Play to your strengths.

Mt Chocorua Over Chocorua Lake Panorama, Fall

Seen from the bridge between Chocorua Lake and Little Lake in Tamworth, NH, Mt Chocorua shows off its fall color. Bathed in early morning light, dramatic clouds cover the peak in this scenic New Hampshire vista.

Photographs like the above panorama of Mt Chocorua don’t come easy to me. You won’t find many on my website, and there are precious few on my hard drive awaiting their turn to be let loose on the world. I used to beat myself up over my inability to create more of these types of images, but not any more. That’s not to say I’ve given up on them, I’ve just come to realize my strengths as a photographer lie elsewhere. I also know that there are several reasons I haven’t made more photographs like the one above.

Familiarity with an area I think is key to being able to make good, compelling photographs. Just showing up on your first visit can allow you to come away with good images, no doubt, but I feel “going in blind” is a hit or miss proposition. Having only started in photography in 2008, as a hunter my primary interest at that time was wildlife. For more than a year I spent my time chasing critters with my camera that I used to chase with a gun. Now that I find myself focusing more on nature and the landscape, I simply have not had the time to explore all the locations I would like to photograph. This will hopefully change over time.

The next, and I think the biggest, reason I don’t have too many of this type of image to share is that even when presented with the grand scenic view before me, I often have a hard time “seeing” the photograph. Sure I could take your typical “I was here” touristy snap-shot, but that isn’t what I want. And if I don’t see a composition that will make a compelling photograph, all I’m likely to come away with is that snap-shot. No offense to the touristy snap-shot crowd, but I’d just as soon not press the shutter.

Madison Cascades In Fall Color.

A visit to Madison Cascades, in Madison, NH was well worth the effort. The fall color and bright green moss on the stream side boulders accentuate the vibrant fall color in this scenic New Hampshire image.

However, photographs I like to refer to as “intimate landscapes” I find much easier to create. I can walk by a scene like the one above and compose a photograph almost without effort. Even at a distance as I approach, the image will often just jump right out at me. I know exactly where I’m going to set up my tripod, portrait or landscape orientation, shoot from eye or ground level, it all comes in a flash. At the risk of over-inflating my skill as a photographer, it’s almost too easy.

One thing that helps make it easier to make photographs of these intimate landscapes is that there are little pockets of nature almost everywhere. Having to travel hours north and or spend the night in the wilderness, without the above mentioned familiarity, is totally unnecessary. Living in New Hampshire, every little road side stream, field, or patch of woods holds potential. Some of my best images were made in places that I drive by every day, requiring no more than an easy ten minute walk. Some have been made within sight of my car.

Tucker Brook Falls with Boulder, Milford, NH

Close up of a popular scenic New Hampshire waterfall, Tucker Brook Falls in Milford, NH

Sure, I still plan to pursue the grand scenic landscapes I would like to create, because not doing so seems lazy. But for the time being I plan to concentrate my efforts where my strengths lie.

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4 thoughts on “Play to your strengths.

  1. Hey Jeff, Its been a while since I returned to your blog to check out some of your more recent photographs so I’ll have to click around a little to see. However, these two photographs came out great. I love the first one. It certainly reminds me of the New England fall, which unfortunately many of us New Englanders kind of missed out on this year because of the hurricane. As always, thanks for continuing to share your photographs!

    Nate

    • Nate, you hit the nail right on the head about this years fall. Irene and the generally screwy weather made for a rather lackluster foliage season thats for sure.

      And as usually I greatly appreciate the kind words, thank you.

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