Dorothea Lange said “A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”
Before starting to photograph landscapes almost 15 years ago, I don’t think I would have understood this quote. I am now acutely aware that the strongest impact photography has had on my life is a developing ability to ‘see’, as opposed to simply ‘looking’ or ‘noticing’.
My wife and I were recently walking our dog along a beach in the Outer Hebrides that could only be described as world-class. I did not have a camera with me. I found myself totally absorbed in seeing; seeing the way the wind caught the tops of the breaking waves, seeing how the sunlight was reflected, seeing the varying colours of the water, seeing the backdrop of mountains with rain clouds gathering. My mind had no room to think about anything else; ‘seeing’ had me totally engrossed in the present.
After some time I asked my wife what she thought of the beach. Unsurprisingly she described it as “stunningly beautiful”. I asked what she was thinking about as we walked along this most amazing of beaches. In her response she covered many of the issues and concerns on her mind: things that had been, or had to be dealt with over coming weeks.
It occurred to me that if my wife had not encouraged me take up photography, and thereby given me the opportunity to learn how to 'see’, I may have been thinking about the same sort of things as we walked along that beach.