When I approach an iconic landscape photographic location on our photography expeditions these days, I often see other photographers jockeying for position. Some have traveled great distances and most certainly planned for a particular composition. They might have seen it published, and have hopes of repeating it and putting their own twist on it but it is hard to find meaning in photography that way.
Replicating iconic photographs has always been a great way to learn. There comes a time, when one wants to move beyond copying another artist and express their own photographic vision and find their own formula. Most certainly, the original photographers of these iconic spots had some pre-visualization going on, or a compositional formula that they would employ on arrival to a location.
Finding consistency & style
Trying to move beyond lessons of iconic shot reproduction and creating one’s own formula is the key to consistency and developing a photographic style. This is always something we stress during our photography workshops. Finding this is a journey of experimentation, with no right or wrong method. But once achieved, a consistent body of work begins to rise to the surface.
Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve in your photographs, story is key. Examples of a story can be found everywhere in many photographs and fine art paintings. You might recall a time when you paid a visit to an art gallery. Perhaps you spent some time lingering and exploring deeper into a painting. This painting, no doubt had a strong story. You explored each corner with high interest, and perhaps it transported you to another place altogether, and you were truly engaged.
Bringing story into your photography is key, and is always a challenge. While the photographer has the job of seeking structural elements in real time, fine art painters can pull them from their imagination, or alter what they see before them. Both must work within the confines of their canvas, or frame.
Being acutely aware of the environment is the key to successful photographs.
Whether you’re a landscape or street photographer, observation is what it’s all about. Inserting a story into the optimum situation is critical. I’ve often found, when exploring a new unknown environment, I tend to become hyper-aware, much like what a child would experience, with no preconceived notions on what to seek or expect. I’ll have nothing but my own formula to apply as I seek the elements I need to create.
Whether it’s an Eastern Sierra photography workshop or a San Franciso Street Photography workshop, I seek to insert myself into locations rich in natural or man-made textures, and diverse human elements help provide me strong imagery to create the stories I like to tell with my photography.
I often return to these locations many times over the years, seeking deeper layers each time. In all situations, I explore not only the obvious main character, but the supporting casts of near foreground, middle-ground, and backgrounds as well. I will use the same tools on the streets. Often inserting humanity in them, or perhaps seek an interesting person and engaging with them for a street portrait.
If you’re trying to find a good story and meaning in photography, build on these steps as mentioned above. Find a good formula that works for you with consistency.
If you need help finding that voice, Jansen Photo Expeditions offers private and group photography workshops to help you create that vision.
All the best, Mark Jansen