I just by chance met a well known landscape photographer yesterday afternoon up at the Mt. Sonder lookout in the West MacDonnell Ranges national park. Andrew Teakle is his name and you can find him @ www.andrewteakle.com be sure to go and have a look.
We got to speaking about photography and cameras as us camera nerds are want to do and the topic of commercial photography came up during the course of conversation. In particular the stress levels that are often associated with commercial photography and how the opportunities to "get that shot" are fleeting and more often to be a once only type of opportunity.
Take as an example the shot on the left of Carl Hampton MLA at Mondays Climate Change Forum which was held at Desert Knowledge Australia. Waiting for the one chance I had in his 10 minute speech to capture him looking straight at the camera with the solar panels in the background adding context to the shot was something that I had to be ready to pounce on. If I had missed it the shot would not exist and I'd have another shot of the top of his head.
Being a commercial photographer I can tell you that there most definitely are stress levels at times but these moments of stress are usually the result of two things. 1) poor planing and lack of research and 2) not being able to adapt to the situation and find a photographic solution on the go. It might sound easy to have these skills and it is for the first point but it takes a very long time to be able to become quickly adaptable and see the changing situation as an opportunity rather than a challenge. An oppertunity to create an image that did not exist just seconds before and in turn develop a greater diversity of shots for the client.
Stress is relative to your skill level at a particular task and your personality.
Landscape as a photographic genre is on the other hand a practice that can be totally different and it should be when it comes to stress levels. Landscape is a genre of connection to a time, place and spirit that is not always possible to tune into but even a failed landscape mission is infinity more relaxing than a commercial shoot. With landscape photography your out in the wilderness and away from all that society, home and professional life can influence you with,. You have space to create what ever you please.
Landscape is still a genre in which you must have discipline in order to translate not only the scene but also that emotional connection to it into two dimensional photograph, its even harder to understand that language to such a degree that you become proficient at engaging in its conversation. You still have to do your research and understand the physical characteristics of an ecosystem. Things like when and where the sun will will be at a given time, how it will interact with the 3 dimensional shapes you aim to record is one of these fundamental pieces of research.
But this difference between the two genres is something to be emphasised, without the other truly understanding the motives behind what and why your photographing a subject becomes a little cloudy and as a result the photograph lacks that clarity also. Without the experience of having a deadline or the tension of a tight situation where you have to deliver the goods how can one really take part in and attain an understanding of what it means to be relaxed. More so the ability to know that this emotive process is happening and the techniques for translating that emotion into the shot.
A commercial shoot is situation where you have to be on your toes constantly and able to see opportunities where others might see problems. Landscape affords the photographer time to think compose and most of all emotionally connect with the process involved in the creation of an image.