My landscape photography has grown out of activities I would engage in anyway. I’ve always loved hiking, be it in the mountains, the woods, the desert — anywhere. These days I usually have my camera along. Sometimes I’ll be in an area I suspect might be interesting photographically, but usually I’m just in a place I want to explore. Either way, I don’t feel cheated if I take no pictures at all, and I’ve never had a bad time. But I have found a difference between productive and unproductive outings. The key predictor is whether I’m alone.

There’s a difference in mindset. If I’m with someone else, my attention is divided. Furthermore, the pieces of it don’t add up. Looking half the time is less than half as good as looking all the time. And to the extent I’m engaged with someone else, every photographic possibility is an interruption, and has to be weighed for social acceptability. It doesn’t help that I deliberately slow down to make photographs; I need to immerse myself in the environment as I select my subject. This is the most intense stage of the process of discovery that Karl talked about yesterday. There are also earlier and later stages, but this is the crux; everything depends on what happens here.

I do have a secret weapon, which is most effective during the long days of summer. Unlike many — fortunately including my family — I love to wake up early. I can drive to a location, hike in, photograph, hike out, and return home before breakfast. That makes it sound fast, but it’s not. The picture above was taken one such morning when I spent about two hours around the site. It was one of the most peaceful and productive times I’ve had.

Ideally there would be enough time for everything, but it will never be so. I am learning to compromise. The key seems to be in arranging for that alone time without the need to re-set schedules or destinations, even without communication. Companions should not be surprised if I disappear unexpectedly for an hour or more. I believe it can be done!

Do you find the same need to be alone when you’re making art? What concessions to sociability, what accomodations have you developed? Are you that amazing creature that can do it all at once?