ON1 Inspiration — Episode 10: Working with Obstacles

I’ll never forget the first time I visited Little Zig Zag Falls, located near the base of Mt. Hood in Oregon. On one hand, the winding trail and creek that leads you from the parking area to the waterfall is absolutely stunning.

There are all sorts of bends and curves in the path, which could explain the name of this waterfall. However, along with all that charm and beauty came a tremendous amount of fallen trees and branches strewn everywhere. In other words, it is a pure nightmare for anyone who like clean lines and paths. I remember walking away from that first shoot defeated and frustrated because I couldn’t make sense out of the chaos.

As the years progressed and my experience with photographing natural landscapes grew, I developed an appreciation for the compositional imperfections that nature’s obstacles create. They are—for the most part—unavoidable and under no circumstance do I condone anyone adulterating a natural scene to remove obstacles. In other words, don’t cut anything down, rip anything out, and break anything. So, to borrow a famous philosophy: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

This led me to not only “deal” with the obstacles, but to also learn to embrace them and make them a part of the composition. I took each obstacle as a challenge of sorts. How could I use what is in front of me to create a strong composition? This practice has been hugely beneficial for me, especially during my recent visit back to Little Zig Zag Falls. With my new mindset and attitude towards obstacles, I was at greater ease and walked away with a bunch of keepers, most of which were so because of the obstacles.

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