If you want your nature and landscape photographs to be more powerful then you must have something to say. Photography is a visual form of storytelling. The difference between writing a story and a photograph is you only get one page to tell your story with photography and several to several hundred pages for a book. So inside that one photograph you must have something meaningful to communicate to your audience.
In order to capture the right essence of the scene you will have to study it. You’ll have to stand still and “see” the way light changes the contours and shapes of your scene or subject. As the sun moves across the sky, it light will dramatically change the features of your subject; revealing some features and hiding others. It took me some time to see that the light gives the landscapes and natural elements of the world their voices, moods and emotions. This voice is one of the key factors that separate photography into two parts; snapshots to document an object or scene and art that speaks to the viewer.
Title: Abandoned House on Adams Dam Rd
Studied and worked the scene for 30 – 45 minutes.
Snapshot: Abandoned House in Virginia
Taken in passing at 60 miles an hour on a road trip.
I can not stress enough the importance of planning your trips and studying the area that you plan to visit. It doesn’t matter if your shoot relates to nature and landscape photography or a on-location outdoor portrait sitting. Doing your homework doesn’t just help you define your photographs, it can also keep you safe if you are approached by the local wildlife or with potential natural poisons in the habitat. Knowing what animals are in the area during that season, how they react to people and if it is hunting season could help save your life. The same goes for what poisonous plants of the area look like; there is nothing worse than a lot of discomfort from encountering Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Sumac.
Here is a perfect example of a photographer not doing his homework before going out on his shoot. If this photographer had taken the time to read up on the local wildlife, the photographer would have seen Elk on the list. He would have learned about the Elk’s habits and aggressiveness; he would not have been in this situation for long with the proper knowledge. This photographer came very close to having his lungs punctured by the Elk’s antlers all because the photographer lowered his head. A lot of animals find this gesture as a sign of submissiveness. However, Elk use their heads to defend themselves. The Elk took the photographer’s actions as a threat and attacked the photographer. The photographer is alive, he walked away with bruising and cuts but the Elk had to be put down.
Elk vs. Photographer | Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The second example is of a photographer in a travel party that encountered a family of gorillas; one of which is a Silver Back Gorilla. This photographer had done his homework and learned that looking the Gorilla in the eyes is a sign of aggression and dominance. Tucking the head tells the Silver Back that you are not aggressive or a threat to its family; reducing the likelihood of an attack significantly.