There seem to be two approaches to landscape photography, trophy hunting or immersion.
Trophy hunters want grand scenes in great light. They plan the hunt carefully in advance and know when and where to go to find their trophies.
“Get in and get the shot” is their mantra. With the trophy bagged, they move on to the next iconic hunting ground. Their trips are scheduled and planned to take in as many hunts in great conditions as possible.
It’s all about getting the photo — the experience and enjoyment of the trip and nature is secondary.
The second approach is more immersive where photographers plant themselves in one location and let the images come to them. There’s no agenda or plan except to hang out in one spot and see what happens. The pace is slower, the photography more contemplative and the experience just as important, or more important, than the photography.
What kind of photographer you are depends on your personality type and your sex. In general, we find that most guys are trophy hunters, while most gals are immersive shooters— with exceptions of course.
On our photography field tours it is always fun to watch how differently the two groups behave. At most photo stops we give the participants two hours to shoot. The trophy hunters cover a lot of ground in two hours and come back with dozens of different photo compositions from the location. Often they are done shooting first and ready to move on to the next photo stop long before the two hours are up.
The immersive photographers often plant themselves at the first interesting spot they find and sit there shooting for the whole two hours. When it is time to leave, they reluctantly pack up wishing they had at least two more hours to hang out.
Is one approach better than the other?
Well, it depends. The trophy hunter covers more ground and is more focused on getting certain kinds of shots. The trophy hunter is more likely to find and capture the ‘big shot’ — those ephemeral moments where light and subject merge to create drama and impact.
The trophy hunter’s portfolio of images from two hours will contain one evocative shot (the trophy) and a whole bunch of filler.
The immersive photographer may not get the ‘trophy’ image but will produce numerous thoughtful images that often work best as a series. These images often tell a deeper and more lasting story than the big impact images of trophy shooters.
Like most things in life, the extremes are to be avoided. We find that the best of both approaches yields the finest work. We still use the trophy strategy of planning our outings to be in grand landscapes in dramatic light, but once on location we try to immerse ourselves in the spot.
By slowing down, looking around, and letting the location speak to us, we are making images that go beyond simple impact and that have more meaning and depth.
As with most things in life balance gives desirable results.