Is Landscape Photography Important?

I felt chills on my body when I saw the sun would break through the cloud bank and create this beam of light shooting across Lake Superior from Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor.

Honestly, in the big picture, I don’t know how important landscape photography is. With everything going on in our crazy world, everything going on in my world, feeling good and bad. Do pretty pictures of the land really matter. I guess it depends.

When I was a staff newspaper photographer, talking about my photography and what I would strive for in making photographs on my assignments. I told people that I never feel like I can personally change anything, my photos themselves, can’t change anything. But, if I can cause action by people viewing a photo I made, even just one person, then I did my job well. Even if they were so mad they canceled their subscription to the paper, editors didn’t like that though. Maybe they would go to city hall demanding accountability, or maybe they would vote for the first time. Maybe vow to never drink and drive or maybe see the joy, pain and emotion kids feel playing sports and how it teaches them about life. My wish is that images made a difference for one or for many. Even if that was to feel good for the day.

I had tears in my eyes photographing my daughter experiencing the northern lights over Lake Superior for the first time with me.

I guess landscape photography is a bit like that, for me anyway. When I go to shoot landscape and nature images the process is for me. I go alone most of the time, to get away. The further out in nature the better. Often not seeing another person is better. No assignment deadlines, mostly no pressure (Although I do put pressure on myself sometimes). I often don’t know where I will go at first or what I am looking for. But I will know it when I see it, or feel it.

If I am gone long enough or I find what I am looking for and the image just comes together, nicely which luck does play a role in. I feel at home, at ease and the rest of my concerns leave my mind for a time. It can be quite peaceful and even emotional.

I spent a couple hours photographing West Branch Falls on the west branch of the Yellow Dog River flowing through the McCormick Wilderness looking for just the right angle. I was lost in it and my mind was clear of anything else.

So then with the photographs I make I try to bring that feeling back to share with other people. I hope that emotion shows through in my images. Sure, its probably impossible for another person to feel like I did while I was there making the images they are looking at. But if in some way they can feel just a small bit of what I felt by looking at that image, it works for me.

Maybe in the bigger picture they get involved to save our natural and wild places. Or maybe it’s just small and it brings a smile to their face and a calmness to start their day.

I had a comment in a Reddit thread that made me feel good and I think the person got what I am trying to do. “I don’t care much for landscapes usually, but your images are refreshingly honest, as in “not edited to death”, and they show a distinct style of vision, using interesting compositions. I was also pleased with your use of out-of-focus-foliage in the foreground. Most times I see that, I feel that it doesn’t work out, but in your photos it somehow works.”

Shooting through branches, which I was forced to do here because of no clear spot, gives this image of the Two Hearted River some depth. Plus I was photographing it with my daughter and I think I like here image better. I think the peacefulness of the scene shows through.

Now that doesn’t mean photos I make are all good, although I would like to think some are. But to an extent the person understood some of what I’m working to accomplish in my images felt good.

So for me, yeah, I guess landscape photography is important. Maybe not so much the photography itself but the experience of being outside in the forest or looking across Lake Superior and the feelings and emotions tied to that. Then making an attempt to share that feeling with others.

sunset family photo in a sea cave
Not a lot of planning went in this photo. My wife and kids were sitting in the opening while I was making photos and I realized the sun would set through the other opening and I quickly made this photo. My favorite family photo of ours.