Welcome to the first of six entries on my series, Thoughtful Landscapes. This is my 20th anniversary as a commercial photographer. After two decades of working as a photographer I needed a break. I had come to a point in the last five years where I no longer brought my camera out unless it was for work. I have always loved working as a commercial photographer but I don’t always love what I have to photograph. After some time, that can start to wear on you. About 18 months ago I completed an exploration of artistic portrait photography with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. That was the catalyst for this exploration of landscapes.
We were in Sauble Falls this past weekend and, now that my kids are young teenagers, I found myself with some free time while they went off to explore the woods on their own. I broke out the Canon 1Dx, my little Manfrotto travel tripod and I hit the falls.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had time to take thoughtful photographs of a natural setting without being on the clock, without having a client standing over my shoulder with set expectations for a finished product. It was like getting punched in the face.
Because it was a long weekend the falls were crowded. I did my best to navigate through a sea of people who were wading in to ankle deep water taking selfies in order to carve out little spaces of nature for myself to photograph. My exploration began with rehearsing some landscape basics; working long exposures and deep depth of field, capturing the play of water cascading around stone and shoreline, playing with contrast. It was pretty basic stuff, playing with composition, movement, line, exploring elements and principles of design.
As I worked through the warm up, ideas on direction, story telling and even some thoughtful landscapes began to emerge and take hold. I began to discretely try to include human elements in my landscapes, initially as compositional studies, then to help tell the story of the image. “Why are all of these people here? Why are they only in this one spot when there is so much more nature to see? How do I limit their contact with my compositions while still providing a hint of humanity.” These were just some of the questions and problems that popped up in the half day adventure. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and a great way to start the process of refocusing, and taking full advantage of being on vacation. I even had a rare chance to see a Massasauga rattle snake along the shore eating a frog.