Landscape Photographic icons – should we follow the tracks or should we avoid them?

The first and most pertinent answer in my opinion is that we ought first remove the use of the word ‘should’. The photographic ‘written word, whether it be books, blogs, forum posts, is far too full of advice telling us what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do.Landscape photography is, for so many people, an escape. An escape from cities, from jobs, from stress, from illness or other life factors. It can also be an escape from ‘shoulds‘. When photographers are in the wild, providing they are not causing damage, they can be free of any pressure to conform. Any adherence rules can be chosen not enforced. I have often expressed the view that the development of photographic skills can be likened to learning a musical instrument. An understanding of the basic principles is needed, the level of practice is often reflected in proficiency and the learning of test pieces often forms a precursor to personal composition. The performance of the test piece does two things, it first (and foremost) brings the player pleasure and secondly it forms the structure for the acquisition of skills. There is no suggestion that they are immediately adding a new gem to the cornucopia of world music. There will always be those artists who somehow manage to shortcut stages and emerge ‘fully formed’ but for the majority, let them make their own versions of iconic images. A significant subset of the criticism I see levelled on those who ‘dare’ to set up their tripods at the Buachaille, or Blea Tarn or Crow Park in Keswick, comes from well known and established photographers. When I read such criticism, I tend to visit Google and their websites and so often find their own early images of the ‘standards’. Much of what is written might be better if worded to avoid telling beginners what they should do and adjusted to emphasise that their enjoyment of what they are doing is key.

With this post is an iconic image, the famous shed and bicycle in Glen Etive, it features somewhere in many a fine photographer’s back or current catalogue. I’ve never been moved to photograph it before but on learning of the partial collapse of the structure, it suddenly became something of which I wanted to have my own record. The picture was a quick snap on the phone in the pouring rain. I suspect there won’t by much still standing when I next return. I won’t be sharing it as an example of creativity, mastery or even record. I am however pleased to have an image to call my own.

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