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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Take Advantage Of Big Weather

Current weather patterns yield rare opportunities for nature photographers

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Waputik Icefield viewed from Niles Peak, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada
As a lone wolf by nature, landscape photography is, for me, a solitary, contemplative experience. My most vibrant experiences occur when I immerse myself in a remote location where I may not see another person for days. As I move through the landscape in search of light and texture, I begin to feel like part of the scene. The mesmerizing, Zen-like state I enter gets deeper and deeper the longer I'm out there, but comes crashing down the moment I finally do run into another person and need to communicate and say something intelligible. It's like breaking the trance.

Before traveling to a particular location, I always sketch out a plan with an itinerary of times and places, often based on notes I've kept from past visits where the conditions weren't exactly right when I was there. While some of my most rewarding photography experiences have occurred watching an image I've planned and previsualized for a long time materialize before my eyes, it's often more satisfying when I stumble across a new, spectacular scene that I hadn't anticipated at all. It gets back to that sense of discovery. That's why I'm out there in the first place. In landscape photography, the most dramatic, unanticipated images are almost always delivered by unusual weather and sky conditions, so it's just a question of being in the right place at the right time and making sure you're out there enough to increase the odds.

Another major driver behind my landscape work has been the opportunity to use it as an advocacy tool to inform and, hopefully, inspire people to protect the last remaining fragments of wild land in North America. From the beginning of time, we've altered the natural world in profound ways to suit our own needs, usually without any consideration of the long-term implications or effect on other parts of the system. I often wonder what purpose it serves or if it's actually counterproductive to continue producing beautiful images depicting pristine nature, while just outside the image frame, clear-cuts fill the horizon. Land conservation groups are always looking for photographers willing to donate images of the areas they're working to protect. Having our images used in this manner can provide us with another good reason to get out there to photograph those threatened landscapes we cherish most.

Whether we're motivated by conservation issues or the art itself or simply wish to decorate our walls, in the end, each of us has our own reasons for pursuing landscape photography. The challenge is to continually devise goals and projects that will help us keep those passions alive.

See more of James Kay's photography at jameskay.com.

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