Do You Pay Attention?

Do you pay attention when you are on location looking for beautiful compositions? Do you care not leaving your footprints on wet sand?

I can’t remember how many times I have seen the same thing over and over again. I head down to the beach for a photo shoot and upon arrival all I see is footprints. Don’t get me wrong; people have a right to go there for a romantic stroll or to walk the dog. I am talking purely about the photographers who stand on anything and everything that comes their way.

I used to get upset about it, believing that they did it intentionally after they had finished their own shooting so that no one else could do any landscape photography at the same spot on the same day. Of course I was wrong and simply being paranoid. The case is that people don’t realise what they are doing; it is all down to lack of knowledge and thought, as I will explain below.

Also, the vast majority of people new to landscape photography have the wrong idea about the subject. They believe that Landscape Photography means wide or ultra wide angles only and, here again, it comes down to lack of knowledge. They can’t see the small, detailed picture, only the large (wide) one, hence all the small pictures end up being stood upon.

I remember one specific case when I was in Cornwall in the South-West of England. I was in the area for a couple of weeks and was after a sunset at Bedruthan Bay. The tide wasn’t on my side though so, while waiting for the right day, I was doing photography elsewhere. On the third day the conditions were perfect and, as soon as the tide was low enough, I found myself going down the steps towards the sandy beach with its wonderful rock pools and outstanding sea stacks; an amazing and inspiring place.

Upon arrival I soon found out that there were footprints everywhere, and I mean everywhere. How on earth did they manage it? Were they there to spoil my day? I couldn’t see anyone about though, as there are a number of very tall sea stacks around.

It was still early so I looked on the sand for some details and when I was happy with one composition, I took my 4x5 large format kit out of the bag and got on with it. I was under the focusing cloth when I heard voices. Looking up I saw a young couple coming towards me. He had a camera around his neck and she was carrying his very light tripod.

When close enough he asked me if I was a pro (having seen my gear I suppose) and I replied yes. He was wondering if I could help him find a picture. I soon realised that, apart from them, there was no one else around and they were the culprits of the footprints.

I gave him some good advice on what to do and, in particular, of course, about not leaving footprints where he might spoil a photograph for himself and for others. This experience made me understand that it all comes down to lack of knowledge, thought and awareness.

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  1. Avatar
    Robin Palachuk on

    Having shot as an amateur for over 40 years, I have felt the same pain when a scene I’ve created in my mind. It often does not come to fruition in real life because someone (typically humans) has left their mark on it ruining my ideal capture. What I have learned to do is to see what is there which inspires me and work hard to capture that in a new way. If I wait until I find the picture in life which I created in my mind, I will never press the release.

  2. Avatar

    On the other hand, sometimes it is that lonely trail of foot prints that makes me notice an area. It seems to give an empty beach, sand dune, or snow encrusted hill a story. Sometimes the trail creates a graphic pattern or a leading line in the scene that enhances the image as a whole. Sometimes you need to look beyond your frustrations and see the other possibilities. The human element can have endearing effects.

    • Avatar
      Dimitrios Vasileiou on

      Hi Teri
      Thank you for your reply. Although I agree with the way you put it about the human element, I still find it very frustrating when I try to create a picture of an unspoilt beach, only to find it littered by footsteps.

  3. Avatar
    Lauren Dawson on

    Paying attention is something I have never given much thought to whilst out with my camera until now. Having read this I will make sure that i am conscious of my surroundings and try to leave as I arrive. Very interesting and eye opening article 🙂

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