Sometimes, we try hard to find a composition, but sometimes, we get distracted by too many, and it gets hard to choose the best one. At home then, we have often to accept that all our images are just average. How can we avoid situations like that and come home with a masterpiece instead?
In my latest video on YouTube, I started a road trip to some amazing places in Slovenia and Italy, and I stumbled over this old, well-known luxury problem in photography of seeing too many compositions. While driving in my campervan, I think I drove my wife and copilot crazy with sentences like: “look there, what a composition.” Already on the way to my first photo location, I stopped multiple times to take a photograph. I’m happy with the photos I got, but in my experience, this could lead to a dangerous side effect of overlooking the best compositions out in the field, because we stop looking deeply into the scenes.
Waiting That Everything Feels Right
In my years as a landscape photographer, I have learned to leave my camera in my bag until I have found a composition that is worth being photographed. When I find something of interest, I engage deeply with the scene, I build up a composition, take test shots with my phone, and when I am totally clear about my image and everything feels just right, I grab my camera and take the shot. If I don’t want to engage deeply with a scene, I know that it is maybe not worth it and look for another spot that is.
To be honest, in more than 30 years of photography, I have to say that letting your camera in your bag is one of the best tips for landscape photography. But in my experience, beginners who are not used to thinking deeply about a scene have a hard time understanding the advantage and sense of that.
The Power of Connecting to Mother Nature
Experienced photographers also struggle sometimes when there are too many compositions, and I have to put my own hand up here. In the above-mentioned video, you see me driving to Slovenia and location scouting at the Soca Gorges. I hadn’t planned to take any photographs on that first day of my trip, but I had my Sony a6500, which I tend to use as my scouting camera, clipped with the Peak Design Capture v3 to the strap of my backpack and so I took about a dozen shots. I like them all. But none of them were strong masterpieces. I got really strong photographs the following day, although I didn’t even sleep that night. I had trouble with my heating, but maybe I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities of that location, to be honest.
Well, what was different on the second day? First of all, I left my camera in my bag. It was early in the morning, and it was raining. There was no one else out on location, so I had the whole photo spot for me alone. It felt so easy to get connected to the place, to the scenes. I also saw a lot of compositions, but it was easier to understand them, to work on stories I wanted my images to tell. The day before, my thoughts were often interrupted by children jumping around and laughing with their parents. But when we are out in the field for photography, we don’t have the places for us only, and we have to accept that there are other people out there as well. Maybe it is even necessary for our creativity to get affected and influenced by things like that from time to time.
Ultimately, I got much better photographs on the second day, because I let my camera in my bag, but also because I was one hundred percent focused. It was still difficult to decide on which scene I wanted to work deeper, on which one I wanted to engage more. But when you are looking at a scene and everything starts to feel right, you know that this is a composition that is worth working in more detail. You know then that it is the right decision to stay there and to invest your time. And then, I return home with just one strong photograph rather than with 20 average shots.
To see the entire adventure with all the photos, watch the above-linked video. And feel free to leave a comment below this article about how you pick out the best possible composition.