I tend to want the most from my shots, we all do. Outside of composition I put a lot of time and attention into proper exposure, using NDs and polarizers to manipulate the light, plus bracketing with a tripod to cover my bases. I love it but sometimes it all feels a bit contrived. We try to capture these scenes in nature but our methods are so mechanical it takes some of the joy out of it. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a farewell to landscape photography, but a note to myself that it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
My wife and I were guests at a wedding up in the Blue Ridge Mountains a few weeks ago. Given the schedule there wasn’t an opportunity for me to sneak away for a sunrise or a sunset shoot. This is usually when I give myself a quick pep talk on how it’s not all about photography, you’re here with your family/friends and you’re suppose to just enjoy the wedding/weekend/vacation. I’m sure this sounds familiar.
On the day of the wedding, while everyone was relaxing at the hotel I decided to take a walk through the woods. I’m pretty sure this is where I caught a nice case of poison ivy, but that’s beyond the point. I only had a few hours but I told myself that there are still some good shots out there. Furthermore I decided to travel light, just the camera and my 105mm macro. What kind of opportunities would I miss without my tripod and filters?
Now I’ve read this post before, so I won’t bore you with pages on the freedom of casual photography, or the wonders of nature right outside your door. I’m not that poetic, and I much prefer a post that provides some inspiration over one that flaunts it. I just don’t want the act of photography to be so rote that the resulting images are indistinguishable. Nature photography doesn’t always have to be shot at 16mm. Water doesn’t always have to have every bit of reflection removed. Keeping shadow and highlights within the bounds of the histogram isn’t sometime we have to dominate with equipment or multiple-exposures. Sometimes it’s more fun to find the shot than to always know how to generate it.
I didn’t have to swap out filters to find the right combination. I didn’t have to compose, move the tripod, compose, rotate the camera, etc. I didn’t feel like the trip was wasted because I missed that tiny window of gold or blue hour we all fight over. It was just a walk in the woods and I had a great time shooting, which is what we’re all looking for.