When you first start out in photography it's very easy to think that you should be capturing an award winning photograph every time you go out with a camera. After all, you read lots of magazines and books on the subject and they are full of wonderful and inspiring images. So it must follow that these published photographers must always take a great image every time they go out with the camera.
This is a perception that I had for a long time and it often had a negative impact on my photography as I felt I should be capturing a quality image each and every time I went out. One day though I was watching a documentary about Colin Prior the renowned landscape photographer. In the film we saw some of the challenges he went through the get an image that would realise his vision. It did in fact take him several days camped up on a mountain range to finally get that image.
Learning A Lesson
From this I learnt that even the most seasoned of landscape photographers don't just go out there and take 5 star images on every shoot. There is also a lot of failure and patience. This was a valuable lesson and from this I decided to reevaluate how I approached a landscape shoot. I am lucky, or unlucky depending on how you look at it, in that I don't need to earn my living from photography. There is therefore little pressure for me to return home from a shoot with an image that I can sell. This means that I can almost put the photography bit to the side and just enjoy being outdoors. Returning with an wonderful image almost becomes a bonus or a by-product of my adventures.
Practise, Practise, Practise
This all leads me on to the real topic of this blog post and the concept of practising photography. Without the pressure (implied or real) of having to get an amazing image, I use my time outdoors to not only enjoy the landscape but to practise my craft. As with any skill it takes practice and repetition. If I only took my camera out when the conditions were absolutely perfect would I be able to capture an image when I really needed to? Would I remember how and where to focus? Would I remember to check my ISO settings?
When the moment comes, and it can be rare, I want to be prepared and know what I'm doing. So I practise. I go out, even when the conditions might not be perfect. I enjoy being outside and I enjoy setting up the camera, looking at compositions and taking pictures, even if the end result is an average image. At least I've practised my craft and I will be better prepared for that magic moment, which can come anytime, and sometimes when you least expect it.
John Free made an excellent video on practising street photography and I strongly suggest you watch it (as the lessons still apply to landscape photography).
And after that, well, get out with your camera and practise. Don't worry that's not an award winning image but be satisfied that you got outside and you still remember how to use your camera.
Do you practise your photography? Do you still come home from an unsuccessful shoot feeling satisfied? Let me know in the comments below.
Till next time….