Are you experiencing or just recording?

I took this at the Grand Canyon. It's the kind of iconic location that can be overwhelming, but when you slow down and focus on experiencing the place before you start shooting, you will be rewarded with your best photographs.

I originally wrote this for my In This Issue in the May 2012 issue of OP. Today on Twitter I saw a related topic come up so I decided to post this excerpt:

Yosemite National Park is the George Clooney of the nature photography Universe. Its celebrity is unparalleled, it’s instantly recognized and photographers flock to the iconic park in droves jostling for spots to capture the view of the valley like paparazzi wrestling for a place near the red carpet of a film premiere. I’ve seen photographs of nature photographers packed so tightly in the prime positions at Yosemite and I’ve heard tales of near fistfights breaking out in the chaos and scramble of getting a perfect shot.

I recently heard an interview with George Clooney which made me think of the comparison to Yosemite. As an international super star, Clooney has no privacy and just like Yosemite, everyone wants to take his picture. What he has observed is that he could say hello to an adoring fan or he could sign an autograph and the person has a camera phone sticking up shooting video or snapping pictures. Clooney observation was spot on when he said “I think people are experiencing less and recording more.”

Everyone likes to shoot landscape images, to capture iconic vistas in places like Yosemite Valley or The Grand Canyon. When you go to these places, be sure you’re experiencing the place, not just recording it. Break free from the gaggles of photographers and see the whole place or at least as much as you can. The greatest landscape photographers didn’t go to places like Yosemite with a top 10 list, they went there and explored and camped and breathed in as much of it as they could. Inspiration came from their experiences.