The photography world seems to have a ton of conventions and conferences, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re a portrait or wedding photographer, that is. There really aren’t very many landscape photography oriented conferences or conventions.
The thing is, the outdoor photography community could really use more conferences and get-togethers, in my opinion. Because, now more than ever, the next generation of landscape, nightscape, wildlife, and other types of nature photographers need direction and guidance to help preserve the places we love to visit and photograph.
Self Portrait by Moonlight, Alabama Hills, CA
Nikon D750, Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art | 2 sec. f/1.8, ISO 3200
I’m not talking about technical education or creative inspiration, of course. For the last decade-plus, the internet has provided incredible learning tools to many self-taught landscape photographers. However, the internet and social media in particular have become a two-edged sword. Much of outdoor photography’s presence on social media is very focused on “likes” and “epic adventure bragging”, instead of critically important things like conservation and protection.
Past generations of outdoor photographers had an abundance of conservation-minded organizations, such as NANPA, and many of them are still going strong. However, I just don’t seem to hear those types of organizations being brought up very much in most of the online photography communities that I frequent. Everybody seems to be mostly focused on whatever the hot new trends are, and of course, getting more “likes” on their latest social media post.
Don’t get me wrong, many of the newer generations are indeed raising awareness about things like “Leave No Trace”, and even “Leave It Better Than You Found It”. And they’re doing a great job of using social media to get their message out, too.
That’s why I’m very excited that photographer Art Wolfe will be the keynote speaker at what is one of the first next-generation landscape photography conferences, hosted by a new group named Outsiders Photography.
To me, Wolfe represents everything that nature photography ought to be about- beautiful imagery, sure, but more importantly, an overall objective of preserving and protecting the things we photograph, and not just “bagging the shot” for our own sake. Art Wolfe’s career has spanned decades, and his numerous published books often focus on various issues of conservation.
Many outdoor photographers these days seem to have lost sight of the main goal that most landscape photographers had just 15-20 years ago. Outdoor photographers like Thomas Mangelsen and the late Galen Rowell always inspired me to not just go take “pretty pictures”, but also make sure my impact, and my imagery, serve a bigger purpose.
At next year’s Outsiders conference, the focus will not only be on learning new techniques, and checking out the latest gear, but also a conservation-minded, “Nature First” approach to photography in general.
There are indeed many photographers out there who are promoting conservation-oriented practices, such as the lineup of additional photographers who are presenting at the Outsiders Landscape Photography conference.
I hope that this conference is able to increase awareness of the potential positive impact that landscape photographers can have on the rest of the world, beyond “likes” on social media. I’d love to see more presenters in future years, such as large format film photographer Ben Horne, or digital landscape photographer Thomas Heaton.
I hope that in the coming years, it will be not just serious landscape photographers but also “influencers” wielding their iPhones, and “wanderlust” lifestyle Youtubers etc, who adopt this attitude of giving a higher purpose to the pictures we share of the great outdoors.