About 30 seconds later, reality set in. In order to actually make a living as a landscape photographer, you have to like…get people to buy your work and stuff. And you have to sell a lot of it. Like, a lot. So I opted for the next best thing that was actually profitable. Wedding photography.
In the years since that first Pentax K100 was in my hands, landscape photography has sort of sat on the back burner. I focused so much on growing my business and building a client base that my first love got a little neglected. But this year, since I have decided to focus more on elopements and take on less stressful weddings, I’m finding myself with more time to focus on my original passion.
I stumbled across Ben Horne’s YouTube channel where he documents his landscape photography adventures throughout the west and I was immediately hooked. He’s like the Bob Ross of photography. I could watch his videos for hours, they’re so relaxing and inspiring. Something about watching those videos lit a little spark inside me. Made me think, “Hey, I could start pursuing this a little more seriously now that I have some time on my hands.”
I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a “real” landscape photographer. Let’s face it, there’s a lot working against me: 3am wake-up calls, hiking in the dark alone, my unwillingness to carry 50 lbs. of gear up a mountain etc. I admire the real guys too much to even pretend to be like them. Whenever I’m running out the door to catch a sunset, I yell to David “bye babe, I’m off to to be a fake landscape photographer!” I’m a total wannabe and I’m perfectly fine with that. But I’m having a lot of fun pretending. And I’m learning a lot too. I’m learning about myself, my gear, nature, light, timing, weather patterns, all sorts of stuff.
One of the biggest things I’ve realized is that landscape photography is quite solitary. I mean really, how often do you see a big group of landscape photographers heading out into the wilderness together? It’s not really a group activity. And so you wind up sitting by yourself on top of a mountain to watch the sun set. Or you wind up hiking alone, as I’ve been doing frequently. Or you wind up driving around for hours trying to find the perfect spot. You’ve got to be good with being by yourself. Thankfully, I am. But landscape photography has brought it to a whole new level.
I’m learning a lot about patience too. You need a lot of patience to watch the weather and lighting patterns. And you have to be attentive too because sometimes the ideal shot lasts for just a few seconds. I find that I keep trying to rush things. I’m eager to get in, get the shot and get out. About a dozen times now I’ve set up a shot, waited a while for the light to be right and then given up because I didn’t think it was going to happen, only to look in my rear view mirror 20 minutes later and see the shot I wanted. I always thought of myself as a patient person (thanks, infertility!) but landscape photography is showing me just how much room I have to grow.
I’m also learning about being ok with walking away empty handed. Take today for example. I woke up early to hike up to a waterfall I had always wanted to see. But when I got there I discovered that the lighting was really poor and it would be hours before I could get a decent photo. Plus the location was tricky and I couldn’t find a decent angle to shoot from that didn’t cause me to get wet or fight with willow branches. So I bailed and figured I’d catch a good sunset tonight instead. I had been watching these cute little puffy white clouds pass by all day long, our sky was full of them. I thought that they’d illuminate well at sunset tonight so I packed up my gear and drove to a spot about 30 minutes away that I had scouted out earlier. When I got to the spot, all the clouds had moved out east and nothing was coming over the western horizon. The sun set. Nothing. I waited. Nothing. I waited some more. Still nothing. The end. It was a total flop of a sunset. I drove home without a single usable picture. And I’m trying to learn to be ok with that (operative word is trying).
I half jokingly tagged one of my Instagram photos last night #landscapelifelessons as I was talking about this whole patience thing. It got me thinking about all the things landscape photography has been teaching me lately and man, there are a lot of life lessons in there. I would guess there will probably be a few more photos of mine down the road that have that hashtag! I still have a lot to learn and a lot of mistakes to make. But since I’m only pretending to be a landscape photographer, there’s no pressure. I can just sit back, relax and enjoy documenting God’s creation. It’s a never ending supply of inspiration!