Ansel Adams asserted that “landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer.”
By perusing landscape photography online and in books, I think it’s pretty easy to arrive at the conclusion that Adams probably knew what he was talking about. In the same statement, Adams suggested that landscape photography is also “often the supreme disappointment.”
Again, I’m inclined to agree. But I think there’s an additional layer — a more psychological component — to that idea, which is that our perceptions about landscape photography can also lead to disappointment.
When we view landscape photography we tend to see incredibly majestic scenes that leave some people with the impression that they can never create worthwhile landscape photos of their own because they don’t live near particularly beautiful landscapes and can’t afford to travel.
Even if both of those things are true, you still have the potential to get some pretty compelling landscape shots simply by making the most of what you have around you.
Odds are you shop local — why not shoot local? Take a few minutes to think about the general vicinity in which you live. Think about what natural features are around you — trees, fields, hills, rock formations.
Even if you live in a city, there’s going to be something, no matter how small, that will make a good subject for landscape photography.
Now that you’ve got an idea of where some potentially interesting locations are, go out there and do some scouting to get a better feel of what you have to work with.
If it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt, that may explain why you’ve overlooked certain subjects. You see the same places and features all the time and there’s nothing exotic about them, so you write them off.
But I would encourage you to take a closer look. View these subjects from various distances and angles. Revisit them under different circumstances — after it rains or snows, during each season, at different times of day, when the skies are clear and when the skies are cloudy.
All of these factors can drastically alter the look and mood of just about any scene in any location. So keep going back again and again for something new.
When you don’t live near the coast or in the mountains, you’ll likely have to contend with natural features being interrupted by objects constructed by humans — from houses/buildings to light posts and electricity lines to vehicles.
There are all manner of visual distractions just waiting to ruin your landscape photos. The trick is to avoid this by composing to exclude these distractions. Or, you might find a creative way to include some of those less than natural elements in your shots.
Furthermore, be willing to use non-traditional focal lengths. Wide angle lenses and landscape photography seem to go hand in hand, but if you’re confronted by a large swath of land with a minimum of interesting features, a telephoto lens will be your best friend, as you can use it to isolate the best parts.
A wide-angle lens in such in an instance will only serve to highlight the “boringness” of the scene.
Your local landscape may not be glamorous, which you may initially find disappointing. But it’s the landscape you have, so own it. Put your creativity to work and extract every bit of beauty from it. I’m willing to bet that disappointment will fade somewhat.
If you like, think of shooting local landscapes as practice for the day you finally make it to that exotic dream location. But if you never get there, don’t fret — you just might make your little patch of land famous…while also passing the supreme photography test with flying colors.
For More On Landscape Photography See These Great Articles:
- 10 Must-Know Tips for Composing Landscapes – Contrastly has some pointers on landscape composition that you should know
- Straight-Up Beginner Landscape Photography Tips (+ What to Avoid) – Don't forget our post with tips for the beginner
- 7 Composition Tips That Will Skyrocket Your Landscape Photography – Our post gives you the tips to take your landscape photography to the next level
- The Rule of Thirds: The Rule Every Photographer Must Know – A rule to know to improve your landscape photography and then to break at the appropriate time
- Landscape Photography Guide – Kent Dufault's fantastic guide pulls it all together for you