They say the devil is in the details. Haven’t seen the devil but we have found a whole universe in the details, what Elliot Porter called the “intimate landscape”. When out trying to get a great scenic shot how many times have you had the light fizzle, the scene just not meet your expectations? If you have unlimited time that’s not much of an issue, just wait it out, something good is bound to happen. Most people don’t have boundless time to capture their vision. So, what do you do when all that planning or at least hoping goes south? We’ve all been there, I can’t tell you how many times a gray, high cloud has snuffed that spectacular late day light. But there you are, what to do?
Iconic landscapes are a blessing and a curse, stunningly gorgeous places that are a joy to experience but have been photographed by virtually everyone. Finding that one-off shot that can set your image apart is difficult, requiring much time and luck. Who hasn’t wanted one of those killer shots of the Grand Canyon or Half Dome in Yosemite? You know, the one people tell you that should be in National Geographic.
That search for the Grand Landscape can blind us to the very things that make such a place special. Those are the details, a macro view of a place, the way wind and water has polished a rock, the way sand lays against a tree root, tracks in the snow. Another nice aspect of looking for the details is that these almost secret landscapes are everywhere. I suspect most of us from time to time travel the same routes that have become so familiar we no longer see them. We chase the light, when it refuses to be caught we just need to take a more contemplative look around. What do you do to salvage a view that just won’t cooperate?