Landscape photography is, first and foremost I believe, about recognising and conveying the relationship we all share with the Earth. As a landscape photographer, nothing is more important than the locations I choose to visit. While this may seem like it goes without saying, and it does, there’s a lot more to it than just finding somewhere that looks good. Like most creative pursuits the quality of the product is dependent on the artist’s relationship with the subject, so understanding our bonds with the landscapes we choose is vital to finding our individual voice, and giving those places the respect they deserve.
I’m always searching for new locations to shoot, but I am sceptical of places like Iceland, Nambia or Lofoton in Norway where everybody goes. I invest more time looking at further off and less photographed locations such as the Altiplano of Bolivia and Argentina, Japan or North Eastern Brazil. These are the landscapes I’m interested, hopefully in time with more knowledge i may run tours to in the next few years.
The locations I mentioned are places that have gotten under my skin and created an itch to return. I believe that we often need at least two visits to any potential area: the first is to see its potential and try and understand what may be possible - to know what will work and what won’t. The second is where I’ll actually try and photograph and tap into the essence of the place, already equipped with a more refined viewpoint because of the initial scouting.
Building relationships is key to everything we do in life. In the case of friendships and family, we have to invest the time to let the relationship blossom and deepen. The same is true of landscapes. As we spend more time in certain places, the relationship deepens. We begin to understand them in ways that the casual observer could not. It’s similar to meeting people for the first time; although we might get a rush of new impressions and observations, the relationship is still too young to really know them.
Being around healthy attitudes and positive people is an ingredient for a happy life with room for you to grow. Similarly, choosing your landscapes wisely by going for those that resonate with you is vital if you are to develop your own internal creativity.
You need to have intimacy with a landscape to be able to get the best from it. It won’t give its soul to you on your first visit, and part of the fun is in the journey of discovery. Like a strong, healthy relationship, intimacy comes from trust and respect, and is the reward for large amounts of time spent getting to know each other. It’s also vital to be able to recognise chemistry. That initial spark you might feel upon seeing a new place for the first time that tells you there is potential there for some great shots. Embrace it and use it to your advantage. Over the last few years I’ve visited lots of new landscapes, and only with a few have I felt that desire to return. Listen to your intuition, even if you don’t understand why, and go back to those places that intrigue and entice you.
You might be remarkably lucky the first time you go somewhere and manage to grab a stellar shot, but don't believe that is the only image you can get from a place. There are so many factors and variables behind a great image, and the constantly changing weather and lighting can transform a location entirely. That’s the amazing thing about landscape photography; it rewards the investment of time. You get the joy in the final print, the satisfaction in your soul when you work a location, stand back and absorb its personality, and you have the experience of the location which will provide you with many shooting opportunities in the future. The more you connect with your subject, the better you’ll be able to articulate what it means to you, whether in a photograph, painting or a poem.
It is only with my investment in time and observation of the landscape that I can truly learn to be a better photographer. To obtain the images I so badly want, I need to put the effort in, and that means spending time and building the relationship with the places I choose. Indeed, any landscape that I fall in love with will become a regular part of my year’s photography, because it always has the capacity to teach me so much more.
All this leads to the one thing I crave; to be out in the wild as far away from the human-made world as I can get. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. Waking up to a silent morning in a pristine place, without traffic and crowds is a profound feeling and, once you know it, is impossible to live without. If you are fortunate enough to find such a place that makes you feel the same way, then I believe you’ll have the perfect location to grow your art and yourself.