It’s easy to look at a beautiful landscape photo and not think of what toll the journey to make it may have taken on the photographer. Often shot in remote locations, it can be quite a trek to bring something back to dazzle viewers. What’s more, the timing, light, and weather will absolutely make or break the image. Landscape photographer Thomas Heaton illustrates what it takes, and it’s much more than stumbling onto a gorgeous scene and snapping a photo. He has taken us with him, virtually, on a slog through nature on a gloomy day in search of the right light and composition.
Not discouraged by an early morning rain storm on at the start of his photography mission, Thomas muses that “the best conditions often happen just after the worst weather.” Wise words, and an apt introduction to serious, as opposed to casual, landscape photography. Plans for the day can change quickly; locations he’d previously scouted turn sour for various reasons – most notably sheer brutality of the weather.
Finally he settles on a spot in a valley and lays out his tactic for the shot – a long lens and tight framing to emphasize the size of some distant peaks, paired with a trait required in landscape photography after tenacity and endurance – patience. With the camera and tripod set up, all he can do is wait for a break in the clouds to pop in some strategically placed sunlight. Well, wait and contemplate. One can spend some of the downtime traipsing around in search of a possible better angle, as a small move can mean a big difference in composition. The takeaway from this location, though not quite what he had in mind.
Sometimes, when things don’t work quite the way you want them to it makes sense to console oneself by making a photograph a bit more commonplace but no less beautiful. An oft photographed place can still send you home with something lovely for your own archives, wall, or desktop. Thomas’s journey began in the early morning, but without much to show for the former part of the day he treats himself to photographic “hot casserole and tea” in the form of an iconic shot that has been taken many times before, and with a 6 stop ND filter to flatten the water and show motion of the clouds, makes this:
It may not be on the cutting edge of originality, but it’s not awful to look at.
One long and arduous day, two final images – landscape photography is definitely a pursuit for the determined.
As always, we’d love to hear your stories in the comments. Landscape photographers, what’s the most difficult shot you’ve taken? Was it worth it?