In today's Weekend Agenda, Nate Luebbe travels to the canyonlands of Arizona with nine of Sony's best landscape photographers. Often shooting by himself, Nate shares how the experience of collaborative creation pushed him to new viewpoints and perspectives. Enjoy!
I spend a lot of time alone. It's the nature of the beast, I suppose — I'm a nature photographer and my job often takes me to places that not many people are motivated to visit. I'm often up at 3am, perched on an overlook, with my camera as my only companion as I patiently watch the stars fade into daybreak. If I'm being honest, I'm most happy in those moments. I enjoy the serenity of being alone with my thoughts, and I thrive creatively in the social vacuum — allowed to explore whatever photographic ideas may arise.
Because I typically prefer shooting along, I often hesitate when other photographers invite me out for a project or shoot. Does a conversation really enhance something as innately spectacular as a sunrise? Will they have strong creative desires that will ultimately hinder my freedom to create and explore as I wish? Despite these (honestly, mainly small) misgivings, I couldn't possibly say no when I was invited on a multi-day trip to the canyonlands of Arizona with nine of Sony's best landscape photographers. The opportunity to stand side-by-side with the very people who inspired my photography passion and learn from them, immersed in-situ, could not be missed.
It wasn't long into the trip when it became starkly apparent how worthwhile collaborative shooting could be. What would have been a leisurely, solo sunset stroll along the Grand Canyon's south rim (punctuated, of course, with brief pauses for photos) became a full-on open-air studio session. These incredibly talented professionals were laying under bushes, climbing high on the rocks and twisting themselves into tight spaces in an effort to explore the boundaries of landscape photography.
A dozen times in the first 15 minutes, I saw someone frame a photo I never would have considered had I been on my own. In standard style, I walked as close to a ledge as possible in the hopes of framing a wide-open, expansive landscape shot designed to showcase the immense grandeur of perhaps the world's most famous landmark. As I turned around, I was greeted by dozens of shining lenses and realized that I had become the centerpiece scale-marker for other photos of the very scene I was attempting to capture. At that moment, we had reached an unintentional collaborative nirvana — a dozen creative minds working as one to produce a photographic essay that truly showcased the spirit of the Arizona desert.
The trip rolled on with moment after moment of blissful exploration. In the same way a solo musician is complemented by a band, each one of us was pushed to new heights by this collective crew. Multiple times, a friend dragged me to a vantage point that I would not have otherwise explored, frequently with better views than I would have otherwise experienced. That's not to say that I wouldn't have seen great sights and come home with photos I'm proud of if I had taken this trip alone, but the experience of collaborative creation was genuinely revelatory.
As I plan out my future trips, I'll no longer be seeking exclusively solitude and expansive vistas; rather, I'll be chasing more moments like these — moments where the sum of the whole is greater than any individual part, and a project is realized in spectacular fashion due to the brilliant connection of talented companions.