While desperately thrashing around for some inspiration, I hit upon a thought. Why not look to some of the great masters of photography in the hope that an iota of their genius would rub off on me. Not a very original thought, I admit. But instead of exposing myself to a great spiral of depression by comparing their accomplished photography with my own amateurish efforts, I decided I would read their words of wisdom.
First off, Ansel Adams. I’m not going to provide any details on his life or the impact of his work on the “art” of photography, there are others who are more imminently qualified than myself to do that (ummm, actually there are others imminently more qualified to do what I am about to do anyway), but I would just like to offer my personal thoughts on a couple of quotes that struck me with regards to my own limited experience in the field of photography.
Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer - and often the supreme disappointment. - Ansel Adams
When I started taking my own photography a little seriously, it really was about trying to capture the beauty and emotional impact of coming across a wonderful scene that nature had laid out for my delectation (well, it may have been for the benefit of others as well, but no one else is as important as me in my world, so there).
Having trudged along with my bag of equipment, I would excitedly bring the camera up to my face and press the trigger. Waves of pleasurable anticipation would wash over me as I thought of viewing the picture in full resolution on my screen and admiring the play of light and the colours dancing around in my brilliant composition.
And more often than not, my ego would come crashing down from imagined heights of greatness, as the picture I had taken would inspire nothing but bland ordinariness instead of the emotional buzz that I had been hoping for. And here yet another quote from Mr. Adams comes to mind: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
As time passed, I learnt more about what makes a photograph better than a mere snapshot, and the full meaning of this statement became clear. When looking at a scene one tends to automatically focus on what is of interest or what evokes an emotional response. Unfortunately, the camera is not that discerning, it simply and faithfully records EVERYTHING that is put in front of it.
So looking at a vista of sunlight pouring through the sieve of tree branches on to a field of multi-coloured flowers, I almost invariably never noticed the silly looking trashcan in the bottom right corner of my visor and snapped away. And inevitably, on the computer screen the whole picture was ruined by the uninvited intruder. Making a true, real and worthy photograph means making sure that you include only those elements that are part of the story you want to tell and prevent all others from invading it. Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter. - Ansel Adams
So often, I look at a wonderful photograph and say “Hey that place is only 10 km away. I can take that picture.” So I rush off spurred by my enthusiasm and spend a few happy hours snapping away, only to end up being disappointed once I get back home. Simply because I wasn’t where I should have been when I should have been. Photography is after all painting with light, and if the light is not right, the composition falls flat.
Figuring out when God is ready for you to click the shutter is a skill that is an absolute must to successfully capture nature’s beauty.
Research, patience, timing and a discerning eye. Master those, and God is most probably going to be more willing to help you be in the right place at the right time.
At the beginning of my time with DT, I submitted quite a few landscapes. Recently quite a few of them have disappeared from my portfolio due to not having been downloaded in the last 4 years. So they have been a “supreme disappointment”. There are still a few that remain, and I have my fingers crossed that at least some of them may not dissapoint.
Photo credits: Abdul Sami Haqqani.