folly beach sunset
Landscape photography, just like wedding photography, feeds my passion and creativity. Some might think it's strange that my profession is also my biggest hobby, but it works for me. While traveling, I have occasionally tried to take a 'day off' from my Nikon, and venture out into the wilderness or a quaint downtown with only my iPhone in tow. It doesn't take long before I regret my decision. I wised up, and stopped doing this about a year ago. It's just silly. After many, many years of photographing both people and landscapes, it is a rare event when I have a shoot or solo session where I don't get at least one image I feel worth sharing.
Except for this tree.
A few years ago I read an article where the amazing outdoor photographer, whose work I coveted and life I envied, talked about how landscape photography required more patience and dedication than anything he had ever attempted in his lifetime. His portfolio (published- like, in print- in a feature no less) was diverse and impeccable, and his words flowed with the ease and eloquence of a Morgan Freeman monologue. It was hard to believe that his work didn't come easily to him, because visually, it appeared effortless (like most truly amazing photographs do).
Make no mistake, this was not the only time I have heard this breakdown, but it was probably the first. You absolutely must be willing to revisit the same location over and over again until the stars align (sometimes literally). And then perhaps a few more times for good measure, or variety. I have visited this tree a half-dozen times, at least.
When I'm working with a couple, the things I have to worry about are getting them in the frame, making sure they're communicating well, and my camera settings. While this isn't necessarily easy, it is for the most part controllable. Even if I don't have perfect clouds in the sky, I've got two people in love, and that is always something you can make look pretty.
Landscape photography is a whole different ball game. If mother nature doesn't want to play ball, you're not getting your shot. And there is nothing you can do about it. In instances like this specific tree, I am especially disappointed, since my house is 8.5 hours away. I only get to visit this tree when I'm in Charleston.
Getting out to where this was shot means a mile long walk from the side-of-the-road parking spot (because you can't park in the parking lot after dusk or they lock you in), so it's not a quick hop-out-and-shoot location. I'm toting my (very heavy, but also incredibly sturdy) Manfrotto, as well a pack full of whatever variety of lenses and gear I've convinced myself I'll want to use. Not a light load. I've nearly lost my shoes on more than one occasion, I've had the tide move in so fast I end up with my jeans soaked up to my thighs, and I've walked the mile back to my car, in the dark, only to get 100 feet away from it to see that they've left the gate open that night. And never walked away with a shot. But I didn't give up on this tree.
The shots below are from that night. It was chilly and my pants did get wet, but it was worth it. This is where the patience and dedication rewards you. The walk back to my car was a victory.