Risk and Reward - Journey of a Professional Landscape Photographer

st augustine beach seascapeI wanted to share some thoughts I recently read written by my good friend and fellow photographer Mark VanDyke. Mark's way with words artfully illustrates the behind the scenes struggle of trying to make a living as a full time landscape photographer, and the enormous investment and sometimes personal risk involved in making some of these shots a reality. There's nothing quite like the reward of being there and capturing "THE shot", but the path to it is often littered with repeated failures, personal struggles, financial risk, and countless hours of planning and hard work. It's true that professional landscape photography is a game of risk versus reward, but spend some time talking with anyone who does this for a living and you might be surprised to learn that it is not "THE shot" that they find most rewarding, but the journey that got them there and the experiences along the way.

Read Mark's post below...


“The economics of this thing -- landscape photography -- are nothing short of ridiculous when viewed by an outsider. You make an investment, an optimistic way of viewing things--or more accurately a calculated gamble -- by traveling to a location in the hopes of seeing something special, amazing, epic. You purchase and maintain tens of thousands of dollars of gear, both photography and otherwise, train your body and mind to endure packing weight over rugged terrain, drive through hazards which abound, expose yourself -- most often alone -- to conditions of risk and chance, fronting all costs and only hoping that somehow out of the experience you will be able to salvage a photograph--a short moment in time frozen -- that will chip away over a period of time at the aforementioned expenses that have already been incurred, recouping some of the time, energy, and effort it took.

Perhaps for the most talented, or more accurately, the most well-adjusted and business-minded of those out there, the excursion will result in a product -- both photograph and photographer together -- that will be profitable. But, how can you get started in an industry such as this? How do you motivate yourself? How can you justify to yourself, let alone your family and friends why you do such work? The only answer I can come up with is non-economic in nature. You engage in landscape photography as a vocation following a passion. A passion for the great outdoors. A passion to be standing in the right place when "it" happens. A passion to communicate and express oneself in what Galen Rowell poetically refers to as the "visual language." You have to love what you're doing first and foremost -- the primary experience of hiking in the dark or the rain or the snow, of seeking wildness within the landscape, of seeing what a fellow friend and photographer of mine refers to as, "those moments that others don't or can't see for themselves," of just plain living and being outside. The rewards are far beyond economic -- if you're lucky enough to find financial success. They come in moments captured (and many not), the company of good friends and colleagues, the intimate knowledge of, and interaction with, place, and in respect, both personal and professional.

I'm just getting started in this game of landscape photography and it is an exhilarating experience when it comes together, greatly frustrating when it falls just short, and otherwise challenging to connect what photographer David duChemin refers to as the disparate worlds of craft and commerce. But it is one hell of a ride regardless.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of my journey thus far and to those that will inevitably assist in the future! Here's to trips, experiences, and hopefully, a handful of moving photographs to keep the train on the tracks and motoring forward!”

Mark VanDyke is a full time landscape photographer currently based in Upstate South Carolina. Learn more about him and his work at his website http://www.markvandykephotography.com


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