Last week, I was particularly delighted to have one of my images “Calligraphy” being chosen as IOW in the landscape category of www.naturescapes.net. I’ve had a few picks of the week this year already but what made it special was that this particular image was an intimate landscape. Although much of my portfolio centers around grand scenics and spectacular magic hour lighting, I believe the true test of a nature photographer’s eye lies in seeing the landscape within. It’s a creative challenge that I relish.
Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting the grand landscape. On some level however, this is usually a visual documentary of the location under attractive lighting conditions. The photographer has the task of translating something on a comparatively vast scale into a tiny two dimensional representation. Inevitably, even if the final image is impressive, it is usually less than what the photographer has personally witnessed. On the other hand, intimate landscapes often reveal details, structure, patterns, geometry and nuances that are not usually noticed by the casual observer. To be able to show something new to viewers and even surprise them, is a very rewarding aspect of photography.
When I was working on my photography CV recently, I was surprised to find that an intimate landscape was responsible for the first time my work was recognized in any way. I recall the circumstances vividly. It was on the second day of trekking the Overland Track in Tasmania in 2007. I had woken up to photograph sunrise beneath the peak of Barn Bluff. The entire landscape was covered in the first frost of autumn. After photographing sunrise, I noticed the miniature frosted landscapes at my feet. I used a fallen leaf as my subject and gave my brand new 100mm macro lens its first use in the field. The resulting image, “Frosted Garden” later that year was highly commended in the ANZANG contest. The experience and encouragement taught me that I should always be open the idea of shooting something small even when faced with the most beautiful of landscapes.
So what exactly is an intimate landscape? It is not an easy term to define but I’ve compiled a list of some common characteristics.
- Focal length is not necessarily related to it. I’ve shot small scenes with my 16-35mm wide-angle lens up to my biggest telephoto prime, a 300mm. However most of my images fall somewhere in between this range.
- The subject may be on a small or large scale.
- The horizon is usually excluded from the frame
- There is a strong focus on a single subject or part of one
- Focus on structure, shapes, lines, colour, patterns
- Often are of an abstract nature
- Composition is of great importance
- Allows the viewer to concentrate on and appreciate aspects that are hidden by the chaos and complexity of nature
- Less reliance on magic hour lighting, however colour casts can be useful to make small scenes more interesting
Intimate landscapes often lose impact when viewed on a screen due to the poor resolution of web-sized images; they need to be printed – BIG.
Some of the above images are part of a new batch of over a dozen landscapes from my New Zealand trip which I have uploaded over the last week to our website gallery. View the new photos and larger versions here.