The Search for Intimate Landscapes

August 3rd, 2012 by Robert Rodriguez Jr.


Tundra, Rock Mtn NP

As I continue to study painting and all of the profound things it can teach us as photographers, I find myself more often looking beyond the obvious compositions, and more towards the smaller details. Whether we call them abstracts, extracts (as Ansel Adams preferred), or intimate landscapes (my favorite), the idea is the same. We focus on the smaller details that allow us to remove visual cues such as scale and location, and focus on patterns, shapes, and mystery. Imagination becomes much more of a factor both for the photographer and the viewer.

This has been on my mind more and more as I struggle with conveying my feelings about what I see and experience, especially when I travel to unfamiliar locations. I took the time to visit a few galleries here in Denver Colorado, and it immediately became apparent that most of the locations I planned to visit have been photographed countless times. That doesn’t discourage me in the least, but rather provides a challenge I enjoy. How can I interpret the landscape in my own original way?

View from Mt Evans, Colorado

Of course I don’t presume I’ll be able to do that easily, but it both scares me and motivates me at the same time. Fear of course is always present when we try to do something where failure is a real possibility. But that also means we’re pushing our limits, testing our boundaries, and freeing ourselves from the “comfort zone”. And that is a place I want to spend the least amount of time in. Sure it feels safe, but it breeds complacency and mediocrity – and creativity suffers (even dies) because of it.

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” – Albert Einstein

I’ve been guilty of enjoying the comfort zone, and I admit it does feel reassuring to repeat those ideas that have worked in the past. But that’s just not where I want to be now, or in the future. There’s just too much competition, especially from those who assume all it takes is a modern DSLR, an iconic vista, good Photoshop skills, and a website. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not the path I want to follow.

Ice Cloud, Rocky Mtn NP

So I’m taking more risks, trying new approaches, and thinking a lot more before I press the shutter button. I’m in competition with myself, and so that allows me to be myself. That to me is the real search for intimate landscapes, and where we can all shine as creative photographers. Are you spending too much time in the comfort zone? When was the last time you really too a risk as a photographer? Try it, you might be surprised at how liberating it is, and how much more connected it makes you feel to your work.

Shadow Canyon, Moab, UT

Share your feedback and comments below. Thanks a always for reading!


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