In today's world a landscape photographer must do more than capture a beautiful image. He must create a story from the stone, she must tell the tale of the sea and they must capture your imagination. It is the photographs that take us on a journey that resonate most deeply.
When you begin to create images instead of just capturing your surroundings, you grow drastically as a photographer. You begin to find your voice and style. In essence you become unique. It is the unfortunate reality that anyone can pick up a camera these days and take a good photograph. But this shouldn't dishearten us as photographers, if anything it should spark a fire deep within us that fights against the tide to create truly unique imagery.
In this post I will use some of my own images to compare the idea "Capture vs. Create", and you can see for yourself the difference.
You may think that these are 2 totally different images, but while I was focusing on capturing the scene on a grand scale, I noticed some magic happening to the left of my viewfinder. Low hanging clouds were racing over the mountaintops exposing only part of the scene at a time. I decided to focus in on a specific area of the scene and in doing so created a distinct subject that was shrouded in mystery, it's true form hidden underneath the blanket of clouds. The second image tells a stronger story; one that allows the viewer to integrate their own dialect, while the first has no distinct subject and is truly just a pretty place. By making a quick, creative decision to select only a part of the scene in front of me I was able to create a stronger subject in my image, thereby enhancing its story.
When I came upon the above scene after 3 miles of hiking through the dunes, the landscape in front of me wasn't as I envisioned it. The light was dull and the rocky mountain behind was partially engulfed in the clouds. I wanted more dramatic lighting and the sharp rugged peaks in the background unobscured. Had I simply wished to capture an image, I would have probably settled for the first image, as it is still rather beautiful, but I had a sketch in my mind of what I wanted my final image to look and feel like. And so I waited for the right timing, when the sun got lower on the horizon and when, for a few brief moments the clouds receded behind the prominent peaks. By sketching my image in advance (physically or mentally), I was able to create a better finished image with much more appeal. By doing this you can strengthen your creative process and thus your final creative work as well.
These images were part of a donation for Utah State Parks. The image on the left lacked a clear story. There were tire tracks, but from what? They left enough impact on the landscape to warrant the question. In my imagination I envisioned a dune buggy sitting proudly atop this pristine dune after a day of riding. The left image is pretty, the other tells a story, perhaps a battle of two giants. Outdoor recreation and conservation go head to head trying to find a balance between increasing outdoor interest and a need to preserve the finite resources of our planet. I ask you, which image is heavier, which has a stronger story? In this instance I believe it is fairly obvious.
Next time you are out taking photos, ask yourself what you want the image to say? Why are you taking the photo, and how will others read the "story"? Taking the time to visualize a final image before ever clicking the shutter will make you a better photographer, and a better story teller.
Are you capturing? Or are you CREATING?