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This article was written based on my opinion about mastery not only of landscape photography but of other genres or creative fields as well. There is not a chance I am claiming this title or implying that I have arrived to this state. I just want to write, exercise my mind and share my thoughts to my readers if there are any.
Before we strip naked the mind and the path of a true master, I would like to describe generally first what this path is all about. It is an infamous journey that lazies dare not tread. It is a path both great and terrible. A divine undertaking that requires complete dedication, effort and commitment. A mindset that little Johnny “The Lazy” will never ever have.
By the way, when I mention lazy photographer it refers to a literal lazyass who buys a camera and have millions of reasons not to touch it. Perhaps, the lowest form of camera owners walking on the surface of the oblate spheroidal Earth.
So let’s talk about how a master photographer does his own things.
A master’s eye is a trained eye. Due to years of experience of observing patterns, shapes, lighting, colours and shades in nature; he has able to develop a strong sense of vision. He is a very observant man. He sees between branches and tree trunks. He glimpses above mountain peaks and ocean shores. Because of that, he is not enslaved to any compositional rules. He actually shines brightest when he breaks the rules. It is Mother Nature that has trained him to see this way. The moment he opens the shutter, he is more likely sure of the outcome. He has the ability to foresee what’s coming out even before the sensor has finished recording the light.
A master landscape photographer is a great explorer. He navigates along walking trails looking for the best spots to shoot at. He even dares off the beaten tracks like a lone wolf if he has to in order to find what pleases and fills his hungered sight. He conquers treacherous summits and treads vast meadows. He dips himself in a cold flowing stream or in a shallow still lake. He even dares raging waves pounding rocks along unknown shores. He wakes up while everybody is still snoring. He sleeps when everybody is already dreaming. He wanders off ridge to ridge and shoreline to shoreline to find a rare pearl which is the nature’s splendour; a rare pearl that captures his soul. When he has finally found it, he knows that his vision has been fulfilled. He looks at his art like a master smith who has just forged his eternal blade. A moment when the formlessness that is contained inside a master has come into life, a tangible representation of his soul.
A master knows the value and capability of equipment. He honestly believes that having a better gear is a good thing. A master photographer shooting with two cameras of different specifications will produce images of equal artistry. The only difference is the technical quality such as image size, dynamic range, etc. However, he believes that equipment is never responsible for creativity. He thinks that falling into a trap of this uncontrolled gear acquisition syndrome is a dangerous predicament for somebody who is untrained and into this kind of art. When a lazyass thinks that he can take better photographs because of his latest mirrorless or full-frame; that’s the time when new equipment becomes an impediment to progress. It makes his moronic mind expect something good from the equipment held by his inexperienced hands and untrained eyes. Then, he becomes lazier and frustrated. Unless he has realized that efforts and learning are the major factors to taking good photographs, he will never be a happy photographer. This is one of the worst sins you can commit in this craft; to think that you’re good because your equipment is good. Can somebody give this stupid one a tap on the back please and send him regards for his silliness?
A master rejects too much materialism and embrace minimalism. More so in landscape photography where the weight and the volume of equipment are critical during shoots and explorations. Most people online are crazy about new stuff. I am one of them. Yeah, damn... who among us don’t like new gears? We act like free advertisement for particular brands day and night. We get this latest shit and we compete with other morons afterwards to show who has the best brands and camera models. There’s is nothing wrong with that I guess. But a master is not tricked into this kind of mentality. He has a low desire for new gears. He actually calls it needs. If a time comes that he needs to upgrade, then he upgrades to the right gears and right gears do not mean latest and expensive ones. He always thinks that great photographs are products of personal astronomical efforts, relentless studies and learning, continuous explorations and undying motivations. Deep inside, a master laughs at those moronic rookies who are only experts in latest camera specs, models and brands. Time really flies so fast and so is technological advancement. What’s considered state-of-the-art today are the obsoletes of tomorrow. In a matter of a year or 2, latest models with the latest features are always born. A master is not taking part in this culture of lust for whatever is new. He thinks that more love, time, money and attention must be given to development such as travel, learning and practice than to equipment upgrades.
A master knows how to prioritise his expenses. If buying a better gear will sacrifice more important things like trips, explorations and learning; he will wait and wait and wait for funds until he is more capable of buying equipment. He asks himself, “What’s the use of latest and new if you can only shoot around my yard?” He is as free as a bird. Most of his energy and resources are channeled to exploring the world.
A master in the field is also a master in the digital room. The moment he opens and closes the shutter, he already knows more or less how to process the image the sensor is recording at the present moment. A master is an expert of tonal and colour balance. When you look at his pictures, you will not cringe or hurt your eyes. He will connect and speak to your core. You will be able to glimpse at his soul through his vision. You will feel if not totally a fraction of what the master photographer had felt when he took the image. That’s one of the great powers of a master; to communicate without words, to trigger emotions through forms.
A master is aware that he is surrounded with people that squawk for his downfall. Anyone who takes this path will have a chorus of naysayers chanting for his failures. That’s the natural tendency of the intimidated and threatened weaklings. This kind of photographers are frightened that their fake glories only founded on online popularity and never on genuine artistry will be taken away from them as the true master is being catapulted high up to sky with shining splendour; rising above the rubble of accomplished tests and challenges. Everybody looks up in disbelief then asks a foolish question “Where the f*ck did he come from?” A master just smiles because he knows that hidden enemies are a manifestation that he’s on the right path. A master gives zero f*ck to them of course. He just actually listens and watches in laughter as they scream, stomp and whine. He laughs hard for his enemies’ tantrums have no real consequence aside from a mere entertainment for him.
A true master may come from any walks of life. He may emerge from a slum or from an exclusive neighbourhood. He even doesn’t need to have a name in order to follow this legendary path. A master’s path has no doors, it has no gates. It welcomes anyone who wishes to tread its paths as long as he has the will to persevere. You don’t have to be a f*cking ambassador or influencer to enter. There are no prerequisites. No entrance fees. Mastery knows no status and social classes. It doesn’t take any side. It doesn’t discriminate. It does not ask who you are or what kind of gears you have. It does not ask which brand you’re using. It only asks one question “Would you dare or not?” A simple question to answer for a landscape photographer in possession of a master’s heart. He fearlessly embarks the journey. He ties his shoelaces tight, puts on his backpack and rolls his sleeves up. He feels free and thrilled to step on its treacherous terrains whilst our Johnny “The Lazy Photographer” enjoys the comfort of his boring space.
Very far from where he started the journey, a master looks back. He stares at a distant southern horizon puzzled. He asks himself a question “Have I arrived yet?” He puts down his backpack on the lawn and sits on a fallen log. He lights up a cigarette and ponders on the question in his mind as he exhales smoke through his nostrils. He fixes his gaze at the northern horizon as he finishes his cigarette. It seems so wide, endless and gives no guarantee. He takes the last pop out of his cigar and keeps the butt in a small plastic bag. He puts on his bag, fixes his cap, tighten his shoelaces and resumes walking down the path with a silly smile.
He had a great realisation. He has realised that a master’s path has no destination. It is never a destination. It has become his life and there is no turning back. Only death is considered the terminal point. He does not care anymore about labels, prizes, prestige and arriving at something. If ever along the way he received these things, he is thankful. But he knows deep inside that those are not the goals. He also knows that there is no f*cking arrival happening. It is not a problem because that does not appeal to him anymore. He is now in possession of his most important treasure which is the journey; a never-ending voyage until his last god damn breath. Nobody can take it away from him.
All of us have a seed in our heart. That’s where we start the journey; right at this place, right in this moment. Follow the master’s path in your chosen field/discipline or die living a soulless life.
Thank you for reading.