As a landscape photographer, do you feel frustrated when things don’t quite work out? Maybe the weather wasn’t cooperating or despite your best efforts looking for an engaging composition, you couldn’t find one before the light faded. Learn to enjoy the journey and watch the frustrations fade away.
For the landscape photographer, many components need to come together to capture that great image. Weather can come into play — sometimes, we want a partly cloudy day to get interesting light, other times, we want an overcast day for a softer overall light. At sunset or sunrise, we often look for just enough interesting clouds to give us texture but enough of a break towards the horizon to let some light through to provide us with beautiful red, orange, and purple colors.
That is just the weather. Then we have to hope we can find an interesting composition — the right angle, the right camera height, maybe an object of interest in the foreground, or a leading line or a texture that works with the scene. When photographing in a new location, finding these things the first time there can be challenging.
As you can see, there are many variables that must come together to get that portfolio shot. When things aren’t working out just right, it is easy to start getting frustrated.
I have watched landscape photographers get frustrated when things aren’t working out right. Their whole mood changes. They get grumpy and start moving from place to place, almost frantically trying to make something happen — sometimes completely changing locations hurriedly hoping to find the right conditions, only to get even more frustrated when things don’t work out there.
Don't Forget the Why
I spend a lot of time outside practicing my landscape photography. I very rarely get frustrated with how things are going. Why?
Because I enjoy the process of landscape photography and all that it entails. I enjoy being outside with my camera. I enjoy the hikes I take to get to locations. I enjoy sitting there listening to the sounds of nature, watching the scene unfold (even if it is a cloudless sunset), and feeling the breeze on my face.
I suspect many landscape photographers started the hobby because they enjoyed being outside. Don’t lose sight of the reason you got started! Even on the days where you don’t capture anything extraordinary — you still likely enjoyed a hike, sitting outside, and soaking in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. What could be better? Focus on the process and the journey and the portfolio-worthy images are just a bonus!
There is a place in West Virginia where I have lost count of how many times I’ve visited, chasing a fantastic sunset where the sky lights up, my composition is dialed in, and all of the pieces line up. I often visit this spot multiple times per trip if I think I can dodge the crowds.
I’ve been there on evenings when there is barely a cloud in the sky. I’ve shown up when the clouds were so thick you couldn’t see more than twenty feet in front of you. I’ve hiked in during the rain. I’ve been there in the wind and cold. And I am still chasing my perfect photo from that spot. But I’ve enjoyed every single trip to the overlook — even though I sometimes walk away empty-handed.
On my most recent trip, some friends and I made the half-mile hike, I perched up on one of my favorite vantage points. At times, the clouds looked like they were going to cooperate. Then they looked like they weren’t going to cooperate. Then we got rained on. Then the sun came out for a bit. Then the clouds rolled back in too thick to let the good golden hour light through.
The friends I was with said they were sorry I didn’t get the sunset I wanted. I replied, “No worries, any evening outdoors, camera in hand, with the smell, sound, and sight of nature is a good evening and time well spent — portfolio image or not!”
And that’s how I avoid frustration. I remember why I started the hobby of landscape photography and that at the root of it all - the enjoyment of being outside and witnessing the moment is the reward. The portfolio images are a bonus.
Do you enjoy the journey of landscape photography? Let me know in the comments below!