Walking around the Captiola Art and Wine Festival where I was exhibiting my own photography I noticed something: there are a lot of photographers these days. There were probably 10-15 landscape photographers exhibiting there as well. And at the close of the show on Saturday I realized something else: not a single one of them was a woman (at least that I saw). And reflecting upon my experiences with photo-sharing sites like flickr and 500px I noticed the same pattern: an overwhelming majority of landscape and nature photographers are guys. Of course there are women nature photographers out there, and some extremely talented and successful ones at that, but they are still a tiny minority.
The question I have is why? The way I see it, you have to have three things in order to want to become a landscape and nature photographer: 1) Access to the technology. 2) A desire to make art. And 3) A love of the outdoors. Yet none of these seems to be a valid reason for the small number of women photographers. After all, the explosion of digital technology has made photography accessible to everyone, and we are seeing DSLRs everywhere these days. And I know first hand how many women are involved in art; stroll the aisles at any art show and you will see women painters, women sculptors, women jewelers, and women printmakers. As far as the outdoorsy thing, I think I know just as many girls as guys who like to camp, hike, travel, and adventure. So why hasn’t the digital revolution produced more women landscape photographers?
I don’t have any answers to this question. It’s just something I’ve been pondering and I’d love to hear from the ladies out there: why aren’t more of you involved in nature photography? Let’s get a discussion going. Use the comment section to chime in.
Can anyone cite any reliable evidence, from any publication of record,to support the thesis that female nature photographers have been attacked in the field? If so please post it the link to the report.
I came across this conversation late, but it interested me very much. We can always come up with reasons and each of us has our limits. For me, I hike alone, sleep out alone, and sit in blinds for hours alone. I feel safe and calmed by knowing I can handle my situation by planning and knowing my limits. I’m 54 years old and have a love of capturing wildlife. I have stood between two trees so close that I could only slide sideways between then while photographing moose. I have slide down banks along the Columbia River to capture an image of a barn owl and sat in more blinds then I can remember. But the first time I put myself outside of my limits I will put down my camera because it is not a social thug for me. There are so many ways to get out there today I think the only limit is that which we set on ourselves. We can not control other people but we can control how we respond. I am glad we are not all adventure junkies and willing to put ourseves out there. It produces so much more diversity of photos. I hope someday maybe I run into you out there.
To expand you limits start small.
Even if your not going to carry a gun take a gun safety class. Many do not require you to have your own gun, and you might feel more comfortable when someone in your group does carry one.
Take a class designed for women. REI offers hiking and camping classes. There are even photography classes.
Join a photo club.
Find a hunter friend and go out with them. Ask your husband or a coworker if he knows someone.
Before you go out make a trip plan with you location, times, phone e numers, auto plate number etc. Leave it with someone you trust and have check in times set.
Check with rangers and biologist if you are going to a nature or wildlife refuge. Get to know them as people. I have made frI ends with a few who I can call on for updates on what’s going on in my favorite areas. Ranchers and landowners are great. I get access to land and greatfriends. I offer them photos and some times portraits too.
Find someone in your area to be a photo buddy with.
re I am glad to hear your all trying to get out there.
I Have Mr. Nikon a .357 Revolver or Mossberg 500 Shotgun in my Car Trunk.
All For Venturing Out into The California Night Desert.
I Love Shooting the Stars!
I Hate I Must Travel with Weapons…
I Hate as a Woman and a Woman of Color.
That I Can’t go out at Night Without Having True Valid Fear of What Could Happen…???
But I Refuse to be a Victim or Stop Doing The Night Work I Love.
I’m a budding photographer myself and I’m still in high school, so this post was very interesting to me. I had no idea that there were so little women photographers. I am hoping to go into this field, but I haven’t had a true experience of going on a true adventure with my camera. I understand that it can be scary going out on your own and everything when taking landscape photos or just nature photos in general, and I’ve seen a couple people say they’ve experienced some really bad things on their own. I have yet to experience that so I’m still very excited to go out and adventure for my passion.
Josh, I am not sure if you are still reading these comments as it seems that you wrote this short blog piece a long time ago, but I will still put in my two cents. 🙂
I am a woman and I love landscape photography. I’m not sure if you have better informed or different opinions or ideas about women in landscape and nature photography these days, I hope so, as it seems that the initial generalizing piece you published was rather based on limited research and personal experience as well as a limited part of the world. It’s not inherent in a woman’s nature to be social or domicile, I respectfully disagree with some of the comments above. Those characteristics that are mainly associated with women today come from the evolution of society since the beginning of man until today in 2015. I know a lot of women in landscape and nature photography these days. I know a lot of women who are bold, daring, and go on adventures alone, like me. I love to photograph in the mountains alone. I am not worried that something bad is going to happen to me because I am a woman there. I would be more afraid in cities and towns of something bad happening to me just soley based on the fact that I am a woman. Mother nature doesn’t really care if you are a man or woman. I feel that you might just want to explore more within the photography community and field all over the world and do a little more research to see just how many women there are out there. 🙂
By the way, I love your website and your youtube videos! Just wanted to share my thoughts.
Hey Molly, I am still reading these comments, and I’m so happy to have you contribute your thoughts. What I think is so interesting about the discussion this post generated is that there don’t seem to be any universal rules, but rather each woman has her own opinions and ideas. I have definitely seen more women involved in nature photography since I wrote this and that is a victory for everyone involved in the art.
Thanks so much for the kind words and thoughts. All the best,
I personally can tell ya, there is more of us out there then you think. They may not post them on Instagram, Flicker or many other sites, but they are out there. I know numerous women photographers who are professional nature photographers, and I am one of them. I will go to the mountains, walk trails, lay on my stomach to get my shots. I am very surprised about your article, if you had done more research then you would have found out that there is many more out there. Just Sayin”
Im proud to be an Aussie female landscape tog, who isn’t scared to get out there!! Love for you to drop me a line over on Insta Josh: @iso100_photography
I live in Africa. The reality is its just not safe for a woman to travel alone to remote areas and get outdoors with expensive gear before its light, and even when it is light.
If women want to have a family, they are tied up with these commitments and not free to chase the storm etc.
We often are not the main breadwinners and therefore don’t have the income to buy expensive gear.
If we can travel to Botswana for example where its relatibely safe in the game reserves we risk getting stuck in thick sand and don’t have the physical strength to get unstuck!
Travelling in parks in southern Africa is an option though as it smuch safer for us, but still limiting in that you can’t get out early enough and you cant get out fo your vehicle.
Hiking on your own for example on Table Mountian in Cape Town, is cpmpletely out.
I am a woman and I consider myself a nature/landscape photographer, so I don’t know what the deal is! I’m constantly scanning the sky, peering at the horizon and looking for outdoor things to shoot. One of my favorite memories was shooting lightning during the summer of 2012 when I visited my daughter in Arizona. I arrived just before monsoon season and stayed throughout the duration! There was a lightning storm almost every night – for 2 months!!! One night it surrounded us in a panorama and ever 1-2 seconds there was a flash of light from somewhere in the sky as one storm backed up another. It lasted over 2 hours. 🙂 It was so much fun! I guess I’m just fascinated with nature and the earth and I always will be. I’m drawn to the beauty and the color and the “light show”.
I found this article while searching this very topic, waiting for the coffee to kick in before going on a hike with my film camera. As a female outdoor photographer, I’ve always been told it isn’t safe to go out by myself, whether it was my mother when I was in college or my significant others or my friends. My camera is 35 years old, believe me when I say no one wants to steal it (and a solid metal body would probably knock someone out if I hit them with it lol). There have been more robberies and assaults at the grocery store in my city than nature trails in broad daylight. I really believe that the wildlife poses more of a threat than people. We have alligators, bears, rattle snakes, and wild boars… and I have been chased by an alligator before.
The thought has occurred to me that the lack of bathrooms may have something to do with it. I know quite a few women who will not go hiking with me because I go to more remote places with no restrooms. We do have a little more to deal with from time to time than a man. And no one wants to go in the bushes where there may be snakes. Neither do I really. But getting the perfect shot is well worth a little planning and water rationing lol.
I’m not convinced children hold us back. I have a child and he likes to go hiking as much as I do. He doesn’t have a ton of patience to wait around while I get the perfect shot, which is why I put a camera in his hands too. Maybe some women are more hesitant to go on longer shoots or more dangerous ones, but some of the most well known photographs didn’t involve hanging off the side of a mountain or anything.
The fact that outdoor photography is male dominated doesn’t bother me at all. If anything, it brings out my competitive side. I work in a male dominated industry and the display of testosterone is just something I’m used to. You just can’t back down.
On the flip side, I do think men have a harder time breaking through in fashion photography because there are so many creepers out there. I can post an ad on Craigslist for models to come work on both our portfolios and I have models coming out my ears. The parents of younger girls are immediately at ease with me because I’m a woman and a mom taking tasteful photos and not some creeper trying to get their daughter undressed.
I couldn’t agree with you more!
I’m not a very social person by nature. I love going out and shooting alone when I can get into “the zone”. I do get nervous and worry about getting mugged and having my gear stolen or worse, but I do it anyway because that is how I am wired. Photography is an addiction and anytime I see a storm clouds, a beautiful sunset, or I know the spring grass and flowers and new oak leaves are coming out in the Sierra foothills, I’m out there. My love of photography overrides my concerns and sometimes I wonder if I’m being stupid.
Your last comment made me laugh: “sometimes I wonder if I’m being stupid.” It reminds me of a time I went camping with my teenage kids (I was a single mom) and I was shooting a creek when the ground started to give way and I began to slide down. I kept telling my kids to “take my camera” as I held it above my head trying to protect it. They were mad at me for putting it above myself!
I agree with much of what Phrasikleia Epoiesen said. My photos of adventures I’ve had are at times – met with a raised eyebrow.
But I do not care. I love what I do, and life is meant to be lived. There’s a big wide world out there to enjoy, and I intend to do so – to its fullest.
My first surprising realization of the traditional stereotype of outdoor photography being a male pursuit – was at 24-hour competition several years ago. There were a lot of bragging rights and a few decent prizes involved. Therefore, the testosterone seemed a bit elevated.
The weather had been less than ideal throughout the time period (which as rather frustrating!). The competitors were to submit their photos at a designated time and location. Naturally, as soon as this time period closed, the weather began to improve significantly…
While exiting the judging area, a group of males (with expensive photo gear) were milling about the lobby. Walking past, I exclaimed, “Oh look! The sky is clearing finally! Now we can go catch a few decent photos for ourselves.”
I heard some snickers, and then a few comments between themselves – to the tune of, “my wife like to play around and take snapshots for her scrapbooks too…”
At that moment, it became clear to me this group didn’t value my efforts as a photographer simply because of my gender. None of these males knew me, or what I brought to the table as an artist. They made no effort to engage me into a conversation or even asked a question (so where are you from, what sort of gear, etc.).
I didn’t acknowledge their comments. I simply got in my car and left.
Nothing could have been sweeter – than walking away with a prize for First Place in the Landscape category the next morning. I didn’t have to say a thing, my work spoke for itself, as the judging was completely anonymous. All I could think of on my long drive home was… “I beat those guys who had all that expensive gear and big trucks! Let’s see who has a snapshot now…” And that was all the reward I needed.
Creating art is not about gender, or how much money you can pour into your photo gear. One must have heart and soul and vision. Plenty of women have this to offer. I encourage you gals out there to grab your photo gear and GO!
Haha, love the story, Stacy! Those jerks certainly got their comeuppance.
I love it!
My first love is the great outdoors, my second photography of it. The desire to capture it for others to enjoy (especially for those that may never in a lifetime be as lucky as myself to experience it) outweights most fears of being alone out there. I do agree that the possibility of harm is probably the main reason for fewer women outdoor photographers. It’s just really important to keep your wits about you and don’t forget to keep safety in mind at all times. No different really than a woman alone in a sketchy urban area. Or anywhere for that matter.
It is sad that there’s so much stigma on safety while shooting solo in the woods or deserts.
For me Landscapes, Nature and Wildlife are the most interesting subjects to capture. For the love of this venue I cannot refrain from doing what I enjoy, Hiking and experiencing an unadulterated environment.
I’m a “Professional amateur” who yearns for the wilderness and am grateful that I have a husband that is as passionate about shooting as I am.
It’s safety in numbers but I think the worse thing that could happen shooting alone would be getting a bad shot.
I used to be affraid of the bears and lions here in Northern California but have learned that they want nothing to do with us. Humans are probably the scariest of all creatures and thank goodness I’ve never run into a creeper in the middle of nowhere.
A good ol can of Counter Assault can be a womans best friend.
For a somewhat non-traditional viewpoint, I’m an out-of-shape comfort-loving female who has no interest in long hikes, camping, getting dirty, etc. However, I have NO problem finding fantastic landscapes and wildlife to photograph from or near my car, so have great fun planning road trips around scenic locations.
As for the argument about the social interaction, I really enjoy the solitary aspect of nature photography, and gain a lot of inner peace communing with the outdoors, even if I don’t fit the classic outdoorsy definition.
Your state is one of my favorites to make landscape photographs!
While I understand what so many of you say about the social versus isolation, I am one of those professional nature, landscape and wildlife photographers that is a woman.
Maybe its my background in long distance trail running from the time I was 16, but I have no issues being alone for days, even weeks, at a time. Its funny though, most people think I am the social type, and I can be and like to be on occasions that call for it. However, I prefer the solitude that nature photography brings me – all alone.
I’ve never aspired nor wanted to do portrait photography and especially not wedding photography. I admire people that do – there is too much talking for me. I prefer the wind blowing my hair and the waiting that birds or landscapes require of me.. the silent language.
I haven’t done much with workshops either … Though I do and I would, I still prefer complete solitude when it comes to creating imagery. I was raised with a family that feared me going off on my own, so I understand that timidness that we as women have about getting out there solo. It can be a scary world.
My thoughts to put those fears in perspective are this:
• Don’t put yourself into obviously dangerous situations or places.
• Most bad things happen to people close to home, where our guards are not up and we are not paying attention
• Prepare for the unexpected. In natural settings your worst enemy is probably a sprained ankle from a fall. Carry a SPOT GPS with you to call for help if needed
• Let someone know where you are going before you head out (often there is no cell coverage so let them know ahead of time, if you can)
There are always risks in all that we do. The flip side of that is that there are risks in what we don’t do as well. I went out on a 2 month solo adventure that took me 10,000 miles through the West and Southwest. I was more afraid of what would happen to me if I didn’t do what was in my heart to do than if I ignored it because I was afraid to do go.
The worst thing that happened to me was getting lost in an Arizona canyon on a day hike. I ended up spending the night in the crusted snow, dressed for a 45 degree day, no tent, no warmth, and the temps fell to 19 degrees. I’d never wish it again, but I’m glad for the experience.
There are some amazing female nature photographers out there – but you are right, there isn’t many. Being that I am a woman, a mother and in the State of Utah, then one would mostly imply that I would shoot portraits (just like every other woman in this state). But I enjoy the outdoors and nature much more than people, sadly. lol
But here in Utah, there’s a trend. Utah = Mormons = LDS – So the majority of women are mothers of many kids. So I can see why many turn to portraits and make it a career. They can learn by their kids, friends kids and expand from there.
I’ve been shooting for over 7 years and just now considering myself Semi-Pro. Most of my network is male nature photographers. Although, I do shoot a portrait every now & then and network with fellow portrait photogs, that is just not my gist. I am too bossy when it comes to portraiture.
So combine a love of the outdoors and some equipment and I’ll dare wind, rain, lightning and wildlife to try to get shots. It would be nice to see more women getting involved with nature. It’s like being a single mother….I do not befriend other single mothers, much less have a hard time befriending any other mothers as well. LOL
I love how one scene can turn into another depending on the weather or the show that animals display and to try to capture their beauty is a challenge.
Anyway, there should be more female nature photographers, especially here in Utah…
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Landscape and Nature photography! I have noticed the same thing though. I love traveling alone, love to get down and dirty, and WET! LOVE the outdoors! This is one of the areas that I am concentrating on the most in my business. Just getting started, and still trying to gather that cohesive body of work. Great Article, Thank you! Arlene Carley
I am a female landscape photographer. I found this page by searching for female peers, and I am happy to see the issue under discussion.
The real answer, I think, has yet to come out here. It’s true that women tend be more vulnerable than men while traveling alone; let’s face it, to a male bad guy, both the expensive camera and the female using it are potential objects of desire. And yes, trekking through the backcountry is physically demanding, and your average female may not be able to carry as much gear and trek as far as your average male. These realities go some way towards explaining the gender imbalance in landscape photography, but they miss out the most serious one.
The social aspects of the profession have come up here already, but mostly with regards to a supposed female preference for group activity. If anyone above mentioned social stigmatization, I missed it. I reckon that the risk of stigmatization, more than anything else, is what prevents a lot of females from pursuing outdoor photography to any serious extent. In most cultures of this world, the idea of a female Grizzly Adams or anything like it runs against the grain. It’s socially unacceptable for women to be creatures of the outdoors and has been throughout the historical era. The idea of a woman in the woods has always been antithetical to the image of the proper, civilized female. Embedded deeply into the western cultural subconscious is the concept of the maenad, the deranged housewife who frolics in the forest at night, tearing apart animals with her bare hands in a Bacchic frenzy. In medieval times, a woman alone in the wild would quickly be identified as a witch. In modern terms, it’s simply ‘not cool’ for your wife, daughter, or sister to be alone in the wilderness.
It’s clear to me that when I mention any of my outdoorsy exploits (especially to non-photographers) that I make people a bit uncomfortable. Telling someone that I had to snowshoe through the backcountry by the light of a headlamp to get a shot makes me somewhat socially deviant, whereas the same is not true for my male peers. Male landscape photographers can talk about such outings almost like heroic war stories, but for women it’s just awkward. Even the clothing women have to wear outdoors places us at a social disadvantage. Society promotes women who look feminine and elegant, not those who are hidden under layers of capilene and Gore-Tex.
These distinctions are true enough in the United States, where women have made a lot of progress towards equality, but social expectations are much more polarized in other countries of the world, including most European ones. Now, someone might say that women who allow themselves to be discouraged are just giving in to silly peer pressure and that all they have to do is ignore society and follow their dreams. The problem isn’t that one-sided, however. The issue of stigmatization will limit rewards even for females who do end up producing compelling landscape photographs, since the world in general will be less inclined to celebrate and promote them. Female photographers working in any genre have to contend with the fact that photography has historically been a male-dominated profession, but those who have to be ‘outdoorsmen’ in addition have an extra level of alterity weighing them down.
OK, I’ve written a lot here, so I’ll leave it at that. We just had a lot of fresh snow fall in the mountains today, so it’s time to pack the crampons in the photo backpack and head for the high country. 😉
I am a female nature photographer and I have wondered the some thing. It is a lone undertaking and for a black female it can be a humbling experience. In December, I was photographing a building at a university when an off duty policeman demanded that I show him my papers-my drivers license. I was in the parking lot of a police station. Before I set up my tripod, I went inside the police station and gave the desk sergeant my name,etc. He said it was okay to photograph. Ten minutes later, I was harassed by an off duty cop who said, he had never seen a “so called” black female nature photographer before. When my records showed that I was a law abidden citizen, he told me that I could take as many photographs I liked. For me, the moment was spoiled and I went home angry and sad. I didn’t take photographs for a few days, but I decided that no one or no thing was going to deter me from my goals.
Thanks for your reply. I will definitely look into that GPS, sounds like a good idea for anyone going off the grid. I just think getting to be alone out in nature making beautiful images sounds like heaven, even the dirty gritty bits – must get to it! 🙂 And thanks for the explanation of how you camp. One good thing you would have noticed about NZ is the lack of any risky wild animals like we have here in North America, the worst you could expect to come across is probably a possum haha That helps with the idea of hiking back in the dark!
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as well. And I think for me personally it comes down to the feeling of safety that has always held me back. Not just that I’m a women alone, but also the being alone in the middle of who knows where (which is where I want to be) and not having support if something happens. Don’t they say never tramp alone?
I have been lucky enough to travel alone while living in NZ, (which always raises eyebrows among my girlfriends) and I have to say that I love my alone time. Gets me away from the kids and puts me in my happy spot. But I’m never in isolated areas alone. Currently my business is portrait based, but my true passion is in landscape. So when I move back to NZ my goal is to spend the time going to those remote places and really build my portfolio so I can make a landscape side to my business. But then the idea of hiking and camping up in say Mt Cook for a week, alone, kind of freaks me out. What if I fall and sprain my ankle? What if someone comes to my car I’m sleeping in at night? Or if my car breaks down and I’m not in cell range? I don’t know, I guess its just going to be finding a balance of getting to those areas you want to go to, while still feeling comfortable. Maybe men don’t think so much about it and just go and deal with whatever comes… 😉
One question I had for you Josh is about when you go on into the bush and are shooting at sunset. Do you usually just camp in the spot you last photographed once the light is gone, or do you hike back in the dark to wherever you want to end up? My practical side is coming out trying to figure out the best way to plan for my adventures I hope to get myself into 🙂
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There are certainly risks to everything we do, and the question for each of us is: “Is the payoff worth the risk?” Something I started carrying with me in the last year is a Spot GPS Transponder. If I fall and break my ankle, or get stuck in a canyon, or my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, the Spot gives me the ability to send emergency and non-emergency help requests from any point on the planet. Pretty cool, and nice for peace-of-mind.
To answer your question, I definitely do both. When I’m out backpacking I figure out likely places I want to shoot and I’ll set up my camp as close as I can. Here’s an example:
Even though this lake is 8 miles into the backcountry, my camp for the night was only 100 yards from this spot. Made it easy to shoot sunset, head back to camp for a leisurely dinner, get plenty of sleep, and get up with plenty of time to shoot sunrise the next morning.
But if I’m day-hiking then I’m much more likely to stay in a place till sunset, then hoof it back to the car by headlamp. When I was shooting in Mt. Cook National Park in NZ I did that three nights in a row: hiked three miles out to a place I wanted to shoot, shot the sunset, then put in the headphones and tromped back three miles in the dark. I actually really enjoy doing that (especially if I’ve got a good shot to show for it), but it does make it a lot more difficult to shoot the sunrise. 🙂
I am a Wisconsin-based outdoor/landscape photographer. My love of the outdoors started in my childhood many years ago. I find my peace in the outdoors and feel protected by the forest and waterways. That said, there are a few places I will not go alone — night photography in the city, camping in unfamiliar places, anywhere that I could not get help via cellphone or close enough to walk to help. But I don’t let that stop me from photographing what I love. I recently returned from a solitary 3-week, 4,400 mile road trip with many wonderful memories of beautiful places and wonderful new friends. I recently researched a list of “famous” women photographers to try to find a photographer to emulate for a group project. I was surprised to find very view landscape photographers. However, there are a number of women who hauled heavy equipment through difficult conditions in the past century — Dorothea Lange for example. I don’t know whether this answers the question posed, but I hope that more women who love the outdoors will do more to promote their work.
Take a look at this short landscape series I did last weekend and it should soon become apparent why there are so few women landscape photographers:
I don’t know why there are so few of us…but I like it that way 🙂
I started 35 years ago….. but with raising kids I didn’t get far. Now at 56 I am limited due to bad knees….. so Ladies get out there even if you have kids, because the time to back pack and get the great shots is while you are YOUNG and able! I so regret not doing more back in my 35mm days. However over the last 10 years I have been up and down the east coast, the northern part of the west coast and my last trip was New Mexico where I got some awesome landscapes! I will never stop! hey I might be the first woman photographer to do landscapes from a wheelchair some day! anyway, keep up the awesome work Josh…. and ladies, get out there! NOW !
100% agree with Grazina, it is hard and you need to trust and most of all LOVE it.
Its all about the adventure for me, and if I get a decent photo out of it… BONUS!
Your question made me smile. I remind my husband that there aren’t that many female landscape photographers and even less “older” female landscape photographers every time I go off on my photo trips! I tell him this as I load my car with all my 30-40 lbs. of photo gear, not including food and water to sustain me through the desert heat of the southwest. I guess the answer for me is, its hard, you have to trust, and you have love everything about it – which I do. Grazina Wade
I was wondering this same this. Thanks for posing the question and sparking a thoughtful discussion. I’m a new amature landscape/ nature photographer who’s looking for a female mentor.
and, I have no idea why your blog made my icon the one eyed purple people eater – but so be it! 🙂
I’m gonna post something regarding this on fb ~ wish I could post it here- but basically I will say what I said earlier to a female photographer friend of mine – I have never let mud or muck or sand or slime or rocks or creeks or sun or sleep get in the way of me and my image~ getting dirty is actually FUN -it’s NATURAL ~ so give it a try, girls:)
What a really fantastic discussion here. I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and thoughts. I have to say the idea I found most compelling was the social vs. solitary aspect of shooting out in the woods. Humans are obviously social creatures and I have to say I find few things more fun than rolling out with some friends to go take pictures. That being said, when it’s time to get serious and shoot for my portfolio, I’m always by myself so that I can focus on the moments at hand.
I’m sad to hear that women don’t want to get outside because it’s dirty or physically demanding, or that it feels unsafe. It seems such a shame to me that that those perceptions are the limiting factor holding women back from so much enjoyment. And I have to say it doesn’t quite jibe with my experience. I personally know tons of outdoorsy ladies who travel by themselves, camp, hike, climb, and so on. I think it’s true that women face a certain level of elevated risk traveling alone, but the “dangerous strangers behind every tree” paranoia that seeps through our culture is bunk. As has been pointed out, be smart, and being alone outdoors is very very safe. And as more women do it, the idea will become more accessible to other women. And I think that is a great thing, because I’d love to see more girls out in the woods.
In the area I live in, its just not really safe to go alone too much but I am armed when I do. I try not to carry too much that if I had to boogie I couldn’t do it. I love nature and taking photographs out in the parks and deep wooded areas. Even when my son is with me I am armed. Sad it has come to this but I wont let it stop me from getting out there. Of course my photography isn’t that great but its getting better.
I tend to agree with much of Christy’s & Anne Rusk’s answers. It still tends to be the woman’s job to tend house and care for the children in many American homes today. So while we may have very supportive husbands a large percentage of our free time is spent in the company of children. Anyone who has young children knows photography and children do not always work well together unless of course they are the subject being photographed. I have quite a few female friends who are photographers. They photo what is around them, typically their children and they capture amazing photos that could absolutely stand up next to landscape / nature photographer’s work in terms of artistic quality. But as Anne pointed out their work is often very personal and not always something they might wish to share with the public. The ones who feel they need to have their work touch a bigger audience or need to benefit financially in some way have taken to becoming family photographers.
My two cents is that there are more female photographers than ever before, you just don’t see them. I do think it is true from the women I know that they photograph what interests them: portrait/family photography, dogs, extreme sports, not just landscape images. I believe the biggest factor is that many are pursuing photography for their personal art and are not participating in forums, sharing sites, art fairs, etc. It’s intimidating out there (and I mean the online jungle, not just the actual wilderness!).
I don’t know about other women, but for me it has to do with my position in life; meaning, I have two young children, I work full time and have a multitude of other tasks vying for my attention. I am fortunate that my family all enjoys the outdoors and “helping Mom look for pictures”. However, the kids idea of quiet is not necessarily the same as mine 🙂 and venturing into the wilderness in the early, or late hours, of the day is not usually an option. I have had a few opportunities, and take advantage of those I get. But my nature and landscape photography usually consisits of those places near to my home that I can reach at a variety of times of day when the opportunities arise. I have taken some photos that I am very proud of and look forward to increasing my time available and my talent as my life changes.
Charlene brings up another good point. The “geek factor” has been raised substantially with the arrival of the DSLR cameras. In other words, gear heads who view the art of nature photography as competition. This why I stay away from camera clubs. Pretty much as a rule the women nature photographers I’ve come in contact with pursue photography for love of the art and opportunity to express artistic vision. On the other side I’ve seen a lot of men who get caught up in the competition, whether who has the best gear or can win the most contests.
I also feel that it is a terrible disservice to our young people that we aren’t spending more time with them in the outdoors. Yes, you require skills to be outdoors, but those can be taught by caring adults. We are definitely experiencing a break from nature as children are chanelled into other activities. I can’t live without time in the outdoors. It renews me. And having a camera as a companion has made it possible to see in a clearer more unique way.
I can come up with several reasons you may see less women in the field.
I’m also one of those who isn’t afraid of being in the outdoors. As an old wildland firefighter, forest researcher, park ranger, and biologist–I better not be. 😉 That said, it could be that a lot of women may well be afraid of the great outdoors, especially in this world which is becoming more and more separate from nature. I know my family is unhappy with me being out by myself, which tends to keep me away from some opportunities.
I wonder if the difference is also that we’re less likely to be gearheads? I swear I used to see more women outdoor/landscape photographers back when film was the name of the game. There is a physical aspect to painting and other art forms which is very satisfying, and we largely don’t have with photography. We may spend a lot of time outside shooting, but most people these days ultimately go back to the office/computer to finish our artwork instead of going into the darkroom. Also, perhaps we’re somewhat daunted by the aggression that I’m seeing more and more at great photographic spots. I don’t know about the rest of the women out there, but the bad behavior I’ve seen in the last decades from a lot of photographers (armchair dslr enthusiasts who have more money than sense) is definitely moving me away from some of my favorite shooting locations.
Another potential difference is an unwillingness to pack around the heavy equipment–I like it less and less every year. I’m eyeballing m4/3 cameras these days alot while dreaming of lightening the load.
Perhaps, also, we’re more likely to embrace the “sensible side” of photography–that which we know we can make a living with–like portraiture and weddings. To chase the light through the mountains one must do it on a whim and a dream, with little economic reward.
That’s all I have….but I look forward to seeing what other people think on the subject.
How often are men assaulted compared to women?
Going out alone with expensive equipment when you were raised to be looking over your shoulder for bad guys, can feel pretty dangerous. I was accosted in a park once by a pair of druggies who wanted my camera. Only my large dog kept them from just taking it.
I’ll go with my dog or a friend, but not alone.
I’m leaving now to go out to do night shots …but have my daughter and boyfriend going with me … Even though I’m going to a public overlook that is lit etc…………. not very safe at night … also.. I’m thinking a lot of women are in the soccer run, baseball run, dance run etc. with the kids.. Just a thought !!! I don’t mind going alone ………but I’m looking around sometimes more than I am focusing!
Looking forward to your workshop in the Sierras, Joshua. I haven’t had an opportunity to explore the Carson Pass and can’t wait to see where you take the workshop groups.
I’m one of those women who aren’t afraid of being in the outdoors. But then again, I was raised in a generation where children found entertainment in the outdoors…even by themselves…even if they were girls. I frankly think it is more dangerous to visit a 7-11 than hike or even camp in the woods by myself. I think of myself as being aware and alert. That being said, it can be lonely and I’m grateful to have a small group of female friends who are similarly interested in shooting sunsets, sunrises and traveling to exciting locations to shoot. I’ve gotten much more serious about my landscape photography now that my children are grown and gone. Women just do not find as much leisure time during those child-rearing years.
I don’t have a good answer to this questions but I’ll answer from my own experience. I’m fortunate to have a husband that loves nature and the outdoors as much as I do and we always go hiking and camping together. I seriously doubt I’d adventure out alone on certain types of hiking excursions for safety reasons.
Recently, I was showing my photography at a local art festival and I had a male photographer shake my hand and said he was really glad to see a woman landscape photographer! He said he had never come across one before. It struck me as odd as I know several women landscape photographers!
I take a lot of nature photography, I just love the great outdoors, but I still sometimes find my photos too cliche if you like, and since I love sunrise photography the most, it is also kind of tricky to go out alone at 4 am and explore the world… and no, it is not from fear of insects or rodents or even reptiles,,,
Thanks for the comments, all. Some interesting ideas to ponder here. Looking forward to hearing more.
I think Tani pretty much nailed it on the head. I just got back from a little expedition to the Trona Pinnacles in CA. I was shooting at magic hour, the light was magnificent, and there wasn’t a soul to be seen anywhere.
As you well know, part of the challenge of landscape photography is getting the unique perspective of the subject, a task which often involves arduous physical maneuvering – which can be tough even to a fit man with a camera outfit, not to mention a small point-and-shoot. Imagine my desperation when my car got caught in a sand wash. My heart sank with the sun, but that didn’t stop me from snapping away. As luck would have it, my cell was getting a signal, and I was able to reach 911 for a tow truck which eventually arrived in the dark. The point is, had I been a woman alone out there, I would have been justifiably terrified. In fact, that is exactly what got me on the train of thought of why there might be few women landscape photographers, and how I happened to google this thread!
I do a lot nature/wildlife photography, although my favorite are birds of prey, I take other photos as well, but as someone mentioned, it’s really not that easy going out alone in the woods or in secluded areas along the river, soooo, I have to wait until someone can accompany me. I do go outside my home and photograph the moon on occasion. Anyhow, I’m trying. Oh and I know this was last year, but I stumbled upon it and thought I’d provide my 2-cents worth regardless.
I do love nature try to venture every once in a while and have nice pictures polar bear pic from our hometown Polar Bear Habitat awesome pics there and birds , butterflies, hummingbirds, flowers from my parents farm and the ocean and lakes..
I think there are plenty of female landscape photographers. It is unfortunately not unusual to see art exhibitions featuring all men. And these shows are called “men’s shows”…..
I agree with Tani and Jim, but I think that more than the social aspect, nature and wildlife photography really pushes you out of your comfort zone. I don’t know a lot of women that would endure the physically uncomfortable circumstances that one has to be willing to face to get nature and wildlife photos. I photograph in SE Georgia and endure the elements, the insects, and the possibility of crossing paths with venomous snakes and other hazardous creatures while getting photographs. Many of my female friends (and some of the males!) think I am crazy and won’t venture into or hike in most places that I go!
I get the same exact thing. But that’s what I love about my work in nature!
Tani hit the the nail right on the head. It’s the whole solitary vs. social aspect of it. Conversely about 80 to 90% of the people who take my workshops are women, even though the topic is nature photography. The reason is because of it being a group, social activity. It took me a while to finally understand this as well. Despite societal advances in gender equality the fact is most women are just not hard-wired to want to venture out into the woods by themselves. Not saying that’s good or bad. It’s just a fact. This also has to do with sense of safety as well and in this day and age it’s quite understandable, especially speaking as a father with two daughters.
I agree women don’t feel as secure in themselves to defend against predetermined human are otherwise. I love nature but I have to admit sometimes when I wonder to deep into the woods I get scared
To me, nature photography is a solitary undertaking. Women are, for the most part, social creatures. Venturing into the woods alone can be scary. It is also tough to ask a companion to stop what they are doing so you can make a photograph. That said, I still try my best to do both!
Ditto! Most of the time I go it alone but depending on my project, but I must limit my adventures and nomad urges due to safety concerns. My concerns are not as much the possibility of animal attacks as much as human attacks. It’s just not safe out there for women without an entourage. I get the occasional opportunity but must find like minded individuals to go with me to the out of the way places. I have high stamina fueled by passion to explore and camp until I get my shot and it is difficult to find others like me. The other option would be to hire a crew which I simply am not prepared to do at the moment.
sigh…i am trying, josh.. i am trying… lol
To be honest I don’t feel secure on my own out in nature. This is not because I am paranoid but having had a really negative experience one time when I was on my own shooting nz landscapes. A guy tried to abduct me. Luckily my family were about 500m away down by the river and I got away with my camera gear in tow but it shook me up for a long time. Low light landscapes are my first love and if I could I would love to be able to feel safe enough just to be one with the elements. So I take my lovely husband now and he is so patient and supportive of my photography obsession. So just a thought josh. Maybe guys don’t have the kids to look after or feel unsafe on their own in the great outdoors.
Oh Joy, that’s horrible! I imagine that would shake anyone up for a long time. I usually think of NZ as such a safe place too…
Joy, sorry you had such a bad experience. Personally I carry a small .380 handgun with me whenever I venture out on my own . Most of the time though I take my son with me who usually hates going anywhere but loves the hikes through the woods. Hope you can feel safe again. I love the outdoors and nature. Haven’t been able to enjoy it as much lately for health reasons but will for sure soon.
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