When starting out shooting landscapes it is easy to get lost in the noise of it all. You can make a lot of progress in the technical side of photography, but the images you shoot start to lose a sense of originality, inspiration, and feeling like they are your own. I know this feeling all too well because I felt discouraged looking at my photography after all the work thinking to myself "who cares?". Finding oneself in landscape photography and the art you create is a crucial step in learning how to use technical abilities and skill to make your art more rewarding.
Being comfortable with whatever it is you do is the enemy. Living a life without taking risks is predictable, it is just an existence that never goes outside of what is already known. Obviously this trend continues here because it should not be easy to find who you are as a landscape photographer. Your path to meaning in the art you create is not written in stone and only you can go on that journey.
Becoming uncomfortable enough to find your own creative voice is going to take time, and the adventure never fully stops until you stop growing as a person (which probably shouldn’t happen) or you die. It can only be done by being on the edge and has to be where you live your life as a photographer constantly.
There are a variety of ways to push yourself. You can choose one of any or multiple ones at the same time! Going to new locations can be a good way of changing up things and forcing yourself to refocus. Looking for other things to shoot is also a good way of bettering your creative mind. A good example I have of this is I have been to Silver Falls State Park many times. I recently found a new love for the park by shooting scenes other than waterfalls. It pushed me to find new compositions and see the location in a new way while also pushing my creativity to new limits.
Another option could be to shoot a different genre of photography. Switching things up entirely, you could do a portrait shoot flexing other creative muscles. It can be a very positive exercise from an artistic standpoint, building a more rounded background in photography. Just like good body builders might like to focus on working out a specific part of their body, but it is never a good idea to skip leg day!
While switching it up is important, just as important is to shoot things that inspire you or you find a personal attachment. If what you photograph doesn’t make you excited then you will never find fulfillment or yourself in your work.
You should want to get out there to the location you are capturing. If the 3:00 AM wake up call to shoot doesn’t make you excited to get out of bed, then maybe you need to change the view. I am not saying quit, but it might be a good idea to go to other locations than what you have been going to. What is popular or iconic shouldn’t be a focus of your work if it doesn’t make you happy
Being really deeply connected to the photos you take and more importantly, the location you are shooting, can be vital and often overlooked. Simon Baxter, fellow landscape photographer, is known for shooting at his local woodlands because he finds that connection to them on an intimate level. He has grown up with them and can create visual stories that show how closely connected he is to the natural environment there. It oozes from the photos he takes!
You should find that place that speaks to you. It won’t be the first place you look typically. It will always be the last as you will immediately know something is special there. I have a few locations like this and I have been to them time and time again. Revisiting these places to not only get the right conditions, but also to connect myself to them is a big part of my work and what I think separates my photography there from everyone else’s that just goes less often.
Ask Loads of Questions
If you aren’t already, you should also be asking yourself a lot of questions. Literally ask yourself out there these questions! What is really inspiring me to capture a photo here? How do I tell the story with one photo? Why am I getting the camera out here and not somewhere else? When is the best time to take this photo?
Practicing these questions will help you to narrow your focus. Avoiding taking a photo just for photography’s sake will make you a better photographer too. Imagine the times where you might have set up the tripod too soon just because there was a viewpoint or other photographers there. Figuring out what makes you more interested in a scene and composing the entire exercise of photography in that moment will make your photography your own.
It isn’t easy to find oneself in landscape photography. It takes a long time to get close, and then it seems the target moves a little bit. It is a constant challenge that can frustrate even the best out there when trying to create art that is satisfying. When you get near to that perfect piece that describes your ambitions as a landscape artist the feeling is pure joy. Creating meaningful work that helps fine oneself in the art as if it were a reflection of your vision sincerely is fulfilling for the soul at the deepest levels.