When I view the wonderful landscape images taken by my fellow NEPG photographers, I am constantly amazed. Even though the location is familiar to me, I often don’t “see” it as they have captured it. Reading through the comments on the NEPG Facebook page, I realize that is the case for many of our fans as well.
So, how do we go about “seeing the shot”? Each one of us brings our own life experiences into every image we make. How we chose to present that is what makes an image unique.
Landscape photography, according to iconic photographer Ansel Adams, was “knowing where to stand.” It’s all about finding a perspective and composition which brings the image to life. Some photographers are blessed with the ability to see the composition immediately. Others like myself, struggle to find it. I have stood right next to great photographers who were gushing about the image they were composing that I just didn’t see.
As a wildlife photographer, my eye has been trained to focus on a specific target, like a hawk or a fox, and build the image around that subject, often times using a wide open aperture to blur everything but the subject (bokeh).
With landscapes, such as grand vistas, I have difficulty seeing the composition beyond the obvious. When that happens, I use a simple tool such as a 5 x 7 photo mat, to help me “frame” the image in a pleasing manner.
But that is about to change. Tom Schoeller was recounting a discussion he had early in his career, with an accomplished landscape photographer, who, when asked about why he (Tom) wasn’t seeing all these great scenes, asked him pointedly “Are you looking?”. Tom said that question caught him off guard, and haunted him for a week before he realized what he meant. It only haunted me for a few nights before I realized that I really haven’t been looking. It’s not something that I can change over night. I still break out in a sweat when facing a vast scenic vista, but Tom has shown me the importance of searching for interesting shapes, textures, patterns, or lines that may help lead to an interesting overall composition, in other words, how to look.
Every foliage scene, every beautiful sunrise, every stunning sunset is a gift. When we truly look at a scene through the lens of our life experiences, the perspective and composition that unfolds is the one that pleases the most important person, you.
~ John Vose