The ‘real’ secret of successful landscape photography

New Beginnings

In this blog post I am going to share with you the most important ingredient of successful landscape photography. I can tell you now that it isn’t what camera you own, what lens or which software you use to process your images. Nor is it particularly about understanding the ‘exposure triangle’ of shutter speed, aperture and ISO, though in the long term the technical aspects should become second nature. Before I go on, allow me to add a little context.

Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I have lots to say if asked about photography and photographers. Many would say I am opinionated and they would of course be right, although I prefer the word passionate. Yes, I am passionate, extremely so, but not particularly about photography. I find photography itself a rather boring subject and I shake my head in despair sometimes when I look at photographic forums or groups on facebook.

If you have a look you’ll find the gear freaks and maybe see a picture of a beer bottle, festooned with condensation and captioned “Bokeh test with my f/1.8 lens”. You’ll also come across the collectors (the photographic equivalent of train spotters) with their endless photos of Buachaille Etive Mor, the view of Snowdon from Llynau Mymbyr or that jetty on Derwent Water, replete with 10 stop filtering. Worst of all are the ‘Turd Polishers’, with their psychedelic, tone-mapped monstrosities which elicit gasps from friends and worse still, fellow ‘togs’ who seem to have an endless supply of banal comments, my personal favourite being “Amazing capture”!
Like many folk who share the same interest or hobby, photographers tend to flock together and enjoy sharing their enthusiasm. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact it’s rather nice, but often, when in the company of other ‘togs’, I soon glaze over and realise that I’m no more a part of their world than I am a member of the Society of Tea-Totalitarians!
Take the other day for instance; I was on duty at the ‘Soul of Snowdonia’ Gallery and in walks two lads. After a few minutes we get talking and the first question one of them asks me is “What set up do you use”? Of course I told him and we chatted until they left. “What set up do you use”? Do you think that is in any way a relevant question? I certainly don’t, or to put it another way; if you were an artist and was able to travel back in time to meet Salvador Dali would you ask him “What brushes do you use”? Of course you wouldn’t…
Some of you may be thinking “Each to his own” or “As long as they enjoy it…” etc. To that I would say a hearty “Amen brother” (or sister should I be getting too gender specific)! But the point of this post is to give you, in my humble opinion, the secret of great landscape photography. I’m not talking about enjoying a nice hobby, I’m talking about creating landscape photographs which not only stand out from the crowd but stand the test of time. If you’d rather not know then look away now. First, ask yourself this question…why am I taking landscape photographs? If your answer is anything to do with photography then you’re barking up the wrong tree.
In Britain it’s unfashionable to regard landscape photography as art, but I am firmly of the opinion that it is most definitely an art form. Any art, and all good art in particular is (or should be) an expression of emotion, be it painting, sculpture, music or whatever. Successful art is that which inspires an emotional response in the viewer or listener. How can an artist expect their work to achieve this if, in the first instance, it is not emotion that drives them to create?
If you were to talk to any of the top landscape photographers (and I am not one of them I hasten to add), you will find one thing that they all have in common, which is an abiding love for the landscape itself and a very real need to communicate that love. You won’t hear them banging on about lenses or photoshop; what you will hear is people talking passionately about how their subject matter makes them feel. Love for your subject can’t be learned but is essential if you are to make great photographs. It is the foundation, the prime motivation and the thing that must be felt before you even think about picking up a camera. Without love, you are taking part in a technical exercise and that is not art…good landscape photography however, is.

On Mynydd Drws y Coed


~ by nicklivesey on February 14, 2014.

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