A Brief Consideration of Landscape Photographers

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Photography By: Tutor no longer registered
Subject: Art » Photography
Last updated: 30/04/2017
Tags: landscape photography, photography

There are certain commonalities among landscape photographers which seem to apply to most (although not necessarily all) of them. They have a profound love of and respect for nature. They are explorers – many of them are hikers and climbers as well as being photographers. They enjoy the solitude of landscape photography. They are trying to create a visual record of the planet as it is naturally for future generations to remember – and to encourage future generations to work towards protecting the Earth. They hope to convey the vast magnitude of landscapes and the beauty of the natural world. The images also hint at the fragility of human life forms when set against nature. In the paragraphs below, I select four professional landscape photographers, and describe something of their style and format. 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Ansel Adams is probably the best known landscape photographer. He is certainly the first one I knew of and I still return to his images when I want to view breath-taking landscapes which convey a certain bleakness within the enormity of nature. Adams was born in America in 1902 and planned originally to become a musician. However, having had a largely solitary childhood, during which he was home tutored and spent extra time exploring nature, he was struck by the landscapes around him. He began to use a Kodak Number 1 Box Brownie camera (a gift from his parents) to record the stunning scenery he enjoyed exploring. Most of his images are taken of the California wilderness with a number specifically of Yosemite Park. They show the magnificence of nature and make the viewer feel a very small figure within a vast landscape. The images engage the eye in a way which makes it easy to forget that to take the photograph in the first place, Adams actually had to be there with his equipment.

Michael Kenna (born in 1953)
Michael Kenna is an English photographer best known for his black and white landscapes. As a boy, he attended a school with the intention of training to become a priest. However, when he moved on from this school he attended art college where his love of art widened to embrace photography. Landscape photography was originally a hobby to him while he worked as a printer for an advertising photographer after college. Having moved to America in the 1970s, Kenna began to think seriously about making a living in art and so his photography career began in earnest. Kenna is known for black and white landscape photography, which immediately adds an element of mystery to the image. His images are often uncluttered but evocative, showing a serenity within the scene which is tempered by the contrast of black and white. His images of urban areas are also uncluttered, hinting at civilization without displaying it overtly.

Galen Rowell (1940-2002)
Rowell was born in 1940 and grew up in California. He grew up exploring the great outdoors and was climbing mountains by the age of 10. In some ways it was his love of climbing which led him to begin recording his adventures by photograph. It was a means of sharing images from his adventures with his family and friends. His first official assignment was a cover story for the National Geographic (1972) – quite a way to get noticed. Rowell focussed on trying to create what he termed ‘dynamic landscapes’. By combining light and shapes, he tried to capture images which the viewer sensed could not be recreated as the components of the images appeared to be in motion at the time the photo was taken. Rowell also used a similar technique to photojournalism in that he tried to convey the sense of him or another person being part of the photo as well as the landscape. In this way he showed people appreciating and respecting nature, demonstrating the comparative scale of enormous natural environments versus fragile human beings. Rowell died in a plane crash in 2002.

Charlie Waite (born in 1949)
Waite is an English landscape photographer who started his career in theatre and television. It was during this time that his developed a particular interest in the use of light and shade to create a scene. Moving into his photography career, he became known for combining light and shade to create images which have the appearance of having been painted.  He is also known for using a Hasselblad camera to produce pictures in a square format as opposed to the more common rectangular print shape. His photographs have some sort of neat symmetry to them and an air of calm even if the skies appear stormy. Waite has had solo international exhibitions, given lectures around the world, and written a number of books. He is now established as one of the most celebrated landscape photographers in the world.


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