Dead Poets Society in Landscape Photography

upper antelope canyon

    I believe photography and poetry aren’t that unrelated. I like to think of my images as a way of communicating emotion, mood, and a story or poem through the visual elements I chose to include. A photograph is worth a thousand words after all! So, I thought I would compile a couple different quotes from one of the greatest movies I have ever watched and applied them to how we can interpret them as photographers. 

John Keating: No. Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.

    Playing off of the dark theme that is an undertone of the sometimes playful film this quote plays at our human condition. The truth of this quote hits hard because we all have a limited amount of time to find our own ‘success’. It is a good reminder to have that the clock is ticking and you won’t get a minute back that just passed. Every moment we use scrolling on Facebook or watching a YouTube video is now gone forever and all we can do is hope we don’t regret doing so later.

mt rainier national park wildflowers sunset

John Keating: You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all.

    This quote plays at a couple of things touching directly with photography. The longer we wait to find our passion or chose to focus on it the likelihood of realizing it becomes less. There are a lot of people out there that wait until retirement to find something they are passionate about. Unfortunately, not everyone will have until retirement, and even if you do there might not be much time left to be able to enjoy it or realize your full potential with that voice.

    In landscape photography, a lot of spots require good fitness to get to. Let alone fitness, there is the matter of expertise. It takes time to learn photography, which means years of practice the craft and perfect things like composition, processing, settings, etc… A person that starts at 20 or 30 is more likely to find their creative voice and standing out than someone that starts later in life. 

John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

cannon beach oregon coast sunrise haystack rock

    When in the field it is always a good reminder to look at things a little differently. We can look at this quote literally by placing the camera higher or lower it gives us a new perspective. In a more abstract sense, we can use it to view things in truly new ways. Go to a spot nobody else does and document a subject others overlook. Finding beauty in ways others haven’t is a real skill to possess! 

John Keating: Sometimes the most beautiful poetry can be about simple things, like a cat, or a flower or rain. You see, poetry can come from anything with the stuff of revelation in it. Just don’t let your poems be ordinary.

    Playing off of this quote in landscape photography so many will look to shoot only epic scenes. The most iconic of locations are all that ever fills their frames. The problem with this is they are only getting part of the story. Some of the best subjects and most wonderful compositions don’t have a viewing area in front of them. The challenge is making something beautiful out of something simple, and many times, just as in the quote, we have to show something about that thing in front of our camera in a revealing way.

upper antelope canyon specter ghost

Neil Perry: I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.

    The opening to every meeting the boys had they would read these words. The movie constantly revisits them due to their importance to the plot and theme. In a literal sense, they go out into the woods (nature) to get away from the oppression their lives had otherwise. The quote takes on a deeper meaning as we watch the plot develop, and by the end of the movie, we can see how it was hinting at the conclusion all along. 

    The idea is to encourage us to go out and do what we need to do. While we won’t all be landscape photographers it is good to do self-fulfilling things whenever possible. If we don’t pursue our passions we may come to an end with regrets and the realization that we have not really done everything we were capable of doing. Take a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to go and get up before sunrise sometimes to get that shot you have been wanting to capture for so long!

John Keating: We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

columbia river gorge winter snow waterfall person oregon

    We aren’t all able to be artists. Not everyone can dedicate their lives to a creative field like photography. The majority of us will have to spend a significant amount of time pursuing more menial careers, but there is also time for meaningful pursuits. Using evenings, weekends, and any other time we may find we can consume or create these things we enjoy. It is not the pursuit of money that we are entitled to, it is the pursuit of happiness!

    So, looking past the pursuits we have in our daily lives photography can be a place where we find meaning. Creating images that please both us and others is a good passion to have as it makes life have a little more meaning. It is our contribution to the play. Landscape photography can be our verse, and that is very good!

John Keating: Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.