Admittedly I’m aware that photography is often seen as a male dominated space, yet in the two camera clubs I am or have been members of in the last 5 years, the audience has been usually 50% women, sometimes more. Women from teenagers up to retirees of varying ages too.
So I was a little surprised to come across this article by an American photographer who happens to be a big fan of NZ, I was admiring his photos enough to spend some time reading his blog. In essence he queries why he sees so few women exhibiting work in landscape photography in places he shares his work.
Reading the comments (mostly from women) was somewhat enlightening and also sad. Too many have other calls on their time with family commitments but many seemed to be afraid to venture out into unknown spaces or be out with their camera alone. I found this particular concept initially very strange to deal with because I have no qualms myself about being out alone with my gear, but it has to be noted I live in a country where personal safety is generally a given, and we don’t have critters that are out to get you one way or another. Of course being single with no kids means my time is mine to do whatever I like with, an uncommon freedom for a lot of other women.
Doing a bit of digging online, other women photographers have mused on the subject too, the comment that women tend to cluster and have a preference for workshops is interesting to me, because when out seriously shooting I absolutely prefer to do it alone.
Yes I have attended workshops and greatly enjoyed them, often learning in a group is a more beneficial way to transfer information, if you don’t quite get something the tutor has explained, another person can sometimes translate. Or a new concept might arise out of group discussion.
But I don’t want someone else there while I’m planning and thinking and deciding where to line up a shot. Holding me back if I do decide to clamber down a dodgy looking cliff or questioning my choices. Yes from a safety point of view, having someone handy is sensible, but I carry my cellphone, and try not to be too idiotic (or text my BFF where they can recover the body if I do make a bad call LOL). I have had a few scares I will admit.
However it must be confessed that my excursions are more of the driving to a destination and clambering about on the beach, or walking up to a scenic point or waterfall. Being a lazy slothful creature who enjoys a good sleepin and misses all the good sunsets, hiking for miles up and down mountains is not my idea of a good time. Having said that, there are plenty of opportunities for falling or injuring myself to be had, and I am generally fairly careful and cautious but I do also push my limits, its one of the ways photography challenges me, that passion for *the* image drives me to go further and push harder than I normally would.
And that feeling you get when you have got THE SHOT, and you had to scramble and climb and bleed a little to get it, to know you took a chance, climbed a hill for a different viewpoint, took your shoes and socks off and waded into the middle of a river for a better composition. That feeling makes my soul a little warmer, makes me more real. That feeling…… priceless!
Take this shot above of Stewart Island, to get here its 7 hours drive from home, so I planned a roadtrip for my Xmas holidays last year. Just me, the car, camera, iPod and a LOT of driving – over 2000 km for an 9 day trip. I had an absolute blast driving through fantastic countryside, planning trips to special scenic areas, enjoying good walks through native forest, viewing waterfalls and fossil forests and penguins. Got sunburned, hot sweaty and rumpled and didn’t care. Didn’t even have cell coverage for most of it. Fabulous holiday! Planning to do it again this year somewhere else
My more recent trip to Cape Foulwind was a group event organised by one of my Camera Clubs, eight of us travelled 5 hrs across the South Island to this remote and stunningly beautiful part of NZ for a three day photography fieldtrip. This time I got to spend time with other photographers, a group of us climbed very carefully down a quite vertical cliff (on our bottoms on the more slippery parts) to the beach featured above and had a wonderful afternoon pottering around doing our thing, discussions were had about composition and lighting and we would wander off as it suited, catching up for more discussion about new features to shoot.
Was a lovely time and I greatly enjoyed the interaction. But my best photos were taken while I was out by myself, with the time to work uninterrupted and get my head in the space I needed it to be in.
So why are so many women not venturing into the outdoors? Why not organise a babysitter for an afternoon so you can have some quality time with your camera? Why not plan a girls weekend out of town somewhere scenic you can wander around for an afternoon while the girls shop or soak in hot pools? Does landscape not interest or challenge other women?
Is fitness an issue or carrying the heavy camera gear and tripod a challenge? Do other women genuinely not enjoy time alone in the outdoors? Does the thought of driving for hours to get somewhere interesting and different put you off? Could finances be a challenge?
Why is it that in comparison to men, fewer women answer the call of landscape photography? I only recently started to get serious about landscapes myself, driven by the long anticpated acquisition of my UWA 10-22 lens so I am pleased to be out there, doing my thing out there in the great outdoors :) Could it be the technical side of things that is a challenge – I still struggle with working out hyperfocal lengths and really just wing it and I was afraid of my tripod and didn’t use it for months after I bought it (seriously, really was!).
I wonder if the ultimate call is about priority, for many women they choose to make other things a priority in their life, children, partners, other hobbies etc. Photography is a discipline that does require a certain investment in time and lets face it, finances as well. Still the same could be said about having children too. Its such a creative outlet I struggle to see if social stigma would be applied for women venturing into serious photography. Is it the thought of failing, the time it takes to master the art and produce good work that is a turn off? Again, a common theme in any new challenge.
So ladies, genuinely interested here, is Landscape Photography your thing? If not, why not?