As a self-taught photographer, I have learnt many things in the field. One of the most prominent realities of landscape photography is that, even when you come quite close to capturing the rare beauty of what you have seen with your naked eyes, the viewer may not feel the same sense of excitement, joy or peaceful feeling at the moment when the image was captured, neither they can hear the sound of waterfalls or crashing waves of the stormy ocean. It’s the brilliant and exceptional photograph, I will once in a while capture, where I entirely engage the viewers’ senses as well as imagination that can take them to the scene.
There is always a story behind each eye-catching image. Most of the times, it is easy to fail to notice the sheer hard work that goes into taking great shots. This is probably as a result of the assumption that the modern digital photo editing features do most of the magic, to make the shots great, before they are posted. However, nothing can be further from the truth.
Many people simply assume that if you live in a beautiful and photogenic area such as New Zealand, taking a stunning landscape photo is like an effortless stroll in the park. This might be true but only to some extent. I might be lucky to live in such a picturesque area, but I can confirm that there is always much more that goes into taking a great shot than mere happenstance. I spend numerous hours driving to many different locations, while chasing the elusive light, camping in remote areas in harsh weather conditions. However nothing beats the exhilaration and fulfillment that comes with production of unique and great photos.
Many of the times I have had to hike several hours while carrying a heavy backpack, to the peak of steep mountains, so as to get that rare perfect shot. I have spent several hours in the freezing cold night weather, waiting for the Milky Way core to align itself in the horizon, this means having minimal sleep eating crappy food. I have sometimes come back home with several bruises, muscle aches and a numb body. This is definitely a far cry from the endless bliss that many imagine landscape photography entails. But, just like any good thing, great photo shots never come easy hence, they are worth the hassle.
I have come to learn that photography can get pretty demanding, especially when you are not a seasoned athlete or a mountaineer. You have to contend with struggling to the mountain tops in the ever-changing, harsh weather conditions. It can only take one misstep on a steep cliff and you end up breaking several bones or even get fatally injured. However, the satisfaction and fulfillment that you get after capturing that one much sought-after rare shot supersedes any challenges that you might have faced.
At times I suddenly get the Aurora Australis alerts and have to rush out of my home in the middle of the night! I have to abruptly cut my sleep short in the hope that I will be lucky enough to capture the supernatural show in the sky. But believe me, getting a perfect shot of this phenomenon in sky surpasses any sweetest sleep that one can ever have.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of landscape photography is developing a unique and personal style, while photographing a subject that cannot be changed in any way. As a landscape photographer, nature is always my subject. Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to change it in any way. I cannot move the rocks, make the clouds stand still, adjust the weather to my liking, or even change any of the elements of nature. The challenge here is how can I make it look personal and unique in my photos?
The Rewards, By Far, Surpass Any Challenges Faced
However, when you are in love with what you do, nothing can stand in a way, not even physical exhaustion or discomfort. The allures of adventure are just but a small incentive compared to the burning passion of capturing great shots.
Given another chance, I would choose what I do now over and over. There is something really magical about throwing yourself out of your comfort zone. It makes you appreciate many things in life, things, that we normally take for granted such as sleeping in your own bed, eating cooked meals and enjoying hot showers. Escaping to the back country gives you an opportunity to reconnect to yourself and the rest of the world. These modern times so many of us forget to disconnect from smart phones and the Internet once in a while. There really should be a time for us to unplug from the virtual world and the best way to do it is by getting yourself in the nature and doing some sort of outdoorsy activities.
Above all, I have learnt that, connecting with nature and just spending some time alone in the wilderness gives me a rare peace of mind that makes me feel grounded. Words can never be enough to describe the feeling I get by being one with nature. It makes me feel true to myself and in my best element.