We all know that frustration can be the root of much evil and, if possible, it should be avoided at any cost. Easier said than done – I hear you saying – and how are you supposed to do so?
As usual, let me start from the very beginning. Having worked as a pro landscape photographer for a good number of years now, I hardly remember the last time I felt frustrated while making images on location. I am not talking about a small and insignificant amount of frustration because the light is not as perfect as you expected it to be, I am talking about full on frustration that cripples your enthusiasm and puts you off landscape photography altogether. I do come across people who feel frustrated but a recent incident is my reason for writing this essay.
I believe that the main reason for being frustrated is lack of knowledge. However, in case I am being misunderstood I need to fully explain myself. When I am on location looking for a good composition I don’t even think about my gear. All I do is walk around checking various possibilities. Once I have scouted the entire area, and found what I believe would be the framing for a good image, only then do I settle down and start setting up the equipment. There are a few steps that I have to go through before I press the shutter button. However, having worked as a pro for so long, I hardly pay any attention to them and, to be honest, most of the time I don’t even notice that I have gone through these steps. I must admit that sometimes I wonder if I have properly focused and I have to check again, only to find out that indeed I had but completely forgot. Those steps have become a simple routine, just like driving the car from a to b.
Now, let me take you back a few years so you can meet me not as a pro but as a very enthusiastic amateur landscape photographer. To be more precise, we’ll go back to around the time I was discovering those steps I talked about earlier. Like everyone else I had to remember that I have to find a composition, which is the toughest part in landscape photography. Then I had to properly focus in order to have a sharp foreground and an acceptably sharp background. Then I had to balance the exposure by using ND Graduated filters – never mind the stress that comes from finding the correct NF Graduated filter to use. The next step was to fine-tune the final exposure and make sure that I had a really good and well balanced RAW file with ample information on those pixels that could be of good use later on at the post processing process. To make matters worse, I had to do many more calculations if I wanted to go for a long exposure by using (back then) multiple ND filters.
Sounds familiar? I bet it does, to many of you. No wonder you feel frustrated.
The moment I notice that one of my clients is going through such frustrations, I sit down with them and talk about photography (not technicalities). I explain that we will be spending at least two hours in that location and that our aim is to create one or or two images. There is plenty of time to sit down and enjoy the location; then, if we feel inspired, we can give it a go and create an image. This reassures them that they have all the time in the world to enjoy the location. When the right time comes, we go through all the steps together, very slowly, making sure that care has been taken and a very good image has been created and stored on camera.
I assure you, it works every time. All you need to do is to relax, slow down, enjoy the location and allow plenty of time for one or two images to be captured. If you rush to a location and try to make an image, then the game is lost and frustration will kick in.