The world of landscape photography can be a dangerous one. We are often exposed to harsh weather. Stupid early morning drives and late night drives as well. Some of us live in cougar country and others in bear country. Recently a photographer died due to a volcanic lava flow that jettisoned out gasses and when mixed with rain turned into a noxious cloud that turned deadly. But often overlooked is the other dangers of landscape photography, the social/emotional dangers of our work.
A recent photographic acquaintance of mine announced his divorce. Another photographer that I follow a few years back ended his long standing marriage in divorce. One more photographer I follow recently went through a divorce as well. Many other full time landscape photographers often spend their days alone and are never married. Even I have had my wife exclaim she misses the old days before the camera. Landscape photography when it comes to our social/emotional states can be very hard on those around us.
Landscape photography often takes us to the edge of humanity. At these edges we often have to wait in particularly unfavorable conditions. Sometimes they are dangerous for more people to be around. Often they are boring for those without a camera. Because of these conditions it is usually easier to be by ourselves.
The problem though is that our loved ones get left behind. They end up at home watching kids while you see some of the most amazing things in the world. Even if you don't have kids, it is unfavorable for your significant other to spend considerable time by them selves. No one likes being alone (except the photographer).
Why don't we notice it as photographers though? Because photographing feels good. When you are in the moment and the rainbow appears and the cliffs light up, there is almost nothing like it in the world! After we get the shot we rush home to put it together. This might take hours. The entire time you better half is still by them selves as you do your work.
This can take a tole on relationships. But there is a sinister side to it all as well. Once your relationship struggles, the call of the camera increases and the joy found there can often overshadow the joy at home. This can lead to greater camera attention and less human attention. Then the spiral begins.
See the dangerous cycle?
How to deal with it is the next challenge. Here, I recommend a few things to those who might be going into this field full time. First, set boundaries. Second, compromise between you and your loved ones. Third Make plans to do things together.
First, set boundaries. I know a photographer here locally that made the commitment not to photograph on Sundays. It forces her to stay home that day with family. I have similarly adopted that as well in some fashion. These boundaries can be anything, but they are best made around time frames or locations. Set them up with your loved ones so they know these boundaries and can hold you accountable.
Second, is to compromise. I recently went to Moab and ended up doing a compromise. I was there to get epic shots. So during the morning, I would get up and catch sunrises, then drive back to the hotel and meet family. I would not use the camera unless there was a really good shot the rest of the day until sunset. It worked well as my wife got to sleep in with the kids and I got to go out and photograph what I wanted.
Third, doing photographic things together. In January I did a crazy winter hike where I dragged my entire family out on a 5AM to see an arch at sunrise. I was vague about the details, so when the icy river crossings happened it was kind of a shock to the system but made for a great story in the end. The moral of this story is bring your family along. It might end up being a compromise between you and your loved ones, but it will always be for the better if people are together.
Stay busy photographers but don't forget those you leave at home. They matter more than the picture.