Manifesting in Photography
Live the landscape first, have a passion for that first and let it drive your photography. Keep fit and go that bit further. If you don’t get an image that you love, make sure you’ve loved just being out. Galen Rowell
I admire many photographers, but none more so than the late Galen Rowell. He was in my mind the adventure photographer I most wanted to be like.
His back yard was the Sierra Nevada mountains in California in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He ran, hiked, chased light, climbed big rocks, all while carrying a camera. I found and still do find his photography books inspirational.
He was also a very deep thinker and one of his concepts I found truly interesting is this.
Most people, me included, go outside and take photos that appear at that moment in time. After all, being spontaneous and adaptable is part of exploring the world with a camera. Galen Rowell was also a spontaneous adaptable photographer, but he didn’t stop there.
Now this may seem a little counterintuitive. Galen Rowell would compose the perfect landscape scene in his mind and really dive deep picturing the light he wants, angles that would be best, what to include and not include etc. Then he would go out and find it.
This visualisation would sit in his head, say a mountain lit up by a setting sun reflecting in a mirror smooth lake. It could be weeks or even months before he felt all the ducks lined up.
When he felt that moment had a arrived he would set off and attempt to duplicate his internal visualisation into a photographic image. It didn’t always come off, but it didn’t really matter to him.
Not long ago I practised a slightly different version of this technique. We were up at Burns Beach, just north of Perth on a hot summers day, around midday. I came across a limestone overhang which looked like a mouth of a cave. I took a photo. It was an ok shot, but it could be a lot better. I sussed out the best angles, then imagined the best light to shoot the scene in. I reckoned that the ledge would frame a sunset over the ocean perfectly. What I visualised was some clouds lit up by the setting sun reflecting in the water along with some wet rocks in the foreground.
Perth in summer is known for its endless clear skies, so I had to wait for the right moment. About a week later, some clouds appeared and the possibility of a great sunset looked promising. I grabbed the camera and found the right angle and waited. The image I had planned in my head over a week ago came off almost as I imagined it.
There’s something really satisfying about this creative approach to photography. Thank you Galen Rowell for inspiring me to think outside my normal photographic comfort zone.