Light is one very important inspiring element of landscape photography. But a question I often ask myself when out in nature is: am I merely responding to light or is there something else driving me and my eye? Landscape photography is not as simple as it seems at first glance, and I think it is one of the more difficult types of photography to convey feelings with. Without the human element to convey emotions—buildings to convey status, or even personal items to convey memories—there are very few subjects to work with. Red clouds are very popular, and so are sunsets and sunrises, but these are so overused that I often consider them abused. Besides those fiery skies, what is there in the landscape to command the viewer’s attention and provoke thought, interest, or emotion?
Our greatest question is, “What is the meaning of life?”, but within the scope of landscape and nature photography the question is: “What is the meaning in the imagery I create?” The obvious answers are, “To show the power of nature, or how majestic nature is”. But, what I’m really asking is this: what is the personal meaning to you for creating a particular image?
I have found that when I answer this question, I am more focused on crafting images rather than taking them. Many of you have heard me mention what I call the creative trinity: subject—light—composition. I mention them in order of importance. I do believe this, especially when considering answering the question above.
But there is something I often ask myself even before I consider the creative trinity: is there something about the vibe of the place that triggers am emotion, memory, or inspiration?
Recently, while spending several nights at Mt. Assiniboine Lodge way up in the Canadian Rockies, I was walking back from a lake in the rain. A hood covered my head, and my focus was on the trail in front of me, trying to keep from stepping in the deep mud. My thoughts began drifting from the task at hand. The clouds were omnipresent and the darkness was descending on my plans to get back without a headlamp. I occasionally glimpsed up from below the dripping rim of the hood to double-check that there were no Grizzly bears, and as I did so, I would notice the mountain getting darker and darker. After doing this several times, I realized there was a slight glow in the snow. Not knowing exactly what this was, I had to stop on the trail and observe more carefully. I turned around, wiped the rain from the hood, and stared at the snowy section of Mt Assiniboine in the darkening light. What I noticed was a slight, very slight, glow coming from the glacier region. Though I had no idea what was creating this light, it simply reminded me of what I was feeling at that moment. I was relying on the vision of a light in my cabin to keep me hiking that night and come to think of it, that is what usually keeps me going in situations like this. At that moment that it dawned on me that the call of the mountain was stronger than the cabin and that the glow within the glacier I was witnessing was the perfect light to portray my feelings. The rain let up for just long enough to get my meaningful image.
Life is short, create pictures!