I've written before that landscape photography should be approached as a contact sport. On this Super Bowl Sunday, I wanted to revisit and expand upon that topic a bit.
The American game of football is very much a contact sport, embodying the struggle for victory while risking injury. With the European variety, both playing and watching can at times be considered a contact sport. To some, the task of the landscape photographer may appear to have nothing in common with football of any sort, but those who pursue it seriously know better. Yes, one can approach it relatively passively, taking advantage of those conveniently marked scenic overlooks and tourist attractions you encounter in your travels. But if you really want to capture the best images you can, you have to encounter the landscape directly, with your whole being. You have to truly get in contact with the landscape.
This can mean getting up well before dawn and eating meals at odd times when the sun isn't rising or setting. But it can also mean scrambling over rocks, risking bruised knees and sore muscles, all in the quest for that elusive vantage point under optimal lighting. Perhaps it isn't truly a sport, but the element of bodily contact should be very real if you're doing it right.
But the idea of "contact" should go much deeper than this. Photographers should strive for "contact" in other ways too.
To take a good image, you have to be in contact with how you feel about your subject. Your experience of photography shouldn't be held at arm's length. You should be in direct contact with your feelings and your actions with the camera and lens serving as an extension of your experience not just as a tool apart from it. I often find it useful simply to sit down for a while and experience my surroundings before attempting to photograph them.
To really take good images you have to be in, and part of, your surroundings. You have open yourself up and risk contact.