By Steven Gnam
See It Fresh
Many of us are drawn to a place because of photos we've seen. Often the photos we see in magazines and ads are taken from the same classic tourist viewpoints. When I visit a new place, I look at those classic images and then shoot something different. This can mean visiting a different area, turning your lens to something other than the big views, or putting your own twist on the scene. In this image, I focused on a landscape painter who was working near a popular overlook in Glacier National Park to give a fresh perspective to this well-known place.
One way to give fresh perspective to a place is to change the scale with which you show it. This could mean you use a macro scale and focus on the details at ground level. Or, you can look far away at landscape features. For the first photo I got close to the painter and photographed his palette. This still represented the place, but through the personal color selection that a landscape painter used to represent the scene. For the second photo I spotted some hikers far ahead of me who gave a sense of scale to the mountains around Logan Pass.
Emotion first, shoot second
The most powerful photographs you will make will stir strong emotion in the viewer. The best way to build emotion into your photos is to feel it first. You'll hear of photographers on assignment not shooting for a day or more as they scout and become familiar with their subjects. This waiting often helps the photographer build relationships with their subjects and feel emotion without the camera getting in the way. I hiked to this location earlier in the afternoon, but the mood wasn't right and I didn't take any photographs. When I returned hours later, the light and the painter gave a sense of the peace that the mountains were giving me.
While photography is largely a visual process, it also involves many other senses and emotions. The Montana landscape is rich for the eyes, so many colors, layers, and textures. But don't let the camera in your hand make you miss the sweet smell of beargrass in bloom, the taste of huckleberries, or the sound of an eagle's cry. When you open all your senses, you will not only experience more but you will also feel more, which will come through in the photos you take.
Steven G. Gnam