Once, long ago, I looked at my friend’s Canon A1, and was consumed by envy. I bought one. Not really because I had a burning desire to take amazing photographs, but because it was a toy that I could play with. Using it was way beyond my abilities and I gave no real thought to the photographs I took. As you can imagine, they were terrible. I did, though, put enough effort into my new hobby to learn the basics of exposure and bout the controls of a camera.
I still have that camera and occasionally take it out to shoot a roll of Velvia film, for old times’ sake, but I don’t think it will come as any surprise to you when I say that my interest in taking photographs didn’t last very long at that time. The camera went into the loft and, like my interest in photography, lay idle, gathering dust for many years.
As I entered my late twenties, I started to spend more and more time in the outdoors; walking, climbing, canoeing, etc and with that I began to develop a love of those environments. Eventually, there came a desire to use my camera to capture images of the amazing things I saw. I was keen to present the views I saw as accurately as possible to family and friends who had not shared my adventures. I simply wanted to show them where I had been. There was no creative drive behind what I did, and so the photographs, whilst serving their purpose were, on the whole, still disappointing.
Years later, I gained a focus which sent me along the most wonderful, enjoyable path and which has since rewarded me in so many ways. I’m not really sure what sparked that focus; I do remember buying a landscape photography magazine whilst away for a weekend and being amazed by some of the photographs it contained. There were images that seemed to convey to me far more than a detailed record of what had been in front of the photographer. I spent a lot of time looking online at other similar works and I started to think that I might like to take similar photographs.
The following year I had a long holiday planned (visiting some of the National Parks in the US) and decided I wanted to take pictures like those in the magazine rather than simply creating documentary evidence of where I had been. This proved a real motivation for me and propelled me to begin reading more and more, attending a workshop and spending lots of time with my camera. The workshop was particularly influential; the quality of the tuition was, in retrospect, rather poor, but the immersion in a world of soft light and the group’s enthusiasm for creating meaningful images was so important in giving me a reason for taking photographs. I was hooked.
I had found a reason to go out and take photographs; to create some sort of interpretation of where I had been. I began trying (and am still trying) to create images that are ‘about’ a place, rather than just ‘of’ it. I enjoy the act of being in a location and trying to work out which elements to include in my photographs that are essential (to me, at least) to how that place looks and feels. I really enjoy travelling to a beautiful place and the challenge of capturing a meaningful image of it but, even more than that, I delight in visiting a place repeatedly and building a connection with it. This helps me create images that are about the place. I treasure those moments when my familiarity with a location helps me to discover new aspects of it; things that I had not noticed on previous visits and which all add to the photographic possibilities. These new observations feed in to my desire to return and look for further discoveries, deepening my sense of wonder at the natural world. Perhaps it’s this sense of awe, brought to me through my photography, which is the real reason I love going out to take photographs.
A further reason is that I appreciate the pace that photography demands (well, my photography anyway). I like to take my time and appreciate where I am. Time to look in the corners and experiment with how the view changes depending upon where I stand. I have friends who run long distances, in the hills and they often wonder how I can be content with only walking a tiny percentage of what they have done. However, lots of my enjoyment comes from having the time to appreciate the way the clouds are mirrored in a small puddle or how the sunlight slides across a valley floor. Anyway, I can’t keep up with those friends - I’ve tried.
Finally, I enjoy taking photographs because it provides me with the need for constant learning. Although I have now been taking photographs ‘seriously’ for over ten years, I am consistently finding out new things and trying to learn how they can impact what I do. This might be a new technique, some new equipment, a different way processing the files or how to approach a different type of landscape than I have visited before. Sometimes, it has been how to use my camera for something other than landscapes. I like being out of my comfort zone and working through the challenges that these things present. I also appreciate how trying out these new-to-me ideas may influence the ‘look’ of my work; not that the style is likely to change overnight, but that there is a constant evolving of what I do. That is exciting.
So, as you can see, there are many reasons why I love taking photographs. My early motivations no longer have anything to do with why I go out with my camera, but they were part of my journey in creating the photographs that I love and spending more time in nature, and I am grateful for every step on the way.