It was Ansel Adams, the great pioneer of landscape photography, who said that “twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop’. That’s enough to make any photographer stop and think for a minute. Twelve? Only twelve? That’s potentially an awful lot of time and effort for little significant reward.
Then, there’s Henri Cartier Breton with his “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” quote, just to cheer us up some more. Ten THOUSAND! Even in the age of digital, that’s a lot of wasted clicks of the shutter.
But of course, the clicks aren’t wasted if the experience is enjoyable; if, with each exposure, you keep learning, even in tiny increments; if, once in a while, you manage one of Ansel’s “significant twelve”.
I’ve submitted to the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition this year, entries for which closed a few days ago, and if we assume that Ansel and Henri are both correct, my chances of success are vanishingly small and my entry fee has been wasted. Then again, of the brilliant photographs that make the cut each year and feature in the coffee table book, quite a few are taken by relative notices, keen amateurs and semi-professionals. Certainly, it’s not just the better known in the landscape field who make the final cut. I won’t say which images I’ve entered, although some do feature on my website at the moment. What I will say is that none were taken with any competition in mind and all were taken simply because I enjoy the process, and because I could answer an Ansel Adams question in the affirmative: “Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream?”
It’s impossible to please everyone, every time, so I try instead just to please myself. Sometimes an image will resonate more widely and will attract hundreds of “likes” on social media; other times, an image that I like more will disappear without trace on the same platform. Thankfully, that doesn’t bother me and if it did, I’d probably be wise to close my Instagram account immediately.
So, if I can give one piece of advice to anyone starting out with a camera, it’s this: take photographs for yourself and no one else. You’ll enjoy it much more that way.