Todays mindset is one of impatience, immediacy and reaction. It seams to be required in order to be "successful". This is perpetuated in the world of photography by the ease with which digital images can be captured. Fast to set up, automatic if we choose, cost per shot = $0. This flows over into large format photography as well. While on location in a beautiful place it is easy to think, "This is taking a long time", "I'll crop that later" or "I'll fix that later". This has led to a plethora of good images, but few that we are actually proud of.
From very early on in my photography life I have taken a care-full approach. While I can justify this with the cost of film, developing, scanning, etc., I lean toward the reality that an image that motivates me to take out my big cameras moves me to proceed with respect to my art. Being in the outdoors and experiencing beautiful, idyllic natural moments makes my life better. It makes me healthy and happy. When I choose to compose an image to share with the world (with my name on it), I want to be particular with the composition. When I am in the field seeing and experiencing a special moment, I want to create my composition based upon what is moving IN THAT MOMENT. The art happens then and there. Not later in the darkroom / digital darkroom.
In order to stay true to this aspect of my art, I carry both traditionally shaped and panoramic film formats. My smaller setup is a 5x7 metal field camera, for which I carry both a 4x5 film back, as well as a 6x17cm roll film panoramic back. My larger camera setup is an 8x10 metal field camera with which I shoot full frame 8x10 film, as well as 4x10 inch frames with an adapted (cut) dark slide. When I see a scene in a particular way, I shoot what I envision, as I envision it. Rarely will I crop a sheet of film after the fact. This enables me to move into the darkroom / digital darkroom with the composition I was moved to compose. I retain my vision, and merely need to attend to color correction and contrast control after the fact.
One tool I use while out in the field with my large format cameras is a composition / viewing card. With my big, cumbersome camera gear safely in my backpack I keep the two composition cards (one panoramic and one traditional) that correspond to the film formats I have with me connected to the chest strap of my pack. With the cards readily at hand, I can easily assess the compositional possibilities of a scene that grabs my attention. I first react a subject that catches my eye. I then use the cards to see how this main subject might fit into a composition relative to the environment surrounding it. If this flows and I truly feel excited about it, I assess the light and consider setting up my camera. At this point, I have already decided that "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right / well". There is no thought to cropping it better later, or fixing it at home. In the field, while composing and exposing, is where "The Fine Art of Nature" happens. There is a mix of natural beauty and personal connection. The effort is worth it, and the image (often times) is worthy of sharing with my collectors.
To sum things up, I believe there is a loss of art within the landscape photography world today. This is not due to alack of talent or ability, or even camera type. We are caught in a world of volume and speed. Even when going outdoors to pursue our passion of nature photography, we are constantly doing battle, whether we know it or not, with the technological world we are immersed in. We need to consciously remind ourselves why we are pulled to outdoor photography. We need to slow down and allow ourselves to compose art that truly moves us. The world doesn't need another 40,000 average "captures". The world, or at least I need singular moments that transport me to the simple beauty of nature.
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