There’s no substitute for experience. Part of learning any craft, like photography, is accepting that you’ll make mistakes along the way. For photographer and educator Andy Mumford, there are things he wished he had learned sooner. Better late than never, though. To help other photographers avoid some of the same pitfalls, Mumford has published a new video aimed at landscape photographers.
One of the most rewarding aspects of photography is that you can never really learn it all. There is always room for improvement and new techniques to master. Perhaps you want to try different focal lengths, check out new places or learn new ways to process your images. No matter what it is, there’s always something more to learn. Despite being an accomplished professional with a wide range of clients and an excellent portfolio, Mumford still makes mistakes, and sometimes he makes the same mistakes repeatedly.
Something he wishes he’d learned early on in his photography journey is that it’s not always about the light. This may seem odd to hear at first, but Mumford’s point is not that light is unimportant, but rather, that you can make wonderful landscape images at times of the day beyond sunrise and sunset. Amazing light is great, but don’t let a bad forecast keep you from going out and shooting. Mumford says, ‘By staying at home, you’re missing the opportunity to shoot, you’re missing the opportunity to create what could be a really good image. More than anything, you’re missing the opportunity to practice your craft, to just get out and be in nature and appreciate the experience. You come back home having learned a little bit.’ If the sky is boring, that’s okay. Work on improving your use of the foreground in your landscape photographs. As Mumford observes, ‘You have to work with the light that you’re given, not the light that you wanted to have.’
Another thing Mumford wishes he’d learned sooner is that landscape photography isn’t about the gear. Is it nice to have the latest and greatest gear? Absolutely. Is it necessary? No. Certain tools will profoundly impact your landscape photography, like a reliable tripod and nice filters, but the quality of an image isn’t defined by the gear you used to capture it. As Mumford says, the creative vision of the photographer matters. Further, basically any camera available now can capture great images and bring your vision to life. Your familiarity with your camera equipment is more important than the specific gear you’re using.
Finally, you can’t force an image. While you should take advantage of the time you have to go shoot, even if the conditions aren’t ideal, Mumford also thinks you should accept when something isn’t working. If a scene or composition isn’t clicking, you won’t gain much by forcing it. It’s better to cut your losses, try something new and head somewhere else. You may be able to capture a great image elsewhere, but if you keep trying the same thing over and over, you’re wasting valuable time.
‘Now I’ve done this lots of times and it’s something that I still can be prone to do. I have to be careful to not do it. It’s usually because I have arrived at a scene with an idea of how I want to shoot it,’ says Mumford. This can also happen when you get fixated on a subject at a scene, and you sort of put creative blinders on. To avoid this, Mumford says it’s ideal to arrive somewhere very early, so you can explore it before the conditions you want. Explore, even if you have an idea of the shot you want already.
There is a lot of great insight in Mumford’s video above. To see more of his videos, check out his YouTube channel. If you’d like to learn on location with Mumford, he hosts workshops all over the world, which you can learn about here. To view more of Andy Mumford’s work, visit his gallery and follow him on Instagram.