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02-03-2015, 02:06 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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Will the Real Landscape Photography Please Stand Up?

This is a thought-provoking essay on the state of current landscape photography. I agree with a lot of the author's opinion, but not everything.

No answers, just lots of questions.


02-03-2015, 02:33 PM   #2
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This. I submitted some photos to a competition that was creating a book of photos about my home state. Winners were picked by both popular vote through facebook or some other social media setting and by editors from the sponsoring organizations. When the book finally came out, it was full of photos like this. So much smooth, over-saturated, this-is-the-digital-age-and-everything-is-awesome photography. If your aim is to be popular, you go with what everyone likes, and you get a million photographs with the same soul. However, if you go for your own style, your own view of what makes your soul sing, then you get something really great. Even if you're the only one who thinks its great. Which is why I don't do any "pro" or commission or "hey will you take our pictures?" work—I only want my style to be answerable to me.

Also, I like what he says about taking just a single photo of antelope canyon and then taking it in with his eyes. I've dragged cameras through several slots, and got some pictures that I like, but I've got mental pictures and quite frankly spiritual experiences that have way more meaning that would have been spoiled if I tried to "capture the moment." Sometimes it's just good to wander and not worry about capturing the photo (with the realization that the creation of art can be a wonderfully transcendental experience for some).

02-03-2015, 02:34 PM   #3
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This is right on the money!
02-03-2015, 02:54 PM - 1 Like   #4

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talk about an existential crisis...

so here's the dilemma:

we take images for ourselves and these images are limited by our time and budget. unless we have high paying jobs and lots of vacation time, what we can see and do is dictated by how much we can afford to spend. ok, but at least the images are art?

or we cant try to find some compromise, take some images for ourselves and some images that will sell, in hopes of making enough money that maybe some more exotic locations become accessible with the extra money. but what do we do when we're there? take pics for ourselves only? and why are we in these new exotic locations? probably because we WANTED to take pics! If one gets REALLY lucky, you actually get hired to travel to one of these bucket list places. But is that because the images you've taken are art? Or because they were marketable?

If we're on a self funded expedition to an exotic locale, now what kind of images do we take? do we try to take images that will sell, so we can see even more exotic locations? well then those images aren't art? So we take pics for ourselves, but they don't sell, so no more travelling for you mr artiste!

it's like saying I'd rather starve then eat something I've had to kill. It's the age old joke "if you want to make money as an artist you have to die first."

I'll admit when I process images, I give thought to what is sellable and what is not, so I guess I'm not creating art. But then again, I'm not selling much, so most of my work must really be art? I guess the answer to that won't be know until 50 years from now when I'm dead....

Last edited by nomadkng; 02-03-2015 at 03:00 PM.
02-03-2015, 02:58 PM   #5
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"There is this prevalent style in landscape photography that aims to capture the viewer with dramatic light, strong composition and bright, saturated colors."


Look, this is fine some of the time, but so many of my own personal favourite landscapes are muted, nuanced, reflective. Watercolours or pastels, not bold acrylics. They evoke a feeling that is personal and serene, or poignant. There is a place for these.
02-03-2015, 03:16 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Hmm, very thought provoking. I too am a subscriber to 500px preferring landscape and nature themes. I have often looked at some of the most popular submissions there and wondered how do they get 'that look'? Super smooth, glossy, noiseless with spectacular colours, colours which I have never quite seen outdoors in my part of the world. I was never quite sure what 'the look' was or how 'it' was achieved. Was it from mega $$ camera/lens combinations, impossible to recreate with my 'lowly' K-7, or was it from travel to exotic locations beyond my budget, or was it through manipulation of on order beyond my abilities? Perhaps all three. On occasion I have tried to reproduce the 'look' and have been very disappointment with the outcome.

Thanks for posting this, I will try not to feel inadequate when looking at some of these super images and concentrate on what I can do, that is try to preserve what I see, the way I see it.
02-03-2015, 03:27 PM   #7
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I think drawing the line between art and not art with other people's work is a slippery slope. I'd prefer not to go there.
Photography is as much craft as art and the way different people shoot can lean one way or the other but I don't believe there's a distinct line between the two in this context.

I'm certainly guilty of some images like the ones he is saying are not art. I'd like to think I have some other images that more clearly are art because they feel like art to make them. Actually they all feel like art to make. I go out into wild areas and look for light interacting with a landscape and then make images from what I see. Is that enough to cross the line into the art realm or is that just perfecting my craft? Honestly I don't care that much. I do consider my photos (at least the thoughtful ones) to be my art, even if someone else says they aren't.

When I was a watercolorist I was skeptical that photography could be art at all. I've since softened on that stance considerably and my definition of what is art has only become more inclusive over time. Sure there's art I don't care for much because it's over done or I don't like the subject or message but that doesn't make it not art.
02-03-2015, 03:39 PM   #8
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The real issue is no one feels special. Boohoo I'm not the only one who can make pretty pictures! 7 billion ppl make for some steep competition.

02-03-2015, 03:47 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by halfspin Quote
The real issue is no one feels special. Boohoo I'm not the only one who can make pretty pictures! 7 billion ppl make for some steep competition.
I believe the OP was lamenting the dominance of a particular style in landscape photography. I agree with his worry and even wonder if Ansel Adams' iconic shots of the Range of Light would be accepted in today's compulsion to favor over saturated and HDR images that are not the image presented to the photographer's eye.
02-03-2015, 03:47 PM   #10
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I'm thinking along similar lines to what's in the linked article (except for where the author touches on the meaning or essence of art). I love color imagery but I find color a trap -- we are so attuned to color that when we see strong color in an image it is hard to see anything else. Color or not, I am so tired of tonemapping, "vibrance", and similar tools that I now have a very low threshold for what I consider over-processing, and I immediately skip over any such images. (This includes lots of my own images, some of which I have reprocessed much more straightforwardly.) Increasingly the photographers I follow on Flickr are using b/w film or even alternative processes, with minimal digital manipulation. I have 5 rolls of exposed but undeveloped b/w film in my refrigerator and have just registered for a darkroom class to (re-) learn the basics. I want to again experience the magic of darkroom printing.

I love digital photographic tools, and will continue using digital capture and processing, especially for macro and wildlife photography. Digital is the reason I got back into photography in a dedicated way. But the discipline of film and darkroom printing is what I need right now.
02-03-2015, 07:00 PM   #11
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Notice that there hasn't really been any Black and White Landscape photographers of note lately? And I don't think it's because it's digital on a screen. Ansel Adams works still look spectacularly awesome digitized and on a computer monitor.

Maybe it's because it's infinitely harder than just dialing up the color saturation in PS?

And that's why from here on out I'm a Black and White Landscape photographer.
02-03-2015, 07:20 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Qwntm Quote
And that's why from here on out I'm a Black and White Landscape photographer.
You inspire me.

02-03-2015, 07:22 PM   #13
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That was a good article. Is it possible to be wowed and bored at the same time? Absolutely.
02-03-2015, 07:48 PM   #14
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Very interesting. I had a similar realization after looking through 500px for a year. Now all those photos look the same. It is no wonder popular pictures are popular for not discerning audience though. I spent a lot of time on 500px and it took me a year to get bored with all those nice landscape shots.

Ultimately, there will be (is?) a great artist who will push the envelope in landscapes, then people will start replicating his/hers work and the cycle will repeat itself.

I am glad to have a photography as a hobby, not a job though. I can just take pictures for myself, and my favorite shots are usually not the most popular on 500px.
02-03-2015, 08:14 PM - 1 Like   #15
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Honestly, I am sick of all these over processed pictures. And that does not stop with landscapes. It is a kind of sickness infecting all kinds of photography. Extreme sharpening, clarity, contrast, saturation. Colours straight from the nightmares of a child overdosed on bonbons... Portrait? Add lots and lots of artifical grain to make it look 'film-y'. I hate those people so much. I admit freely: most of my pictures suck. Especially the 99.5% I did not upload to flickr... I try to capture what I see (or want to see, with macro). Nothing more or less. And the only one who has to be happy is me. Very relaxing.

I just wish that all those lightroom/photoshop artists would stop calling it 'photography'. You painted a picture. You might have used a photography as a sketch/underdrawing. Does not make the end result a photography.

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