Last month I co-led a photography workshop in the Tetons with my friend, Jason Hatfield. We were lucky to have nine incredible people with diverse backgrounds, all of whom came together right away to create a really fun and supportive group. I had many interesting conversations with our participants, but one in particular remains in my thoughts.
A talented photographer from Texas rode with me to a sunset shoot one day. En route we had a lengthy discussion about the challenges involved with photographing landscapes that are vastly different from those of our home turf. For example, I live in Moab, the land of red rock, canyons and arches. I'm comfortable in the desert. I've learned how to read the weather, find interesting compositions, work the seasons and otherwise be productive in a desert environment. But as much as I love this arid land, I need an occasional escape. Maybe I'll run to the mountains, or to the coast, but wherever I end up, it's almost always a vastly different landscape from my beloved desert. Each time, there's a bit of re-calibration that takes place before I'm able to start seeing and creating images.
There are myriad ways to view this challenge. I like to think of it as an exercise in creativity. Photographing in an unfamiliar landscape pushes me to explore an area more thoroughly, which helps me to develop an intimate understanding of the local environment. I find that the images I make on the first few days at a new location are rarely my best. As I spend time familiarizing myself with an area, I discover little nuances that lead to opportunities for more dynamic imagery. And when I return home, I'm rejuvenated. My creative juices are flowing and I'm looking at the familiar desert landscape with fresh eyes.
It's good to get out of our comfort zones. It's good to push ourselves, to constantly learn new things and feel free to experiment. When we do, we grow, and growth always leads to good things.