I used to think that the act of taking a photograph itself forced you to slow down and take a closer look at things. While I still believe it is one of the key benefits of photography, the automation of camera operations and the proliferation of camera phones has changed this dynamic. It has become easy to grab a shot or even a video on the go.
Still, I believe most of the best photographs come from an immersion in the process, from paying greater attention to our subjects—no matter what kind of camera we use. When we slow down, we experience a place more intimately. If we are photographing people, we have the opportunity to make a real connection that can lead to greater understanding, empathy and insight. When photographing nature, we not only see things more clearly, we begin to discover the magic and mystery of plants and animals, the wonder of nature's design and the interconnectedness of everything around us.
“Only the obvious is seen quickly and clearly. “
- Rafael Rojas
Moving slowly through this fast-paced world we live in is not an easy thing to do. Even when we take time off and go on vacation, we have a tendency to do too much and do it too quickly. Most of us see how many different sites we can visit rather than slowing down and spending time in one place. When we move through a place quickly, we tend to see things from the same point of view as other tourists and photographers. It is only by slowing down, experiencing a place and getting to know its habitats and inhabitants that we begin to gain true insight and understanding.
In landscape photography, it takes time and a conscious effort to capture a sense of place—to photograph not only what a place looks like, but also how it makes us feel. It requires slowing down long enough and looking deeply enough to get beyond first impressions. In fact, I believe it is about more than seeing; it is about experiencing a place with all of our senses and our full, undivided attention.
If we want to create unique landscape images, we must slow down long enough to see what others have missed. Can we capture not only the physical elements of a landscape, but also a particular moment in that landscape? Can we photograph not only the broad views, but also seek out the details that, together, make a place whole? Can we shed light on the history and culture of a place?
Like others, I move too quickly through the world and through my days. I once thought the goal was to see how much I could experience, but these days I'm seeing greater value in slowing down and trying to focus more deeply on fewer things. It's not easy, but it is enjoyable. I'm seeing more things by going fewer places.