There are tons of resources for photographing the landscape, but how do you FIND a landscape? And what do you do with it once you find it?
I enjoy photographing rural scenes. In the beginning, I would drive down back country roads, randomly turning onto different roads; essentially, I would get lost of purpose just to see what I could find. One problem I had with this strategy was I would find a location, move on, but would never be able to find it again if I wanted to go back. Or I would waste time going to places that I had already covered.
Another problem is you can't snap a picture and expect it to be worthy of hanging on the wall. You can stand in the exact same spot day after day and experience a completely different set of variables each time. Sun, clouds, time of day, weather, they all factor into the equation.
When you're on the hunt for a landscape, a basic tool you should have is paper, pencil, and a map. When you find an unknown treasure, write down where it is located. Put down necessary details such as distance from an intersection, which side of the road it is on, etc. Also, and this is very important, write down the best time of the day you should photograph the scene. If a scene is on the west side of the road, the best time is probably in the morning when the sun is in the east and behind you. Some locations may be down low or blocked by other obstacles and may have a window for when the sun will light the scene.
You may also want to have additional notes for what is in the background. Would it be a good idea to come back in the fall when the woods are in full color? If you're in the area when a spring storm is moving through, you may want to jump in the car and run over and hope you can get a dramtic sky in the background.
Keeping notes such as this should make one thing obvious: You will be going back to the same locations more than once. Patience and dedication is required for capturing a specific landscape in a way that is stunning compared to just stopping and sticking your camera out the car window.
There are locations I have gone to over a dozen times over several years and have yet to get one good photograph. The image I am showing here, it took me two years and almost a dozen trips before I captured what you see. The sun is setting behind me and the remains of a storm are in the distance, giving the sky some drama and color. The sun lights the scene extremely well and helps to bring out the color in the trees and grass.
It is a great photograph compared to all the others I have of the scene. Yet, it is still not what I would call a stunning photograph. However, not long after I took this picture the two silos were torn down. It is unusual to find a silo made out of tile and very rare to find an old silo made out of wood, so to capture two of them together is a one of a kind situation. In that respect, the photograph is perhaps more important in terms of historical documentation as the agriculture business continues its rapid changes in my part of the world.
As I said, the photograph itself is not the greatest when compared to similar scenes, but a point to make is this: Even an average photograph such as this, a lot of time and effort and patience went into capturing the scene under the best conditions possible.
(1) You have to find scenes like this on your own, travel books will only tell you how to find places like ther Grand Canyon or Yosemite
(2) When you discover a location, you need to keep notes on how to find it again
(3) Your notes should tell you the best time of year and time of day to return to a location
(4) Be aware of the weather or other factors; sometimes you can tell when it's going to be a colorful sunset, be ready to jump in the car
One of my pet peeves in the art world is photographs of barns and rural scenes are many times considered to be "low brow" stuff. Landscape photography requires more talent and dedication to the craft than one could ever realize. But it all begins with FINDING the landscape and I hope this blog will help you in doing that. Even a scene in the city or down the block, finding the right spot and going back when the conditions are right, that is one of the differences between snapshots and true art.