Five life lessons learned through landscape photography

Five life lessons learned through landscape photography

Landscape photography isn't simply beautiful images of the natural world, but a teacher that can change how you approach life.

Landscape photography is more than the art and craft of creating beautiful images. It's also the time spent traveling, exploring, slowing down, and re-connecting with the outside world. The moments spent alone, with little more than a camera and a tripod, thinking about the philosophical side of photography, and how those philosophies overlap with the unpredictable journey of life itself.

Here are five of those thoughts I've had while in the field.

Destinations can and will change

My photo library is full of images I never expected to make. Images of subjects that were discovered serendipitously, on the ground, without planning, foresight, or Google Earth. They're often my favorite images, while the images of iconic, recognizable subjects aren't as satisfying. It's a helpful reminder that in photography — and life itself — it's the journey, the discoveries, and the ideas generated along the way that truly matter, not pre-planned goals.

Failure equals progress

I don't enjoy making mistakes. Nobody does. But mistakes happen all the time. I have a bad habit of internalizing mistakes and quietly beating myself up for making them. Perhaps this is rooted in my upbringing, but from an early age I learned to fear mistakes. I used my fear of mistakes as a motivating influence to improve the quality of my work. What this created was an unhealthy interpretation of mistakes as a deficiency of talent and intelligence, rather than a normal by-product of the creative process and a sign that progress is being made. It's taken quite a long time for me to recognize and appreciate the latter, but I'm still working on it.

First step is showing up

No effort, no reward. It's really that simple. Unless I put myself out there, nothing will happen. I won't capture beautiful images, and I won't grow or mature as a photographer. If I make myself present and available for whatever may come my way, there's a far better chance of success than choosing not to show up at all. This is what I try to remind myself whenever I don't feel like making the effort or putting in the time.

Recognize what cannot be controlled

In landscape and outdoor photography, nothing can be controlled by the photographer. The light, the weather, the wind. All we can do is hope that mother nature will offer good conditions for great images. Frustration is normal and natural, but ultimately a waste of energy when there's nothing that can be done to change the situation. Better to focus that energy and attention on the craft itself, and be humbled by forces more powerful than any individual.


As the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait. I'm a fan of productivity and squeezing the most value out of something, but I also recognize that sometimes the best images are created not through sweat and endurance, but rather stepping back, allowing time to move at its natural pace, and waiting for inspiration to strike. Patience slows the mind and invigorates awareness and observation, which are two essential ingredients when creating great images that resonate.