STARTING OUT IN LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

STARTING OUT IN LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

Featured Image: Nullarbor, 2011

Everyone has a unique pathway in life. Our experiences, interests and surrounds continually shape how we see and interact with the world, and ultimately determine where we place our focus and spend our energy. With this in mind it is interesting to consider how these factors guide those of us who choose to get into landscape photography. If you think that I am confusing the word ‘interesting’ with ‘boring’, hear me out!

I consider it to be interesting because it has become increasingly apparent to me that the process of getting started usually begins well before the notion of ‘landscape photography’ has even crossed our minds. So in good news, you have likely already started out in landscape photography. Well done!

Rain in the Valley, 2010

Blindsided

In my case, the idea that my hobby might become an entire way of life seemingly came out of the blue. I was so caught up in what I thought of as a ‘standard’ career that I actively discounted the idea of seriously pursuing a creative or artistic pathway. Thankfully, a series of twists and turns in life nudged me to a point where I decided to complete the leap and go full time. And now I have this site! Interestingly, as I reflected on my new career it didn’t take me long to realise that I’d actually been building towards it for years. Much of my life in fact. I imagine that you are about to see some similarities with your own path. 

Note: The images in this post are some of my early attempts at landscape photography from 2009 - 2011.

Wild Beyond, 2010

Living in the landscape

I moved around quite a bit as a kid. This included spending my early years in a few towns in the north west of WA before a year travelling and living in New Zealand. The changes were mind-blowing as a kid. Going from arid / subtropical environments to the Alps of New Zealand was an experience I’ll never forget. After that my family moved to the south west town of Dunsborough, WA (where a certain Christian Fletcher would set up shop only a year or two later). The change in scenery really grabbed my attention, but living and playing in the landscape took my experience further. 

During these years my family were in a fairly modest financial position. We didn’t have computer games (or computers!), cinema rooms, or lot’s of new toys to keep us distracted. Nearly all of our entertainment came from using our imagination and playing outside in the bush. From before I can remember my life was filled with outdoor activities such as camping, hiking and swimming. I was constantly playing games and exploring outside in the elements. As such the landscape was at the forefront of how I interpreted and understood the world, and it made a strong impression on me. 

Fall, 2010

Would you like some photography with your landscape?

With the huge proliferation of affordable cameras there is a good chance that you’ve had some experience with photography. In my case i’ve been taking and making pictures for much of my life as a way of expressing myself. This included early stints with SLR and disposable film cameras, Grandad's video camera, and art and photography classes in high school (where we even made pin hole cameras and developed the images in the dark room). I probably produced a terrible back-catalogue of images but that’s okay because I was learning and having fun.

This early experimentation was followed by making short films, and getting into street and travel photography in my teens. Looking back it is clear that I enjoyed being creative with a camera and capturing (and warping) the world around me. With a strong appreciation for the landscape, and ample opportunity to get out amongst it, it was natural and perhaps inevitable that I would start to use a camera to document and share my experiences. 

Morning in Heviz, 2009

From film to digital and back again (not!)

I consider myself lucky that I came to photography when I did. Let’s face it, film, while magical, is expensive and troublesome. It means that many people never get to give photography a proper chance. Price and technical complexity often limit the chance to undertake sufficient practice and experimentation. Sure, it is likely that the constraints of shooting film encourage you take more care with your compositions, but it’s even more likely that they encourage you to pack your camera away for good. Simply put, I enjoyed dabbling in film but it was certainly a barrier.

It was digital photography that allowed my to explore and grow in a way that ultimately got me hooked. Digital has some key advantages, particularly when you are getting started in landscape photography, including improved affordability, instant feedback, and virtually unlimited shots allowing for trial and error. It was fun to shoot digital which made it easy for me to keep coming back for more.

Tokyo Picnic, 2009

Gear wise, I did have earlier cameras but my first decent camera was an 8 megapixel 2007 Canon PowerShot SX100 IS. At the time I got it mostly for street and skateboarding photography, but down the track it saw some heavy use on a world trip I was doing as part of a university exchange program to Canada. If you are interested you can read about my current equipment here.

Powershot, 2009

Starting to look

Fast forward to my world trip! At first my goal was to simply document my travels, but gradually it evolved into something more as I was repeatedly exposed to beautiful and intriguing new environments. I really wanted to capture the majesty of the places I was seeing, and so started paying more attention to light and composition. This marked somewhat of a turning point for my photography where I started to join some dots in my head and become more intentional about what was trying to do.

Of course it is natural to go for the iconic scenes when you are travelling, they are beautiful and very alluring. Looking back I can see that I had the right idea at least some of the time! However it was nice to see that I had some of my own ideas as well. Several of my early images featured abstract compositions or unique subjects.  

Barn on the Prairie, 2010

Just when I was getting some momentum my girlfriend took that camera to Europe (I had to come home early for university), and so I finished the journey with a disposable film camera. After some early annoyance I started to really enjoy shooting film again. It made me double down on the basics of composition and forced me to repeatedly ask the question, is this shot worth taking?

To this day it was the last roll I have had developed. Cost was the culprit, something like $35 over a decade ago to develop a small roll. The camera would have cost less than half of that. Alas. 

London Still, 2009

Summing up 

It was an interesting process for me to trace my journey in reverse, and something I recommend you all do. For me, getting started in landscape photography was an attempt at both understanding the world around me and trying to capture the beauty and mystery of the new and dramatic places I was living in. Looking to the past helped me to better understand the motivations behind my creative drive today. 

What I learned is that all of this doesn’t just come out of the blue. For most people it has always been there, unrecognised and untapped. A creative or artistic impulse born out of and shaped by individual experiences, interests and surrounds. 

Now it’s your turn. 

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