Your Biggest Enemies in Landscape Photography

They hold you down in landscape photography, they bring you to make wrong decisions out in the field, they make you blind for finding compositions, and they even kill your creativity. Knowing about them and avoiding them makes you a better photographer.

In my latest video, I revealed the three sworn enemies in landscape photography. And what is quite interesting is that when a landscape photographer gets asked about the biggest enemies out in the field, there is a tendency to think about wrong weather and light first. But when we are honest, there doesn’t exist something like wrong weather or wrong light in landscape photography, when you are flexible with your composition. Weather and light – these are your best friends. The real enemies are something totally different. They are your demons, your kryptonite. They hold you back from getting stunning photographs.

The Capital of a Photographer

It is not his camera, it is not his lenses. The capital of an artist is simply his inspiration. But what if he can’t access it anymore? What if he doesn’t get inspired anymore? The first biggest enemy is something that I called “Uninspiration” in my video. We all get uninspired from time to time, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, and it prevents us from having an idea of what we could photograph. The question is, how can we get rid of that issue? How can we find our way back to inspiration?

In my experience, there are two ways of how you could get uninspired. Either you didn’t engage enough with landscape photography or with nature and you don’t feel connected anymore. Or you engaged too much with photography, compositions, lines, shapes, light, and so on, and it starts to feel like work. Something we don’t like to do of our own free will. If you have ever tried to photograph each day for a long period — and I’m not talking about taking snapshots — you might know what I mean. To avoid phases of being uninspired it is a good idea to find the right balance between too little and too much engagement with photography and nature. In my last video, you will find also some good tips about how to get inspired.

The One That Makes You Blind

I really enjoy going for a walk or to hike around nature together with my wife, my children, or with a friend. Sometimes it ends up in finding some potential places for photography, but to be honest, I have rarely found outstanding compositions when anyone was with me.

The problem is simple: when my wife is with me, there are so many important things to talk about, like when I will mow the meadow next time or when I will repair the roof of the garden house. All those things, that are much more “interesting” than photography. Talking and thinking about things like that makes me totally blind to compositions. I could look at the best possible landscape scene humanity had ever seen and I simply wouldn’t realize it. We are talking about something that I called “Unfocus” in my video. Yes, it’s a creative channel. Words that don’t exist are simply created there.

It is really so important always to have your photography at the forefront when you are looking for compositions. Hikes and walks with others are also good for photography, as they help you to get a base connection to the area, but when it comes down to finding compositions, I prefer not to think about mowing my meadow, even if it were the second most enjoyable thing in my life.

The easiest way to avoid this enemy is to go out without anyone else, but in my video, I reveal even more ideas of how a hike with friends could allow you ways to find some fantastic compositions.

The Killer of Creativity

What if you managed to be inspired and you even found a rough composition – will it automatically lead to a masterpiece? Your final photograph will be better, the more knowledge and experience you have with building up compositions. But the best compositional knowledge is worthless when you are not creative enough to think your compositions trhough. “Stress” is our biggest enemy here.
Most people seem to have the wrong idea about how stress arises. Try it by yourself right now: Ask three people next to you, why stress happens and leave a comment below what they said. In my experience, most people think that stress occurs when we simply have to do too many things. But this is not the case. We get stressed only when we are working on something while we are thinking already about the next thing.

A good example for photography is my last photo tour in the valley behind the iconic Hallstatt in Austria, where I challenged myself to photograph a vista, a waterfall, and a woodland scene in just one morning. My time window was totally limited, as I needed the right conditions for each shot and I needed to be in the right place at the right time for every single photograph. While I was building up a composition, I thought about the next one. I can’t remember when I last had that stress when photographing. I’m quite happy with the results though, but it feels that I didn’t give one hundred percent for each photograph.

To get the best possible results, it would have been better to focus on one composition only, to take time to build the current one, to stick to it, and to stay a bit longer after I exposed, just to consider changes in the conditions, that would have made a better photograph maybe. But for the sake of the challenge, I didn’t do all those things. Things, I have learned over the years, lead to better results.

Leave a comment below: which enemies you have experienced as a photographer and if you were able to defeat them.

Log in or register to post comments
12 Comments
Carl Bishop's picture

Good article! Thank you.

Christian Irmler's picture

Hi Carl, thank you so much, really great to hear, that you liked it!
A Happy New Year with lots of fantastic photography moments,
Christian

charles hoffman's picture

your biggest enemy in landscape photography is the husband, wife, or significant other who came along and lost patience as you spend time finding the right perspective, position, and framing of an otherwise mundane piece of field, mountain, lake, or seascape

Unless you can see it without the camera, you'll never be able to record it "on film" or in digital form.
And that sometimes takes more time than a 3rd party thinks is worth the effort

Christian Irmler's picture

Hi Charles, yes this is totally true. I think the problem is, that we often take really a lot of time to think deep into a composition. Non photographers don't understand, why we can't just expose within a few seconds, like each "normal" person :)
But anyway, hiking with others is good to get connected. We can always come back later with our photography head on.
A Happy New Year with lots of fantastic photography moments,
Christian

Timothy Gasper's picture

Thank you for this article. I feel the number 1 enemy is ourselves....if we don't do the right things. As to the point of the story, all of the enemies you mention definitely touch my life. I was a POW during the Vietnam war and tortured severely and almost killed. There have been far too many times when one, two or all three of these affect me. But it is up to me to try and break through. To find inspiration...through my grandchildren; to focus...by seeing the goal ahead of me, with the help of my...grandchildren; and to relax....via my grandchildren. This method has helped me greatly. If you suffer from any or all of these 3 issues...find your one thing. Or maybe it's more than one.

Christian Irmler's picture

Hi Timothy, that's such a good advice! We need something that helps us to relax. This doesn't help us only to get more creative, it is also fantastic for our mental health.
Thank you for your contribution and have a Happy New Year with lots of enjoyable moments with your grandchildren and with photography,
Christian

Willy Williams's picture

I lost a couple of alleged girlfriends because I refused to take them on photo trips, largely because neither of them had the capacity to comprehend the beauty, joy and serenity found in both solitude and in photography. Neither got the message in the statement, "never pass up a perfectly good opportunity to just shut up." Losing them was a big win for me.

Christian Irmler's picture

Hi Willy, I know what you mean. I think the problem is, that we spend lots of time with our photography, but we don't experience the time that long. And others, who are simply not interested in photography do hard to understand why we are engaging that much. What I do when I take my wife with me on trips is, that we plan some totally different activities additionally to photography. Maybe a thermal bath, a swimming day at a lake, visiting a museum. Whatever it is - with a lot of quality time without photography.
Have a Happy New Year with lots of fantastic photography moments,
Christian

Tom Reichner's picture

My biggest enemy in landscape photography is me - specifically the fact that I just don't want great landscape photos enough.

I am a wildlife photographer, who will occasionally shoot a landscape if a great landscape photo opportunity is right there in front of me while I'm out photographing wildlife. But I don't go intentionally looking for landscape photo opportunities because I just don't care about landscape photography enough to put any effort into it. Wildlife photography is my thing, so that is what my great effort will be put towards.

Landscape photography .... meh. I'll leave that to others who love it and who are passionate about it. And that is why I am my own greatest enemy when it comes to landscape photography.

Christian Irmler's picture

Hi Tom, I can totally understand you. You should photograph what you love - or even better: you should photograph what has an impact to you. Enthusiasm is the driver here, definitely. I guess, it could get funny if we both would go for a photo tour. When there would jump a stag into my composition, you would be grateful and I would be the same after it has left my scene finally :)
No, I'm just kidding, I think I would also try for a shot then :) But however, I really appreciate that you read my landscape photography articles as a wildlife photographer. Finally it doesn't matter what we prefer to photograph. Composition, light and story work in the same way.
Have a Happy New Year with lots of fantastic photography moments,
Christian

Ivan Konar's picture

First I was a wideangle landscape photographer, boring of that, now I am a telephoto photographer, capching those tiny landscape inside of the big picture, it is amazing the results you can have...

Christian Irmler's picture

Hi Ivan, oh yes - longer focal ranges offer some great advantages for landscape photography. I got a knee injury in the beginning of 2021 and I wasn't able to hike around a lot for multiple months. My long lenses up to 600mm were my life savers :)
Have a Happy New Year with lots of fantastic photography moments,
Christian