We take a lot of photographs in the remote areas of the Washington State and British Columbia. We travel to a lot of these places on our boat, Salish Lady. Our boating/photography trips usually involve challenges of selecting a general location, getting there by boat, finding a safe place to anchor, and then launching the dinghy to get to shore.
I think all serious landscape photographers know that getting just the right light is the most important factor in achieving a STUNNING photograph. However, without some kind of interest in the composition, even the absolute best light and color can’t move a beautiful photograph into the STUNNING category.
Working in the wilderness of Inside Passage makes it doubly hard. The environment here is beautiful and overwhelming. Almost every place you stand feels like it should be the “spot”. But it is also a very complex environment and our eyes do an incredibly good job at distilling the environment for us. In a photograph, complexity can get in the way of creating the STUNNING image.
Finding the right spot to take the photograph becomes an obsession. We spend hours and hours trekking across the shore, up hills, and wandering around on small islands. Don’t get me wrong; we really enjoy this exploration and would do it even if we never had any intention of taking a photograph. However, finding a spot with just the right “stuff” drives this process.
So how do we decide on the right spot? All the usual rules of composition apply, but the trick we have found that seems to trump everything is simplicity. We drive to create a simple image, without distractions, but still something to capture the viewers’ emotions. We like to allow the simplicity combined with the colors tell the story. When we are really successful, the image tells a story and hints at the broader beauty of the area. A goal we strive for but rarely achieve.
So when faced with an overwhelmingly beautiful vista, look for the simple composition. Have faith that from a simple image the story will be clear.