In my daily life, I am surrounded by photography. I work at a photo shop here in San Diego, and I enjoy frequent shooting trips. In my spare time, I participate in various online photo communities such as FredMiranda.com and NaturePhotographers.net.
The photos posted on these sites are truly magnificent. Before the advent of the internet, it would be impossible to see such a diverse, and current collection of photographs from some of the world’s best landscape photographers.
Many landscape photographers strive to chart new territory, explore new regions, and bring back the first photos of a given location. This romanticized view of landscape photography has been blazoned by many great adventure photographers like Art Wolfe, and the late Galen Rowell.
Well known locations such as Yosemite, Zion, and the Pacific Northwest are often referred to as “iconic”. I also hear the term “over-photographed,” tossed around in conversation — as though there is a quota for the number of photos that can be taken in a recognizable location.
Those who complain about “over-photographed” locations are not commenting on the beauty of a location. Instead, they are referring to an abundance of photos that lack personal vision.
As history has proven, the most notable landscape photographers are those that impart unique, personal vision on a scene. Rather than depicting a scene in a literal sense, photographers with strong personal vision will depict how they felt at the moment of exposure, thus giving the subject a voice. An intimate dialog is created between the viewer and the photograph, revealing untold secrets of life, death, and survival.
Personal vision is shaped by our choice of composition, our intuition of when to trigger the shutter, and our photographic technique. Although our choice of subject is important, it often times does not determine our vision. A photographer that possesses a strong personal vision will produce consistent, and recognizable work despite their choice of subject. Among contemporary photographers, Marc Adamus comes to mind. His excellent work is easily recognizable despite a variety of subjects.
If we as photographers possess a strong sense of personal vision, it does not matter where we shoot. Whether you are standing in your front yard, traveling to an exotic location, or photographing a popular location — your personal vision will shine through.