Don’t Fall In Love with the Light
Surprised? Not something a landscape photographer would say, right? Especially if that landscape photographer happens to run a workshop called Chasing Light. Yet, I believe that in order to grow, photographers must develop the ability to adapt to nature’s variability. To not always wait for the usual saturated colors of golden hour. Often, there is a tendency to always seek the spectacular and sublime. We all know how those photos look: golden sunshine, fiery orange clouds, deep azure skies, or perhaps spectacles like lightning, the aurora, the milky way or streaking clouds. Photo sharing sites are full of those and photographers who leverage those kinds of images are rock stars.
This isn’t, however, the only way to roll in landscape photography. The craft is so wide and open that it cannot be pigeonholed into one kind of look, into a single, easily defined kind of photograph. Landscape photography cannot be contained in a hashtag. The more I capture the world, the more I realize that there is more than one kind of landscape image. The road to novel, distinct and imaginative (original) ways of interpreting geophyscial scenes is expressway wide.
I think one of my biggest creative flaws is my lack of inspiration whenever I happen to shoot in dour, gray weather. I could never budge myself to create a picture if the specific things I am looking for are not there. Thinks like beautiful sunshine, an interesting, rugged terrain or turbulent waves. I have a hard time summoning my resourcefulness and creativity when I need it the most.
It was only after watching Joe Cornish’s “With Landscape in Mind” and hearing the famous British landscaper say this quote that I paused and tried reassessing my approach to the craft:
“When I started doing landscape photography seriously, I found rapidly there was a certain kind of lighting that would produce a good result, almost 9 times out of 10, and that was stormy light. Dark clouds and sunlight together, low sunlight — preferably either dawn with a storm coming in or dusk with retreating, heavy weather. They provide a dark sky and a bright landscape. And in those conditions, you get drama.”
“There is a danger, and it’s happened to me, that you get into the mode of thinking that that’s the only type of light to make landscape photographs in. That is inherently very limiting and in the end, you would just start producing a pastiche, a kind of copy of yourself which would not be healthy at all. So now, I am happy to go out in almost all conditions, even if its raining or very windy, and just see what I can see.”
So I try not to fall in love with the light, with a certain type light. I try not to subscribe to a certain look in my landscape photographs, fearing I might never venture outside the fence and my images starting to all look the same. I think striving to come up with a “trademark” look — and I’m talking here about landscapes — severely limits the creative and interpretative atmosphere of the genre. Pursuing a defined, limited vision is like driving down a narrow alley — there is no room to maneuver. The pictures look forced and over-processed, especially if one is shooting through unfamiliar or unfavorable conditions. In such instances, we sometimes try to compensate with filters, with inappropriate photoshopping — just to achieve the “trademark” look — and end up with an image that is beneath mediocre. It is too much of a compromise when we try to constrain our photos to look as if the conditions are ideal when in reality the weather and light are far from what we had hoped. Photographers should listen to the landscape and work with the situation. Find the image that speaks of the landscape’s story, and not compel the landscape to tell the story one desires.
As I continue doing photography, I try to teach myself to look at the landscape broadly and not confine myself to exclusively shooting in territory, weather or light that I am familiar with. No trademark looks. No love affairs with the spectacular. No clingy relationships with dramatic light. Just be creative and resourceful and always pushing through with the photography. I look forward to seeing more things.
If you want to learn more about landscape and scenic travel photography — nuts and bolts, vision and style, equipment and post-processing, etc. — I’m happy to announce that the next Chasing Light Workshop will be on September 5 & 6, 2015 in Mariveles, Bataan. Please email us at email@example.com or send me a message through FB if you need more details or want to reserve a slot.
Thanks for the time!