Landscape photography these days.

The state of Landscape photography can have you scratching your head. Or it could be just me, that’s happened before! Thinking about this really came to a boil on a recent trip to Scotland to spend 10 days with a well know Scottish landscape photographer. His notion is that the web has driven the trend to be oversaturated cliches and a one-upmanship progression of photos leading to I’ll see your Grand Canyon photo and add the Milky Way with lightning for good measure and the contest is on.  It’s a game that you can’t really win and quickly becomes unsatisfying. The icing on the cake came when I showed someone a recent photo that I liked and their response was, that’s nice but it just doesn’t make me say , whoa! How did  we get to the place  where a photo has to stop you in your tracks to be considered as worthy?  Where  a nicely composed and well processed photos that conveyed a simple message, doesn’t cut it anymore. I’m sure you could post a Ansel Adams image on Facebook and it might not garner any notice. That’s really a shame. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still put myself in place to shoot those classic, quality, large scene landscapes but there are even more good photos out there that we don't always notice because we maybe looking. Little slices of the landscape that may catch our eye a bit but don't get our real focus or attention. This is my idea of a nice one. There were lots of them this morning, many that I probably missed. It's a lovely scene, foggy, moody, some contrast close to you and the detail diminishes as your eye move across. Has a sense of depth which I enjoy trying to achieve. It's pleasant, slightly mysterious and I think a nice photo. Just my notion but we don't always have to have our socks blown off. A mood, emotion, sad or reminiscent, a memory, a brief moment of wanting or wishing, joy, sadness, awareness, just a unique moment in time is often all that a photo needs to convey.

So what's my real point?  Just that we need to really enjoy what we are doing, first and foremost.  If going after likes on facebook or elsewhere with those big over saturated sunsets are your thing, go for it!   I have a hard time imagining an artist that thinks first of what his audience wants to see, real creativity needs to come from within,   I'm enjoying discovering photos in places where I've been many times before, because now I'm looking for angles, geometry, luminosity, contrasts, transitions, repetitive shapes, depth, moods, emotions and on and on, things I just didn't take the time to explore previously.  I know there's lots of expressive photos there that I've been walking past.

Winter silence

Intimate landscapes.

I'd guess many if not most landscape photographers start out like I did.  I saw these amazing images of iconic landscapes, scenes like Horseshoe Bend, Mesa Arch, the Tetons over the Snake river and wanted to be there and try and capture some of that energy.  For many that is the quest, the classics and that's wonderful.  For me I started to want  to make images of scenes that aren't obvious to others, something only I was noticing.  Turns out there are everywhere and these images are unique and all yours.  They may be an isolated piece of the larger landscape or they may be in the park or trail just outside of town and the light and the atmosphere and elements like trees or grass or reflection or shadows, or highlights combine to make a scene that is unique for all time.  I guess that's art, to take disparate things and combine them and make them one thing!  

“I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new.” Ernest Haas

Aspect ratio as a compositional tool.

Aspect Ratio is a creative tool!  I see lots of 2x3 images on the web, which makes me wonder if aspect ratio is even a small consideration for most photographers.  2x3  or 16X9 for video is often the default aspect ratio on the camera.  There is no logical reason to go with the default and lots of good reasons to consider the aspect ration as part of you creative process.  I believe it sets an attitude,  for example the 4x5 ratio just seems classic or polished.  The 1x1 ratio for  me feels balanced, it neither emphasizes height or width and seems right to me about 75% of the time, enough that I have to forced out of it because something else needs to be included in the frame.  A square  also makes it easy to show what you think is important by eliminating lots of distractions.  I'd hazard a guess that at least half the images you see online would be more effective using the 1x1 aspect ratio, they just would be better images without all that extra static on the line. The image below is a good example, what more would you want to include?  A friend and wonderful landscape photographer from Crested Butte Colorado gave me some of the best advice early on.  Keep it simple!  Aspect ratio helps you do just that.

    Experiment, it's fun and makes you a better photographer!  JT

Monet in Tenney Park

Is the obvious creative?

As far as photography, short answer, my opinion I doubt it.  Creativity at least for me,  means it's unique.  Only I could do that!  Correct me if I'm wrong but the word Art came from artificial, essentially manmade.  Though I've yet to understand where that "manmade" line is, and maybe we can't say definitely.  Is a milky way photograph creative, isn't the milky way extremely obvious?  Someone might put a different foreground object in the frame but it's the same milky way all over and for a long, long time.  If you veer off a trail and you're the first ever, to come upon a beautiful scene.  Will an image be creative?  Wouldn't the scene be obvious to anyone?  Artists I respect use that analogy and say, that's not creative.  To most it just doesn't matter, the enjoyment is being there and capturing the moment and maybe sharing the joy or emotion with others.  It is one of the reason's I like this notion of expressive nature photography.  I can take an image of a scene that jumps out at me, I can use my computer to steer it towards conveying the mood and emotion and feeling I had when I was there yet still make it believable and share that with others.  Pretty cool.   

PS. I probably need to be more open in my view of these notions, so l'll  not say it isn't creative just less creative?  


Spring #3

Do you need a new camera?

All photographers have suffered from GAS, gear acquisition syndrome!  Luckily I'm recovering.  Yeah, it's fun to check out the latest, neatest, coolest most expensive stuff but do you really need it, will it improve your images?  For most of us the answer is no doubt, no!  I know of a very well known and respected photographer that buys last generation, refurbished gear, it's less expensive and has had hands on and is usually more reliable.  I wish they'd make a compact full frame simple camera, no video, manual and aperture and shutter speed priority modes, maybe a touch screen for focus stacking and that's about it.  I know they won't but it's all most of us would need.  The camera truly is secondary, it's your vision and what you choose to put in your frame that matters.   If you really want to improve your images, shoot more of them, take a workshop, put yourself out there for criticism, look at others images.  This is how I think you improve.  I know the pixel peepers will scoff but blow your image up, stand back and take it all in and it won't matter much how big your sensor was!  Frankly I'm blown away with what my girlfriend gets out of her iphone!  The image below was shot years ago in Venice  with a little canon pocket elph and has always been a favorite of mine.            

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