Every now and then, I receive a request for advice on landscape photography, along the lines of “How can I improve my results?” or “Could you recommend a workflow?” – or, in one memorable instance: “How can I become a Landscape Photographer?”
Naturally I’m flattered that somebody should think I’m qualified to give this sort of advice, but it puts me in a bit of a quandary as to how I should respond.
I suppose I could point them towards the million-and-a-quarter (at least) websites which deal with the compositional “rules” of landscape photography – you know, middle thirds and all that bollocks (and that word gives you a revealing insight into my general attitude to such matters) – but that would be about as much use as pointing someone towards “Rugby Union: Laws of the Game” (published by the International Rugby Board and available in all good booksellers) in response to the question: “How can I improve my rugby?” .. pre-supposing, of course, that any rugby player worth his salt might have the slightest interest in (or, indeed, knowledge of) anything rule-wise more complicated than (1) don’t pass the ball forward, (2) don’t punch / kick / bite / stamp on or otherwise interfere with anyone in sight of the referee and (3) never, never, never argue with said official.
It might be slightly more useful to point them towards websites dealing with “useful tips and wrinkles” but even that has its limitations: the prospective landscaper will have a head so full of the various exhortations on offer – don’t stand here, stand there, look for framing, check the sky, look for a focal point, make sure your horizon is level, don’t forget to take your lens cap off etc. etc. – when he pops out to get some snaps that he’ll probably be too frightened to actually take his camera out of the bag!
As for my “workflow”, a quick perusal of THIS and THIS, or a quick conversation with MOULDY or BABS, will reveal that “professional”, “organised”, “goal-oriented” and “competent” are descriptors of my workflow which are honoured more in the breach than in the observance; in fact, it consists more of tripping over things, dropping things, forgetting where I’ve put things, wiping my specs, swearing, smoking my pipe etc. than it does of the process of actually taking photographs!
So – to cut a long story short before you lose the will to live reading all this introductory drivel – what is the most useful advice I can give?
It is this: look at the websites of “established” landscape photographers and see what they’re producing – and then try and emulate what they’ve done.
Waddya mean: “but that’s cheating; you should really learn the rules of landscape photography, and, while you’re at it, read up a bit on optics so you know why aperture stops progress in multiples of 1.414 with appropriate rounding”?. Yeah, right ….. and? Did you learn to walk by reading the Theory of Humanoid Perambulation? No – you watched your Dad walking around and thought “I’ll give that a go – must be better than crawling on my hands and knees – and, what’s more, I’ll then be able to reach that tin of sweeties the bugger keeps out of my reach on the mantelpiece!”. I rest my case, M’Lud.
Anyway, coming back to the “emulation of experts” question before I digress too much: if you look at their “galleries” pages (you know, with a thumbnail display a bit like the “Collections” we can compile on RB), a particular thumbnail image will catch your eye and will shout “LOOK AT ME!”. Have a look at the full-size display of that image (preferably one that you are in a reasonable position to emulate – so don’t go looking at Himalayan mountain scenes if you live in Holland and can’t afford an air ticket to Kathmandu!) and see if you can determine what it is that makes it so eye-catching to you: is it the scene itself? is it the composition? is it the point of view? is it the lighting? is it the sky? is it the colour content or tonality? is it the atmosphere? is it the processing style? If you can rationalise the answers to those questions in your mind, you’re well on the way to knowing what – in terms of image content, style and composition – “works”. Now all you have to do is to go out with your camera and try to produce something similar. Sounds easy I know, but it’ll probably take a while, but the more honest and critical you are when appraising your own efforts with a view to correcting your mistakes, the quicker you’ll reach your goal!
So who are these experts and where do you find them? One way is to have a look in some of the “Landscape Photography” groups here in RB and have a look at some of the work on offer. If you don’t know which groups they are, have a quick peek at my profile page – I think I probably belong to most of them. An alternative way is to look at the “Links” page on my website HERE where I’ve put together a list (with links to their websites) of guys and gals who have inspired me over the years. You’ll probably recognise some of them as RedBubblers, but some of them will be new to you. ALL of them, however, are class acts and well worth a visit!