The Curse of Expectation

I love planning a landscape photography trip.  After actually being outside with my camera, there’s nothing more exciting than planning my next adventure.  I’ll research the area I’m going to profusely.  I’ll use many different websites and apps to help me visualise the shot I want.

The Problem

With so much planning, I often build up a very specific idea of how I want my photos to look.  The problem with forming such rigid ideas is that I find it crushing my creativity when actually on location and inevitably sets me up for disappointment.  Think about it.  When was the last time you did anything and it turned out EXACTLY how you wanted to or planned it?  It’s daft to think that everything will go exactly the way I want.  So why do I do I build such expectations?  Honestly, I have no idea!

An Observation

I’ve noticed something recently while browsing my catalogue of landscape images.  Some of my favourite’s are shots that haven’t been planned.  They’re just something that caught my eye and felt compelled to get the camera out for.  Ironically, this usually happens as I’m leaving a location that I have planned and hasn’t gone as I’d hoped.

Here’s some examples:


My planned shoot for the morning of this shot was at Hambledon Hill.  After things didn’t go to plan, I had a little bit of time to explore before I needed to head back to my car and this is what I found.

The meandering path in this shot is what first caught my eye.  This was quickly followed by the three trees dotted immediately next to the path.  I waited patiently for the golden light from the early morning sun to come over the horizon and illuminate the trees.  This was my preferred shot with just a single tree catching the light.  I liked the contrast of light and shadow on the ground.  By the time the sun had come up far enough to light all the trees, that contrast had disappeared.


I ventured out for another sunrise shoot, hopeful of misty conditions at Godlingston Heath.  The mist arrived but I was unfortunately unable to find a composition I liked.

I began my drive home feeling frustrated that it hadn’t worked out.  As I looked to my left, the mist was still hanging around, creating some atmospheric conditions among the boats moored next to Old Harry Rocks.  It made me think of the stories I’d heard about Harry Paye, (the pirate that the rocks are named after) and the pirates that used to take shelter behind the cliffs while waiting to attack the invading Spanish fleet.  I couldn’t resist stopping for a shot and I’m glad I did.


I was on my way back down from Snowdon’s summit.  Click here if you’d like to read more about this journey.  The low-level cloud prevented the early morning light that was essential to the shot I had in mind, although I did get a few other images that I’m happy with.

Just as I was about to go past Clogwyn train station, a panoramic view of Glyder Fawr opened up.  The scene was oozing drama with the clouds hanging just above the peaks of the rugged mountains.  I took several images to stitch together later for the full panoramic view.  The image used here is part of that collection but, when I got it on to my computer, I felt it worked well by itself.

The Solution

It’s quite simple really.  Let go of expectations.  Planning is, of course, an important part of landscape photography, but it’s impossible to plan for the right conditions.  I intend to take a more relaxed approach in future.

Let me know in the comments the last time things didn’t go to plan for you and what you learned from the experience.



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