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Lens work in landscape (project 2)

The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes.

(Wim Wenders (1997) quoted in Bromberg & Chanarin, 2008)

This blog post records my own research into some of the photographers mentioned in this OCA project, and includes one of my own images illustrating one of the aesthetic codes described in the project.

Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984) is famous for his black and white work.  However, he also shot in colour (TIME) – http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1932762_1974604,00.html (accessed 15.3.15) – although he apparently was not comfortable with the lack of control over the medium, in comparison with black and white, at the time.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 18.41.53

Adams’ images are ubiquitous and can be easily found in any medium, including a number of documentaries about the great man’s life readily available on youtube. A link to the 2002 PBS documentary is here – (accessed 15.3.15).

Adams was motivated by the wild spaces America and and dedicated to conveying the expansiveness of the space and later to saving wild places through political lobbying.

The technology of photography was very different in Adams’ day and in this video (Getty Images) – In this video (accessed 15.3.15), Adams describes his approach to image capture and development. Front-t0-back sharpness is a feature of his images, accompanied by interesting viewpoints that emphasise the scale of the landscape. Nothing was left to chance and everything completely documented for future reference and analysis.  It was not unknown for Adams to spend a whole day in the dark room, working on a single image. Adams said, “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

Fay Godwin (1931-2005) was a British landscape photographer and her biography and work are well documented by DJ Clark on his website – http://www.djclark.com/godwin/index.htm (accessed 15.3.15). In Godwin’s work ‘there is an unequivocal, impassioned account of the effects of the closure of vast tracts of countryside for commerical, venal reasons, such as the rearing of animals and birds merely to shoot them.’ (Philip Stokes, essay in St James Modern Masterpieces, 1998). So, her images were driven by a similar passion to Adams’; the preservation of open, wild space.

Fay Godwin
Fay Godwin

I looked at length at Godwin’s photographs on Clark’s website.  While the scenery of the British Isles she captures is not on the same grand scale as that of Adams’ scenery and there is a clear difference in the quality of light to the west coast of American she, like Adams, creates images that are sharp from front to back.

What of the use of shallow DOF in landscape photography? Kim Kirkpatrick provides examples for industrial landscapes in his early work – http://www.kimkirkpatrick.com/GalleryMain.asp?GalleryID=97163&AKey=FGWAF5R9 (accessed 15.3.15), but this is not the expansive landscape of Adams and Godwin.  Similarly, Gianluca uses shallow DOF to great effect in Panem et Circenses – http://www.gianlucacosci.com/page10.htm (accessed 15.3.15) but again in an urban context.

Christopher O’Donnel, demonstrates his use of shallow DOF in landscape photography in on his Blog –http://christopherodonnellphotography.com/bokeh-for-landscapes/ (accessed 15.3.15).  This approach leads the eye to a point of interest in what otherwise are quite ordinary landscapes (unlike Adams’ raw material). An example is below.

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Christopher O’Donnel

The effect O’Donnel  produces in landscape is similar to that in Mona Kuhn’s  Evidence series , in which depicts the unclothed body.  Looking at her work on her website, http://www.monakuhn.com (accessed 15.3.15), I see that she also has some photographs of landscape with the same aesthetic (see Native series).

As I live on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, I’m surrounded by beautiful landscape but also by local galleries and shops peddling photographs of the Dales to tourists.  There are many well-executed front-to-back sharp images, but they somehow lack soul and don’t express the brutal beauty of the landscape (saturated processing treatment). They often feel like a clinical view from the outside, rather than a view from within the landscape. This is something for which I’d like to find a different aesthetic. My image below was taken with a Ricoh GR (fixed 28mm efl f/2.8) for 1/125 second at f/16 – another front-to-back sharp image, with black and white post-processing.

Day 39 - Winter Dales
Andrew Fitzgibbon

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