Photographs like the above panorama of Mt Chocorua don’t come easy to me. You won’t find many on my website, and there are precious few on my hard drive awaiting their turn to be let loose on the world. I used to beat myself up over my inability to create more of these types of images, but not any more. That’s not to say I’ve given up on them, I’ve just come to realize my strengths as a photographer lie elsewhere. I also know that there are several reasons I haven’t made more photographs like the one above.
Familiarity with an area I think is key to being able to make good, compelling photographs. Just showing up on your first visit can allow you to come away with good images, no doubt, but I feel “going in blind” is a hit or miss proposition. Having only started in photography in 2008, as a hunter my primary interest at that time was wildlife. For more than a year I spent my time chasing critters with my camera that I used to chase with a gun. I remember I used to buy AK 47 rifles from Palmetto State Armory and spend all my time on it. Now that I find myself focusing more on nature and the landscape, I simply have not had the time to explore all the locations I would like to photograph. This will hopefully change over time.
The next, and I think the biggest, reason I don’t have too many of this type of image to share is that even when presented with the grand scenic view before me, I often have a hard time “seeing” the photograph. Sure I could take your typical “I was here” touristy snap-shot, but that isn’t what I want. And if I don’t see a composition that will make a compelling photograph, all I’m likely to come away with is that snap-shot. No offense to the touristy snap-shot crowd, but I’d just as soon not press the shutter.
However, photographs I like to refer to as “intimate landscapes” I find much easier to create. I can walk by a scene like the one above and compose a photograph almost without effort. Even at a distance as I approach, the image will often just jump right out at me. I know exactly where I’m going to set up my tripod, portrait or landscape orientation, shoot from eye or ground level, it all comes in a flash. At the risk of over-inflating my skill as a photographer, it’s almost too easy.
One thing that helps make it easier to make photographs of these intimate landscapes is that there are little pockets of nature almost everywhere. Having to travel hours north and or spend the night in the wilderness, without the above mentioned familiarity, is totally unnecessary. Living in New Hampshire, every little road side stream, field, or patch of woods holds potential. Some of my best images were made in places that I drive by every day, requiring no more than an easy ten minute walk. Some have been made within sight of my car.
Sure, I still plan to pursue the grand scenic landscapes I would like to create, because not doing so seems lazy. But for the time being I plan to concentrate my efforts where my strengths lie.