Avoid Landscape Photography Frustration and Enjoy the Journey

Avoid Landscape Photography Frustration and Enjoy the Journey

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.

A Foggy Sunset at Lindy Point in West Virginia

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!

My Journey

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.

Waiting for a Sunset at Lindy Point

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!

Jeffrey Tadlock's picture

Jeffrey Tadlock is an Ohio-based landscape photographer with frequent travels regionally and within the US to explore various landscapes. Jeffrey enjoys the process and experience of capturing images as much as the final image itself.

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I can only agree Jeffrey. And if you walk with your eyes open, you might also see intimate scenes of a landscape. It doesn't always have to be the epic ones. 😉

Agreed! I am still working to slow down and be more mindful of those small scenes. The landscape has so much to offer, not just the grand vistas!

Very true man in lots of respects. When we focus purely on the destination we miss the many stops on the journey there... and even when there, most forget to practice mindfulness and enjoy the moment for what it is.

Definitely! Taking the time to just enjoy being - whether it be on the path to the destination or once you've reached it has huge payoff.

When photographing popular scenes I think one of the best ways to find unique or more interesting compositions is to stop, don't take the camera out, and just soak in the environment - the sights, sounds, feeling - then start thinking about the composition informed by that time sitting and being mindful.

100% my philosophy too

Yesterday we went for a hike into the hills (Spontin - a wonderful place for walk and photography, and there are steamtrains)... The Bocq-valley is very nice - but you need to be in rather good shape.
And after that we wanted to take some sundown shots in Dinant. My companion was a bit dissapointed due to a cloud. I managed in the end to convince him that that cloud added to the scene.
First we had our evening lunch - than we took a seat at the end of the spot near the bridge over the river to observe the scene.
And at the end he was happy we tried to take a lot of shots during golden hour, blue hour and night (when al the lights are on, with the place filled with people enjoying the cooling after a rare hot september day).
It's only 120km from home, happy us.

That sounds like a fantastic outing! The steam trains in the valley sound like fun to watch. We have some steam trains that go through the hills about 4 hours from us - some stunning views and photos to be had there.

And if I’m out around sunset time, I usually hang out - thick clouds or not to see what unfolds. Worse case the light show isn’t great, but still a great time being outside.

At a sunrise last fall, we drove about an hour, it was spitting rain, cold, lots of wind - we got all setup with very little expectation that there would be enough of a break in the clouds. But then, for one brief ten minute window the clouds thinned on the horizon and I have one of my favorite sunrise pictures from that spot!