"Know that the world exists for you: build, therefore, your own world." - Ralph Emerson
So often, the photography industry is full of secrets, and everyone feels as if they need to come across as they know exactly what they're doing. As I write this article, I am proud to say that when I began this project, I had no idea what I was doing! I had never created any sort of environment before. I had never even built a birdhouse or put up those small little christmas scenes. I ran head-first into this venture without knowing what I was getting into. What I have come out with is an entire new skill set, the photographs you'll see shortly, and an absolutely incredible experience! I come to you with this project as a completely transparent source, resource, and peer. We are all part of the same race here, after all.
If you ask any photographer what they wanted to photograph for their entire first year with a camera, almost unanimously the answer will be landscapes, or a variation of nature. "I am a natural light photographer" is another common answer. Or even "The sun is my favorite source of light."
If that is you, I was in the same boat! And who could blame us? Landscape photography brings out all of the wonderful qualities we all think come along with being a photographer. First and foremost, it lets us see the world! We are drawn in by the idea of hopping from location to location seeing all the world has to give us. But only in the most spectacular light and weather conditions, of course.
However, landscape photography can be expensive! Ultrawide lenses, panorama heads, expensive filters, sturdy tripods, and travel, travel, travel! Running out to the solitude of the serene wilderness sounds quite grand. And it certainly can be!
There are a few key characteristics of a landscape in its natural form that must be addressed technically and skillfully by anyone who intends on heading out to photograph our biome in all its glory:
1. The condition of the environment is dependent on the current condition of the surrounding atmospheric conditions (rain, snow, fog, wildfire, mudslide, etc)
2. The entire mood of the image is conveyed first and foremost by the position of the sun when the image was taken (ex: sunrise, sunset, behind clouds, high noon, etc)
3. Composition is key. Beautiful scenery alone does not a beautiful photograph make. (Get up high, down low, and muddy!)
4. Perspective distortion based on lens choice will determine the degree of grandiosity of and depth in the image (14mm plus a distant mountain can equal a deceivingly small-looking mound)
5. The wild is dangerous! Snakes, bears, sharks, spiders, beetles, poison ivy, landslides, fire ants, yeti, aliens.
I'm not here to show you how to photograph waterfalls or mountains. This post is about something else entirely! Even still, it certainly is about landscape photography, and some of the methodology is very similar to the traditional methods. But the two are really quite different.
45 lb All purpose flour
Plain white paper
You see, the photographs here were all created in a space probably smaller than the room you're sitting in reading this.
All of these landscapes were invented and hand-sculpted with mostly everyday, easily-available materials!
Cream of Tartar
So, Is It Even Landscape?
I know you all were thinking it. And it's a valid concern! But how do you ask it? "Is it landscape?" or "Is it landscape?" Inflection is important. In any case, I would argue that the skill set needed to photograph a landscape are needed in spades here:
1. The condition of the environment can be completely molded to incorporate the atmospheric conditions that most suit the mood being conveyed in the image.
2. Need the sun in the east? It's quite simple to just place it there. Only now, it must be made to give off light that properly emulates the time of day that needs to be emulated by the position.
3. Composition is key. This time, there is no worry about a tree limb spanning across the frame from the vantage point chosen.
4. Perspective distortion is every bit as important as it was when photographing large landscapes.
5. Captivity is (not so) dangerous! The only critters you will see are the ones you board.
After all is said and done, there is so much creative license involved in this process! The photographer is given free reign to envision, construct, and produce any sort of environment in whichever time of day, weather condition, and location they should decide to. The rewards are grand, but the challenges are many. I say it's every bit as much a landscape as any romanticism-era landscape painting.
Cream of Tartar
Over the next few posts, I'll be going into more detail about this series. I do hope that you stick around.
For now, on to the next adventure!