We see these lists, all the time. Most are long, endless lists of boring sameness. Lifeless lists of lemmings; photographers, with a few exceptions, who all look the same. All copying each others work in a repetitive, diminishing circle of indistinguishable and interchangeable styles and ideas. Most lists are worthless.
Surely the purpose of such lists is to showcase artists where each has been carefully chosen to bring something of particular value into the sphere of other Landscape Photographers. An outward looking list. A rich tapestry of creative and functional ideas, styles and techniques; contrasting, challenging, thought provoking and truly useful. A mix of the established and the new, traditional and avant-garde. A diverse list which helps other photographers to grow.
So, I thought I would put together my own list below.
What is it about photography which draws me into its real with such gusto and passion.
I sometimes ponder this question because I feel like I need to find my own answer. Yet a satisfactory answer always seams out of reach to me. I feel as if im searching for something along my photographic journey. Most people will not understand and some might think me odd. However I think it very normal. In fact I think most people search for answers in life. Some find it in religion or philosophy, some in helping others, some people find it in careers and work, others search yet never find and a few get lost along the way in alcohol and drugs. Yet many people, perhaps most people, search for something. For some reason my search has taken me down a path of photographing natures landscapes and beautify. We are all different.
Photographing a landscape brings a sense of balance into my life. It for fills many needs in me; a need to build and create something, a need to be closely in touch with those things in life which are real and natural; I think it is a counter balance to what can be a very artificial and unnatural world in which we live and work. Photography fills a need in me to escape and have time-out… time for me. It for fills a yearning to wander, explore and discover. It for fills a need in me to say “Hey, our world is not all bad” in fact it is a very beautiful and good world in which to live in. It for fills a need to leave a mark on the world after I am gone, that somehow my beautiful photographs are evidence that I was here and I had something to say and to share with others. My life is not just about work and play, there was something more.
Sometimes I look at people I know, who to me appear to be very shallow and have no depth in their life. They appear to be happily living lives I see as very superficial. One side of me is envious. However I could never live a life so wafer thin. I need depth, it is my keel and my compass.
What is it about photography which draws us into its realm with such passion.
I ponder this question often. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I need to find my own answers. You might like to share your own thoughts below.
So far, a satisfactory answer always seems out of reach to me. I feel as if I am searching for something unknown along my photographic journey; that the journey has some kind of purpose.
Many people will not understand and some might think me odd. However, I think it is very normal.
Most often, it is their photographs from which I draw the inspiration. Sometimes I am influenced by their philosophies of workflow, technique or craftsmanship. Occasionally inspiration will flow from how they choose to live their creative life.
Whatever their uniqueness, each in their own way have added something to my own journey as a landscape photographer.
From time to time, I would like to share these photographers with you here, so that you too have the opportunity to discover and be inspired by them.
:: Julian Calverley
Julian Calverley’s work is very compelling. He is a master of light. When I first discovered Julian’s work, my reaction was the same as when I stood in front of an exhibition of Rembrandt’s paintings… I was captivated by the powerful and emotive use of light.
Julian looks for compositions under conditions that many photographers might avoid and he captures them at their most dramatic. There is a lot of theatre, passion, depth and emotion to the photographs he makes.
There is also a realness to his work. His, is not a quest to capture landscapes at their most beautiful or unnatural as you might see in tourist postcards. Julian takes the real and shows just how majestic and artistic real can be.
I strongly identify with photographers who make landscape photographs in and around water. Julian Calverley is one of the best.
Here is a quick ‘top-line’ on how I get some of the interesting colours in my Landscape Images. I’ve been asked many times so I thought I’d share my standard technique and workflow here. Nothing too tricky… I hope it is of some help.
Any further questions, please just ask. And any suggestions on what I should add in here please also let me know.I don’t use coloured filters, and I don’t ‘paint-in’ the colours via Photoshop. However, there are a few specific things that I do which combine to help me capture and produce the colours I achieve.
1. Colour Temperature and Time of Day.
It helps to “fish where the fish are”. I actively look for coloured light; colour in the sky and reflected colour, both natural and artificial. I mostly shoot at particular times of the day when the colour temperature of natural light is at its most interesting.
Time of day is critically important. I prefer to shoot in the early morning and the early evening. The specific times will vary depending on the time of the year, the weather and clarity of the air. It also depends on where in the world you are, what you are shooting and for what effect. In the morning my ‘sweet spots’ are about 45 minutes before sunrise. Also immediately around sunrise and then some early morning light in the hour just after sunrise, that is, if the later morning light is continuing to do something interesting. Although after sunrise it is very rare for me to be shooting.
I mostly avoid shooting during the day. Full sun tends to wash out the soft,rich colours that I like. I will start about 2 hours before sunset when the light starts to take on a warm angular character. At this time of day,light can be very dramatic and intense. Anytime from then until up to an hour after the sun goes down offers a world of changing light to explore. Even well after the sun has gone down there remains enough light in the sky to capture stunning images with longer exposures. It is also very interesting to shoot when the change in natural light starts to balance and mix-in with artificial light at these times of day.
An important consideration at these times of the day is that our human eyes adjust very quickly to changes in the colour temperature of light. Whereas film, and perhaps your camera, will not. What this means is that we can make our cameras capture colours which are very different from what our human eyes are capable of seeing. Morning light for example can be much more blue that we can see. As photographers we can take advantage of this.I prefer mornings over evenings as the colours in the morning are more subtle. Unfortunately it does mean getting out of bed some where between 3 and 4 am as I like to arrive at a location a full hour or more before sunrise.
An Introduction to Colour Temperature by Jeffery Seckendorf
An Introduction to Light by Karl Taylor
2. Chase the light, be patient and be disciplined.
Finding great light to shoot and being patient are the two most important contributing factors to any landscape image. Light is always changing and can be very fleeting. Some days I will travel for an hour or more to my location and then wait for a further hour or two for what might be only a few minutes of photography.Some days I will come home without taking a single shot. I am patient and will wait for the light to be just right before I shoot. I don’t hop all over the place shooting everything I see. I look for a particular location & composition then I wait for the light to be right. I’ll mostly shoot from that one spot while the light changes.
Often I might keep going back to the same location again and again to make sure I get a shot with just the kind of light and conditions that I want. Four out of five days it can be just grey and dull but on the fifth day, for just a few minutes, everything might be lit up with a soft pink or purple light. All landscape photographers know what it’s like to sit and wait. I have dozens of locations where I have never been able to get the shot I’d like.But I will keep on trying. Some days I just wish I was a B&W photographer as it would be alot easier but I love colour.
Thoughts about Landscape Photography by Travis Lovell
I shoot film for almost all my landscape work and the only colour film I use is Fuji Velvia 50.
It is a film much loved by landscape photographers all over the world. What I like about this particular film is that it soaks up the colours, particularly with long exposures. I also love Velvia’s contrasting characteristics which can add a sense of drama and emotion to a photograph. Velvia captures rich and contrasty colours but it does so with incredible tonality. I just love it. Velvia plays a significant role in the colours I capture.
Velvia’s contrasty nature can be a challenge especially at the times that I like to shoot, namely early morning and late in the day around water. Some people don’t like how Velvia captures colours and that’s ok, but I do. I am yet to try Velvia 100 but from what I have read it’s a touch less rich in colour.
Just as a side note, one reason I shoot film is that I find digital makes me lazy. Film is expensive so I need to slow down, stop, think and plan. Film imposes a greater discipline on me in all areas of composition, lighting and exposure. I just think it makes me a better photographer. I also like films grain and what I think is a greater depth of tonality. I personally don’t like the flatter and cleaner video signal of digital. There is nothing wrong with digital and I will one day make the transition to medium format digital. I want to shoot film while it’s still around. I like the idea of having a significant body of landscape work which was crafted out of the traditional medium of film.
4. Slow exposures.
Because of the low light times of day that I shoot, I’m always working with long exposures; anywhere from a few seconds to 1, 2 or 3 minutes and more. A longer exposure has the advantage that it gives the film time to soak up and intensify the soft colours at this time of day. Long exposures also capture in one image a long period of time with all the resultant movement which happens in front of the camera. This movement of water, sky and light mixes together to create wonderfully soft but rich colours. ( You will need a good quality tripod… mine is a Gitzo Carbon G1258) As a further side note I use a Sekonic L-758DR spot light meter. It is important to be able to measure the light values of different parts of the landscape that you wish to shoot so that you can develop an exposure strategy to achieve the vision you have for your image.
5. Neutral Density Filters
Neutral Density Filters are an absolute must-have for landscape photography. They do not add colour to the image because they are ”Neutral” in their tone. What they do, is control and balance the light entering the camera. For example, the light in the sky will often be significantly brighter than the light in the foreground water or rocks. I use a ND filter to hold back the bright light so that my overall exposure is more even throughout the image. This has an important influence in preventing colours from either being washed. Many of the colours I love are very subtle and can easily be lost. I use Lee Filters in both hard and soft graduation.
An Introduction to The Lee Filter System by Better Photos
An Introduction to ND Filters by Tony Sweet
6. Artificial light sources
Artificial light in your scene will also add colour to your photograph. The shot below of Sydney’s Bronte Beach Ocean Pool is green because of the artificial light which lights-up the pool before sunrise. As I’ve said, our eyes adjust to colour temperature very well but film does not. Many people think the pool must be green or that I have added colour to make the shot more dramatic. As you can see from the “Before” and “After” shots below the green has been captured by the film very strongly. When you can understand the different effects that artificial light has on film or your cameras sensor you can use it as part of your creative strategy. To achieve the “after” image I have kicked up the contrast, a vignette has been added to increase the darkness around the outer edges of the image so as to pull the eye into the middle of the image, I have retouched a few lights out and I think that’s about it for this image. You can see another interesting image of green rocks on my web site. It too is lit by the same lights as this shot. Many people could not understand how I made the image with such green rocks and again assumed that it was created in Photoshop, but not so. Fluorescent lights will tend to give you a cool or blue/green colour cast. Tungsten lights will give a warm to red cast. There are many types of artificial lights and they are often mixed within the location you are shooting. Sometimes it very hard to tell what kind of lights they are and what level of colour cast they will add to your image. Often you just need to expect to be surprised.
7. Contrast, colour balance and saturation
I’m not particularly good at Photoshop so I don’t do any tricky retouching of my images to add new colours. What I do is kick up the contrast to make the image punchy and ensure the blacks are black and not grey. I will play with colour balance to make the image true to either the transparency or pleasing to my eye and I will often increase saturation for web use as the web dulls off the colours when on the net. Here’s an example of a before and after image. The before is a raw scan off my transparency. It is more grey and less saturated than the real transparency. The final image is after I have played with the contrast, colour balance and saturation. This final is more true to the transparency I can see with my eye.
8. Location and composition
Finding the right location and making a good composition are also important to getting great colours. Maybe this is one reason why I like water. Water reflects the colours and light it ‘sees’. The sun low in the sky around water is just magic.
I use a few different cameras for my landscape work. Mostly a Mamiya 7II and a Horseman SW612. Both film cameras. The Mamiya 7II is a 6x7cm camera which takes 120 / 220 roll film.This film size is much larger than 35mm. The Mamiya 7II is basically just a simple box with a set of exceptional lenses.
Most of the Mamiya 7 lenses are among the best you will find anywhere. I use the 43mm 80% of the time and a 80mm the rest of the time. Both these lenses are spectacular. I’m not into doing equipment reviews so if your interested Ken Rockwell does a great job of reviewing the Mamiya 7 here; http://www.kenrockwell.com/mamiya/7.htm
My Horseman SW612 camera captures a 6x12cm image onto 120 / 220 roll medium format film. It too is a basic body of a camera with a set of exceptional lenses. These lenses are very sharp and they give me well saturated colour and contrast in the images that they capture