A headline on the cover of a photography magazine caught my eye recently. “Compose the perfect landscape shot”, it read. A quick look inside revealed the usual advice about leading lines, rule of thirds, etc., etc. What the article didn’t reveal was anything about how the ‘perfect’ landscape photograph might look or, indeed, why you might want to make such an image in the first place. For me, and I imagine a lot of other people, if we were ever to produce such a thing there would be no point in bothering to make another image since any photographs after that would, necessarily, be inferior! It’s the striving to do better each time that keeps us going.
But what is perfection, anyway? Surely it’s very personal. There are those whose idea of perfection is consistently winning competitions at their local photography club. For others, it lies in making an image of a famous landscape ‘icon’ that is so technically proficient it garners unending praise on Flickr or other photo-sharing sites. For me, the ‘perfect’ landscape image is one that completely communicates everything that the photographer is trying to say; it’s about having a message and the means to put it across effectively. It’s about personal vision and this makes perfection a very elusive thing. How can you create the ‘perfect’ image if everyone has their own ideas about perfection? The answer is, you can’t. There is no such thing.
Of course, if you approach landscape photography with a checklist and manage to tick off every single item then that’s a sort of perfection. Except that is more akin to, say, accountancy than art.