I've often felt that the biggest limiting factor in my own photography - is myself. It's not the scenery, it's not the weather - it's me.
This is not a post about putting myself down. It's more a recognition that if something isn't working in the landscape, it's unlikely that it's the landscape's fault, but rather my own limitations to 'see' something beyond my own prejudices.
How often have you heard someone, or yourself say 'it wasn't happening today', or 'there's nothing here'. These kinds of statements say more about us than they do about the landscape, even though the language infers that the landscape didn't provide. A better statement to hear is 'I didn't see anything' or 'I find this place difficult'. With these statements we at least indicate that the problem lies within us, not the landscape. But they still have a degree of suggestion that the landscape may not be providing what we want. And there is the rub.
Having to get past our own prejudices requires us to accept ourselves. We must see our own blindness, and we must also recognise that it is *never* the landscape's fault. It is our own.
If we cannot see something, then we should ask ourselves - what is it that we expect to see? And if we have any expectations, are they something we should entertain, or put to one side?
My own feelings on this matter is that we are often full of self deception. We go to bed full of expectations for the next morning, hoping the sunrise shoot will provide us with what we have already envisioned, or seek. But really, the landscape has no knowledge of us, or what we seek. It is just what it is, what it has to be at that moment in time. Our will or expectations is an illusion. It is our idea that somehow, we have control over what we want the landscape to be.
I often feel that photography is really a leveller. It tells us this: 'the landscape will be what it wants to be, and we have to adopt an open mind to see the beauty in what it is providing us with. Any expectations we had, any pre assumptions about what we hoped it might be - are our own issues to deal with.
This past week, I've been on the isle of Harris - a small island in the outer hebrides of Scotland - my home land. It is a landscape and island that I have been coming to since 2009. I feel I know it well. Yet, this week one of my participants has found a new place on a beach I have been to many times. I am excited because I have found new things here, but I am also reminded that I have been here many times before and didn't see what was in front of my eyes.
Being a good photographer requires a large degree of humility to accept when one is wrong. I thought I knew this island (I don't), I thought there was nothing new to find here (there is), I thought I couldn't be surprised after so many visits here (I can).
That's what I love about photography. It's really a metaphor for life: when you think you know something or someone, or some place, the chances are - you really don't. It encourages me to be as humble as I *should* be. Life is more surprising that I think it it is. Places surprise me all the time and offer up new compositions and new views that I had not thought possible. If that's just the landscape talking, then what about people? Should I cast my preconceptions aside? Because let's face it - if a landscape can offer up something surprising, something new that we had not seen on previous visits, then anything, and I mean *anything* is always possible.
Photography has taught me so much. But one thing it has repeatedly done is tell me to 'open my heart to the future'. It is often in the unexpected, the open ended possibilities of what might be, that we often grow.