Will Goodlet

Why Landscape Photography is Terrifying!

Will Goodlet

I never imagined that the sedate art of carefully photographing a landscape was so utterly terrifying. I always thought that the fear factor would lurk in wildlife photography, but no, other than the couple of hours I spent in a tree in the Zambian night while hiding from a rampant Hippo and the time a lion gave me a sniff through the tent fabric in Khutze, landscapes have been by far the worst for teeth grinding and cold sweat.

 Magwa Falls Gorge, South Africa.

Magwa Falls Gorge, South Africa.

Landscapes are not all terrifying, some are peaceful and placid, like a gentle calming tune - something like the Moonlight Sonata or sad like Claire de Lune. A bucolic sweep of sunset and emotion.

 Jacaranda lined road at sunrise.

Jacaranda lined road at sunrise.

Then you get the other type. The rampant, ripping dread-inspiring ones that suddenly characterize everything in terms of survival or death. They play out in your head like the Ride of the Valkyries as you teeter on the edge of a precipice or hug a rock as the wind tugs at your backpack over a 1000m chasm. How close to the edge can you get? As close as possible without falling if you want the perfect shot!

 View over the Drakensberg

View over the Drakensberg

These are usually the ones you climb a mountain for or ford a coastal river frequented by Zambezi sharks in the dark. It could be the ones that you can't see coming, just hear, building and building in the moonless night before breaking on the shores close-by, lit only by your remote flash unit firing.

 Massive wave breaking under starlight on the Wild Coast, South Africa.

Massive wave breaking under starlight on the Wild Coast, South Africa.

Then there are the slow starters, they don't seem too bad but after wandering in them for a few hours, your mind starts to consider what is beneath the undergrowth or hidden in the trees. Snakes, spiders and ticks? This is Africa after all!

 Eerie indigenous montane forest, South Africa.

Eerie indigenous montane forest, South Africa.

There are even ghostly landscapes where strange ethereal forms come limping down a remote path, all silver and mist and one cowers in the dark to avoid meeting them.

Even the landscapes you can see, the ones that don't have you hiking up a mountain at 3am, can be horrific.

Treacherous rounded rocks and the roar of a river or surf tug at your legs as you balance your precious camera and lens above the torrent. It only takes a little slip to lose the camera and sprain or break a leg in the middle of nowhere.

For me, landscapes are terrifying but that's part of their endless charm I'd guess!

© Will Goodlet

 Quiver tree on the edge of a precipice at break of dawn

Quiver tree on the edge of a precipice at break of dawn