather than embracing and using what is before us.
Over time I have learned to stay put and just enjoy what’s in front of me. Take your eye away from the viewfinder, look around, immerse yourself in your surroundings, and really try to appreciate the landscape; once you begin to see beyond a rigid artistic plan you can be free to experiment with what’s there in front of you, rather than what you wish was there. There’s nothing wrong with setting out with a plan in mind and a few images that you’d love to walk away with, but if it’s not happening then don’t give up! Remove the blinkers, take a break, and look once again with fresh eyes at the environment around you. Learn to free yourself from the plan when it’s not working, in favour of creating something fresh and new.
Above all else, we need to be flexible and adaptable, always paying attention to our surroundings. Any landscape under any conditions has the potential for a new image, and walking away too early means you’ll be missing out on that chance. Patience is rewarded just as often as improvisation and experimentation, and should be a vital part of our artistic toolbox.