Monday, February 09, 2015

A Conversation About Landscape Photography

  A couple of weeks ago a photographer posted an article to his blog about the redundancy with landscape photography. I thought I would share some of my own ideas ( my opinion only ), I'm sure everyone has their own take on what is a makes a for a good landscape photograph, like all art its often very subjective. There are lots of really fine landscape photographers out there doing beautiful work, of course with the internet it takes some digging to find them. 

  Some people might find that my own landscape photography to be rather derivative, cliche and not terribly creative. I tend to photograph in what some would call a "classic" stye, I'm okay with that. I go out and try my best to come back with a photograph that captures my interest and feelings at the time that I made the photo, I realize that it doesn't always work. I will say that my determination for great photography is unwavering and authentic. A number of year ago I had a photographer who gave me an unsolicited "review" of my work, he concluded that my work failed on several fronts, the main one being that my skies in my landscape pictures were not dark enough, he concluded that they should be black, and I should follow the styles of several photographers that he suggested, I wrote back and said thanks but I want to try and find my own path. 

  In my mind something that is missing in much of photography these days is subtly, including the landscape, a lot of pictures that I see are have a lot of one time visual impact, looks great on the small screens like smart phones, but once you've seen it you don't often go back for second or third looks. I can look at books by Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams and others and never get tired of looking at those pictures, I could look at them over and over and still find joy and inspiration.  

  I used to be a member of 500px, submitted a lot of my work there, I quit after a year. I don't think I ever got much a rating for any of my pictures, the kind of work that got lots of 'likes' is often super colourful and cheesy, maybe using a super wide angle lens, often taken at sunset or sunrise with the sun just coming up over the horizon with star burst effect, after a while they become so common that they become just ordinary.

  Looking around the internet I saw one photographer's work who does very nice black and white landscapes, but every single one of his photos that I saw had a black sky, all burned down in post processing, its very effective looking no doubt about that, but I don't think it needs to be used for every single photo. Perhaps people try to emulate Ansel Adams with his beautiful and iconic Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico made in the mid 1940's, for his later darkroom renderings the sky got darker and darker, till it became black. 

  A little while ago I came across a Facebook page featuring some nice black and white photography, mostly landscapes, when I first looked at it I thought that its was the work of one photographer, nice I thought to myself, turns out that each picture featured on the FB page was by different photographer, what struck me was how each picture looked so similar, yet all produced by different photographers, to my eye many of the pictures seemed all technique driven, with long time exposures which is fine for effect every once and while, if technique becomes "The Thing" then everyone else will follow the same technique, uniqueness is thrown out the window. Of course there is balance with having the right amount of technique and vision together, not always easy to achieve. 

  When I first started in photography I was lucky to have a very gifted mentor, who taught me a great deal. One day I came into the office extolling the virtues of some special effect filters that I could attach to my camera lens, this was back in the 1970's when these things were quite popular, ditch the filters I was told, anyone can go out and stick a filter on their camera lens and create the same affect. I often wonder with these photographic styles of today will these photographs stand the test of time in 20 or 30 years or more down the road ? Will we look back at photos done in this digital age and find that they look a bit dated, maybe some even garish looking, I guess time will tell.

For more reading, here is another blog post that I made: A conversation About Landscape Photography: Part Two


Anonymous said...

Gary, Great post, and this is not limited to landscape photography. I agree with your assessment - thankfully, my own work is not aimed at soliciting likes, but is, um, focused on what interests me and my own way of seeing. Same for what I like about other photographers, including your own work. I have two of your prints, if that says anything : )

Based on seeing your work over time my guess is that for you part of the process is getting out there... and you get out to some fantastic places.

Remain true - the world needs more authenticity!

Gary Nylander said...

Thank you Anonymous for your kinds words.....I debated as to whether I should post this, I don't like sounding to preachy or just another one of the rants that proliferate the Internet. You are right I do love getting out there and there are some fantastic places to explore not too far from my home base!

Matthias Haltenhof said...

Very interesting read, I found a lot of thoughts I had also gone through. I have to admit that I've also been in that vortex of creating images, that have a lot of impact on the viewer at first glance. But I think if you evolve as a photographer, you will get bored of these images, because the lack of depth and deeper meanings. Anyway, photography and every kind of art is a long long journey for the artists, which inculdes so much personality and views, and every path is different.

Carissa said...

Thank you for articulating this. When I moved to Calgary last year I started following local photographers and quickly got bored with some of their work. And you helped me realize why. Now I need to review my own work and see what side I fall on. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary -

Thanks for sharing this link related to my blog post yesterday. Your discussion is a really valuable one for photographers just getting started out and those of us trying to find confidence in our own voice. I also agree that a greater appreciation for subtlety would be a welcome change in this world of over the top photography.

Sarah Marino

Gary Nylander said...

Thank-you Mattias, Carissa and Sarah for your comments to my blog post!