Letting Go of Landmarks

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Embedded on the end of many camera lenses is a small but powerful magnet. You can witness its strength whenever a photographer stands close to a famous landmark. I saw a guy walk along a path in Yosemite Valley, lens pointed down, and as a soon as a clearing showed a peep of Half Dome, swoosh! the lens was pulled up and the shutter was pushed. I was with a group for a weeklong trip in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. In the course of our travels through the park we saw the famous mountain towers from all sides, and—in bad light, okay light, mediocre light, and even good light—the magnets kicked in and whipped the lenses in the direction of the peaks. The shame wasn’t just in endless photographs made in poor light, but it was watching how oblivious everyone was to great light in any other direction. It happens all the time in the presence of famous places. The bridge over Zion National Park’s Virgin River, Antelope Canyon, Maine lighthouses.

Landmarks have an immensely powerful pull, even on those photographers that have dedicated themselves to new creative interpretations; they get weak. Witnessing this, I have learned to put myself in places of unnamed beauty. Without the iconic force fields, I am free to interpret as I wish.