Influences Ansel Adams Revisited

In my earlier post,  Ansel Adams post one , I gave my initial initial impressions of Adams work. I have subsequently continued to review his photographs. I have also recently obtained two books which make comments on his work and place it within the context of the landscape genre. These are American Landscapes Photographs from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art and Ansel Adams at 100. Both books are by John Szarkowski the renowned Director of Photography at MOMA in New York and were the accompanying books for Exhibitions.

American Lanscapes Photographs from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art traces the history of American Landscape photography from its beginning until the 1970s through the museums own collection. It allowed me to consider where Adams sits in the broader context of American Landscape photography.

The early pioneers were the likes of Timothy O'Sullivan who had made his name as a documentary photographer of the American Civil War. O'Sullivan was hired to take photographs as part of a scientific expedition. However there is evidence that O'Sullivan had made aesthetic judgements vis a vis the framing of his subjects and so his work might now be viewed as not simply scientific in nature.

These early pioneers were followed by the likes of Muybridge and Carleton Watkins operated less as explorers and more as 'laureate(s) memorialising known wonders', devising creative strategies for depicting well known motifs in a fresh manner.

Thereafter followed great photographers such as the young Edward Steichen working in a Pictorialist mode, seeking to emulate the art of painting, with inviting subjects, soft focus and movement.

The Pictorialist ethic was roundly rejected by Modernists such as Edward Weston, although Weston himself was intimidated by the chaotic nature of nature. Starting with intimate landscapes Weston, Strand and others gradually tackled the wider landscape from the standpoint of formal integrity which represents the Modernist approach. They emphasised process and form above subject.

Whilst a Modernist, emphasising the perfection of the process - perhaps more than any other photographer - Ansel Adams has his own unique style. His greatest works visualise the landscape as an Event - a temporary piece of theatre created by the majesty of the scene, the light and the weather. Here is an Adams photograph from the exhibition:

Oak Tree Snow Storm, Yosemite 1948 by Ansel Adams

I chose this image because I am sitting in my study writing this post with snow all around our house. I have been outside taking some shots of snow covered trees also. It is interesting to see that Adams has retained a range of tonal values within the snow, giving it shape and texture. I have included one of my own images below to compare.

Snow covered Tree, Burnham by Keith Greenough

The tonal range of the highlights in my image is much more compressed. It is also clear that the tree itself if much less attractive - no leaves, less elegant, less symmetrical. My image also has less background interest.  The difference in tonal range is clearly seen when the histograms for the two images are compared...



I have much still to learn.

The second book I have reviewed is Ansel Adams at 100. This is another catalogue from an Exhibition curated by John Szarkowski. This time the exhibition was staged by the San Francisco Museum of Modern art - an organisation which Adams had much involvement with. The book provides an interesting essay which traces Adams development as a photographer.

It was interesting to hear Szarkowski's view that Adams work varied from the superlative to the mediocre. He was particularly disparaging about Adams work outside of the landscape genre.

As a 'straight' photographer Adams work depended on both shape and texture. Interestingly it was Szarkowski's view that Adams work moved from being described very much in graphic terms in the mid thirties to becoming increasingly dependent on perfection of the tonal range some ten years later. He suggested that this might become abundantly clear if one were to take an earlier and later image and compare them when they are reduced to postage stamp size. The former whilst damaged would still be intelligible the latter most likely would be unintelligible. I thought I would try this as an experiment. The two photographs are:

Mount Robson, Jasper National Park
Canada, 1928 by Ansel Adams

Cleaing Winter Storm, Yosemite Valley, 1942 by Ansel Adams

Here are the two images as postage stamps...

I think this proves the point which from my own perspective shows how important the management of tone is in creating an atmospheric image. Graphic designs is important in composition but light and tone can create more subtle and emotive image. As is waiting for the moment of theatre which will lead to the exceptional image.

I will wind up this with another of my favourite Adams images, Lake and Cliffs Sierra Nevada 1932. This is a very graphic image - perhaps reflecting a personal bias. I selected this image because it is intriguing. It is hard to make out what it is. I love the variation in tone and texture which are fantastic and the way he has captured the reflections in the still water of the lake. It  has a very flat perspective which adds to the abstract nature and its appeal. It is wonderful to realise that nature can offer such glorious scenes of abstract design.

Lake and Cliffs, Sierra Nevada 1932 by Ansel Adams


Influences - Paul Caponigro

Was browsing today looking for information on John Szarkowski's MOMA exhibition 'Mirrors and Windows'. This exhibition was staged in 1978 and presented American photography since 1960. Szarkowski's view was that over the previous 20 years the dominant motif of American photography had moved from Public to private concerns.

The exhibition was organized around Szarkowski's thesis that the personal visions of photographers fell broadly into two categories who see the photograph either as a - Mirror: a romantic expression of the photographers sensibility as it projects itself onto the things and sights of this world; or as a Window: through which the exterior world is explored in all it's prescence and reality.

This concept is very pertinent in terms of my review of Fay Godwin, as she appears to me to have worked in both styles.

My research also revealed the work of Paul Caponigro. I found his intimate landscapes to be very delicate and intriguing, making full use of the emotional impact of texture, weather conditions and light. He also seemed quite adventurous as evidenced by One of his photographs where he has used a negative print.

Here are a few of his photographs:

Paul Caponigro Negative Print, Dutch Pipe Vine,Brewster, NY, 1963

Paul Caponigro Morning Mist, Redding Woods, CT, 1969 Silver Print

Paul Caponigro Frosted Window, Ipswich, MA,1960
Silver Print

All of these images have a silvery feel, which gives them a unique feel....love this work.


Day out at Kingston Lacey

I went out for the day to the National Trust venue at Kingston Lacey. The main point of interest was the avenue of Beech trees which border the main road through the National Trust estate. The visit was organised by Light and Land and Charlie Waite was leading the group.

The day was very well spent and I had an opportunity to talk to Charlie about developing a personal style. Interestingly Charlie felt that this would tend to emerge in one's work over time. He also felt that in his case it was his decision to concentrate on Landscape work which helped him to develop his personal signature.

In truth it was not the best time to visit the beech avenue as the leaves had all gone and sadly the light was very flat and the sky grey....so it was not a day for capturing one of my best images. In fact I was quite disapponted with my work from this trip and so I have decided to show one of my images here and to analyse how I might have done better...

Beech Avenue Kingston Lacey

As I indicated above, better light and autumn leaves would have made this a better image so I will focus on issues of composition. My ideas was to use the row of beeches as a leading line towards the gap at the end of the row of trees which in my concept would be a point of interest. In fact the gap at the end of the trees is not very disctinctive....a splash of colour, light or some other interest would be needed to create this. In my image there is no focal point. The second thing I am unhappy about is that there is a gap in the row of trees - between the second and third tree. This reveals the road behind and more importantly breaks up the leading line intended to lead the viewer deeper into the image. Finally I really find the unattractive large branches (including the one which has been cut off) very distracting and ugly. These break up the rhythm created by the curves of the smaller branches which make up the archway.

What might I have done about these issues....well I should have spent much more time looking for a suitable location to capture my shot. There were plenty of potential locations. I should then have spent a lot of time considering the detail of my composition - avoidance of the ugly, making sure the leading line is continuous, ensuring continuity of the rhythmic nature of the branches and considering the focal point at the end of the arch...I need to return.

Assignment Three: a linking theme - Tutor Feedback

I have now received feedback from my tutor on my third assignment. Generally my work was well received, but there were three images of which my tutor was more critical and so I thought it would be useful to look at these again and consider the comments my tutor made.


My tutor commented on the strong colours in this image but felt that whilst the pine trees are a focal point they are not sufficiently distinctive. I have to agree with this point. Sadly the light on this occasion was not that great....the sun breaking through backlighting the trees would have been far better.

Overhanging Branches

My tutor felt that this image lacked a clear focal point for the eye to fix on. In my original idea I was homing in on the repetitive curved shapes of the branches to create interest through the rhythm they have. I was in two minds about this and it seems that the idea may not have been a great one. It is worth me noting that as for the first image the issue my tutor has raised is one of defining a clear point of interest in my frame.

Red Tarn Beck at Glenridding

In this shot my tutor felt that she would have liked to see something static in the foreground to contrast with the water and to add another dimension. This would in fact have made the image less abstract and looking again at it I have to agree that this would have worked better. In practice this would not have been so easy as it was pouring with rain and I would have had to move further downstream to find some interesting foreground interest...perhaps I was not persistent with this one as my original idea was indeed to include some foliage in the foreground!...try harder next time.

I was pleased that my tutor really liked the photograph which I also felt was the best. This is one of a lone tree reaching out into Ullswater. I personally like the simple strong composition focussing on the tree, which is enhanced by the constrast with the silky smooth water. The blue tones of the water and the red/yellow tones of the foliage also work well together.....here is the photograph...

Ullswater Tree


Project 33 - using a tripod

I have for some time used a tripod for most of my landscape work. As I am generally stopping down my lenses to achieve the desired depth of field this has become an essential aid. I have several tripods but have come to rely heavily on a Gitzo 3541 Systematic Tripod.

I use this excellent tripod with a Arca Swiss Z1 ball head...

The combination is very stable and remarkably light. It is also very tall, which I find very useful for shooting over hedges and walls with the camera above my head. I use 'live view' to focus and frame the image in such situations....

Project 32 - telephoto views - variety of images

Yesterday I visited Avebury in Wiltshire to make some images which might prove to be useful for my Assignment 5 'In the view of Fay Godwin'. En route I stopped on top of Overton Hill just to the west of Marlborough. The views were interesting with sunlight peeking thought the clouds revealing 'gods rays' in the sky and painting the landscape with light. I took a series of shots from a single location....actually I had to cross the road to take some of the shots to avoid undesirable foreground action!

Sadly I did not capture any really strong images but the series did illustrate the variety possible, both in the landscape and the sky. Here is the series of shots, starting by looking north and working round anti-clockwise to the west, south and south east....

Overton Hill - North

Overton Hill West

Overton Hill - South West

Overton Hill - south south west

Overton Hill - south

Overton Hill - south with village of West Kennett

Overton Hill - south south east

Whilst these are a series of images of reasonable quality, I confess to being disappointed in not making a powerful image. The problem was I am sure that I stayed in one place and it was not the ideal spot....I wish I had taken a viewpoint with a better view of West Kennett village as foreground interest. Notwithstanding, the exercise did show me the potential for huge variety in a landscape from a single viewpoint with a telephoto lens.

Project 31 - telephoto views - compressing planes

I have experimented extensively using long lenses with the idea of compressing planes. I like the graphic feel that this offers. To begin with I had some difficulty with depth of field. At 200mm the hyperfocal distance even at f/32 is around 70mm. I had a few disappointments with images where I had focused on elements within around 30m and the background had been very soft.

Here are some examples of compressed planes which I took on my trip to Canada.

Harrison Lake, British Columbia Canada

Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada

Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada

Project 30: wide angle views - near and far

I carried out this project whilst on my recent trip to Hawaii. I used the approach of using the wide angle lens to use interesting foreground shapes combined with a distant view to 'place the viewer in the shoes of the photographer'.

Here is one of the images I made. It was taken on the sea shore at Kailua Kona on the big island of Hawaii.
The foreground interest is the rocks warmed by the setting sun. On the horizon are palm trees on a promontory. I used a 28 mm lens and an F/ stop of 8. The aperture was a compromise between depth of field and shutter speed. I wanted a slow speed to show movement in the waves lapping on the rocks. Here is the image:

Kailua Kona, Hawaii

This is a detail crop of the foreground:

And this a detail of the trees on the horizon:

I was pretty pleased with the results. In theory the aperture of f/8 would give a depth of field range  from 2.67 metres to infinity if I had focused at the hyperfocal distance of 5.5 metres. In practice this seems to have worked really well....I often use apertures of f/16 and above with wide angle lenses to get even greater depth of field....perhaps I don't need to stop down so much and avoid running the risk of deterioration of resolution inherent in smaller apertures.

Project 29 - rephotographing a famous image

For this project the aim is to re-photograph a well known landscape image and following the work to analyse how well the image replicates the original in terms of lens and viewpoints selection. A review of how the landscape looks today compared to the original including changes to the environment, light etc.

For this work I have chosen a well known photograph of the Manger at Uffington by Charlie Waite. This is taken from Landscape The Story of 50 Favourite Photographs by Charlie Waite  pp 58...this is shown below:

The Manger, Berkshire by Charlie Waite

My image of the same view is below:

The Manger, Berkshire by Keith Greenough

As regards how well I have replicated the original image I have the following comments:

  • The field of view is very similar...I used a 28mm lens and I suspect that Charlie used an equivalent lens on his Hasselblad. 
  • My horizon is a bit higher in the frame and I think I have revealed more depth in the base of the Manger. This could mean that I was slightly higher up the slope when I took the photograph.
  • The grass in the foreground of my shot is much higher...could be as a result of the time of year.
Other differences I have noted in the images are as follows:
  • The sky in my image is largely a bank of dark cumulostratus...not so interesting. Charlie has managed to capture a more interesting sky with more varied clouds....I wonder thought if he might have darkened the sky too much with his ND filter(?)
  • The more interesting cloud action in Charlie's image can also be seen in the shadows it has created on the landscape. In my image there is very little hard shadow and the landscape is quite bland. In Charlie's the left bank of the Manger and the background landscape are in quite deep shadow thus revealing the contours of the Manger itself in a much more expressive way....Charlie's image is far superior in terms of light!
  • On my image the grass is quite green throughout...In Charlie's it is green in the base of the Manger and quite yellow and dry around the perimeter....again this accentuates the shape of the Manger far better and once again Charlie's image is superior...
It seems that the key lesson of this exercise for me is not just one of identifying the viewpoint and lens....which I certainly found useful and interesting...but it is also about the right light and also looking for other elements of the landscape which delineate and accentuate shapes. I wonder how many times Charlie visited the Manger to get his shot.

The project also called for me to make a second image from a viewpoint within about 100 ft from the first. In this case I decided to produce an image based on a slice of the landscape, which uses some sheep which had appeared as the key point of interest and the ripples in the landscape as an interesting backcloth. I decided to present this image as a black and white and here it is:

The Manger Variation Two by Keith Greenough

Once again sadly I think that the light is not helping this image, the scene is a little too flat. Aslo the key subjects, ie the sheep are perhaps a little too distant...a longer lens might have been better.


Project 24: clouds and sky

This is another follow up post on project I completed some time ago. The idea of this project is to take a series of images where the sky is a dominant feature. I have collected these photographs over a period of time with this project in mind. I have tried to produce a set which, whilst the images have the common feature of emphasising the sky, has variety in the nature of the sky and landscape interest. Here they are:

As can be seen there is a lot of variety. The tree image from Volcano, Hawaii has dark threatening clouds surrounding the tree, whilst the sister image of the volcanic tree has floccus clouds which look like they are retreating. The Timanfaya, Lanzarote shot shows white cumulus clouds been driven along and upwards over the mountains by the wind, with the Famara shot featuring a large cumulus cloud dark with moisture. The Dorset photograph features a wide range of clouds but most distinctive are the high cirrus clouds. And finally the large cumulus clouds banked just above the horizon to the west create patterns of light and shade on the surface of the sea.

Over time I have come to realise that if I am to include a large sky in my photograph there needs to be some information there.... uninterrupted blue sky whilst feeling pleasant is in fact quite dull photographically unless a graphic image with areas of plain colour is what is desired. I am learning to anticipate the weather. I still suffer from the problem of limited time to shoot and tend to have to go out on predetermined days....that said there are still the variables of subject selection and where to set the horizon which can make such days productive as was illustrated in the previous project.

Project 23: soft light

This is a bit of a catch up. I have completed most of the projects in the run up to assignment three but have not documented all of them in this blog. I have still to complete projects 25(optional), 26 and 27. These require specific conditions of a full moon on a clear night or snow....I have not been able yet to photograph in these conditions so will have to follow this up later. This post relates to Project 23: soft light. The idea is to take three images in overcast light conditions and to examine the quality of the soft light on the landscape.

My three images are below. In all three I used a ND graduated filter to hold back the sky a little so that some detail is retained in the sky.

What distinguishes each of these images is the relatively low contrast and the way this light has enabled detail to be revealed in the landscape. The key learning point is not to dismiss this type of light. Rather to consider what type of image would benefit from low contrast soft light. Images with lots of interesting detail such as the walls in the Loughrigg photograph are particularly effective in such conditions.

Land Revisited Exhibition Fay Godwin - National Media Museum

The National Media Museum has be staging a repeat of the seminal 'Land' exhibition by Fay Godwin to celebrate the 25th aniversary of the original event. The Museum holds many of the original prints from the first exhibition. The museum introduces the exhibition as follows : "Fay Godwin (1931 - 2005) was one of Britain's greatest landscape photographers. She is best known for her 1985 exhibition and accompanying book, Land – a very personal celebration of the British landscape that enjoyed enormous popular and critical success. To mark the 25th anniversary of this exceptional project, we are displaying a selection of prints from the original exhibition, drawn from our Collection."

On Monday 22nd November I had the great pleasure of visiting the exhibition. I was one of very few visitors on that morning and so I had time and a peaceful environment to give the wonderful photographs full consideration. Here are my thoughts on the exhibition:
  • What impressed me the most was the pure quality of the original prints on display. The images are fantastic. Technically they are excellent - the compositions are strong, focus is sharp from back to front, and no detail is lost in the shadows and highlights. The prints themselves are superb. They are generally quite high in contrast and wonderfully detailed. However, what distinguishes the images more than anything else is the way the light expresses itself on the landscape. Areas of light and dark draw out the shape of the landscape and highlight the key points of interest. 
  • Her compositions are very carefully thought out. She often uses repetitive elements such as in the image below where the marker stone pointing to the right is echoed by the wall to top left of the frame. The triangle of the marker stone, wall and rock also makes a strong compositional design and depth is created by diminishing scale.
Marker stone, old London to Harlech road by Fay Godwin

  • Looking at her workbooks and contact prints it is abundantly clear that having found her subject Godwin would capture a series of images, varying the exposures once she had settled on a composition. Just like Ansell Adams she regarded the negative as a starting point. She devoted a great deal of time, thought and effort to the process of producing a perfect print.
  • The exhibition showed an old video clip from the South Bank Show in 1986, in which Fay was interviewed and was filmed working in the field. From this it is clear that she revisited locations on many occasions to seek out the perfect light and climatic conditions. It is also clear that once at a location she would spend a lot of time with a handheld viewfinder searching for the right composition. A National Media Museum video of Roger Taylor discussing Fay Godwin's work can be found on this link National Media Museum - Fay Godwin Video .
  • The sky is very often a major feature of her compositions and when it is there is always great interest in the clouds. Very rarely are these clouds fluffy cumulus. Storm clouds appear with greater regularity. I have heard it said that the best time to capture dramatic landscape images is when bad weather is leaving (Charlie Waite quote). Fay Godwin seems to have believed in a similar dictum. She clearly went out in poor conditions and waited for breaks in the weather when the drama of the landscape would be greatly enhanced. Below is one of her images where bad weather is a major feature. This image also illustrates how the light is so important in her images. The dark sky overhead adds drama and as does storm over the hills to the back left. The path in the front left is lit up whereas the middle ground is in shadow. As we move further into the landscape both the lake and the far valley are again lit up. So cleverly Godwin has managed to ensure that the key elements of her composition are lit, whilst providing a dramatic backcloth for their presentation. What is not easy to judge is how much the light conditions have been enhanced by dodging and burning in the darkroom??
Path and reservoir, Lumbutts, Yorkshire, 1977

  • I was also intrigued to hear how much time she spent in determining the sequence of images for display in Land. Her final choice was to present the photographs in a geographic sequence, starting in the north of Scotland working south towards the end of the book.
It was a great day and very timely given my decision to study Fay Godwin's work for my next assignment.

Assignment Four - a critical review

For the next assignment I have to conduct a critical review of a well known landscape photographer. I have decided to select Fay Godwin as my subject for this review. My reasons for selecting Godwin are listed below:

  • Godwin's work is very varied. Her early landscape works were classic images of the British countryside. She went on to produce a body of work showing how major companies and landowners were restricting use of the countryside and abusing its natural beauty - a strong documentary series of images. The first two series were all in black and white and fitted the classic landscape genre. During her later life however she made two series of intimate landscapes in colour. I felt that this variety would provide great learning opportunities.
  • All of my assignments so far have been based on colour images. I am looking forward to working in black and white "in the style of" Fay Godwin.
  • Her work was based on the British landscape, often in poor but dramatic weather. As I shall be shooting in the UK and during the winter, I will have greater opportunity to produce images in her style, rather than for example in the style of Galen Rowell, where great mountains and exotic locations abound.
  • I admire her work greatly. Whilst at first sight her images appear a little understated, her photographs are powerful and evocative and capture the mood of the British countryside wonderfully.
Here is one of my favourite Godwin Photographs:

Flooded Tree, Derwentwater 1981 by Fay Godwin

Assignment Three - a linking theme LAKELAND WATER

I have now submitted my third assignment to my tutor. The idea of this assignment was to produce a set of photographs all of which are based on a common theme. For some time I had been planning to base this work on the them of 'Water'. I had made some images in my trips to Languedoc and Hawaii which I had thought would be included in my submission. However, my recent trip to the Lake District gave me a new idea, which I believe has enabled me to produce a much more cohesive set of images based on the theme - Lakeland Water.

During my trip to the Lakes the weather was consistently poor with overcast skies and lots of rain. The prevailing light conditions gave a cool tint blue to the images when shot on a daylight white balance. This coupled with the reds, golds and yellows of the autumn leaves resulted in some interesting warm cool colour contrasts which seemed to work surprisingly well.

I developed the theme a little further by presenting three groups of images covering the interaction of the lakes, becks and rivers with the broader landscape, lakeland trees and man made structures.

I will report back when I receive feedback from my tutor. Here are the images:


Quotation - Georgia O'Keefe

I discovered this quotation from Georgia O'Keefe on a website referencing Fay Godwin....there is a lot in it !!!

"Nothing is less real than realism. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things"

Georgia O’Keefe

Landscape Photography Influences - Terri Weifenbach

At the suggestion of my Tutor Caroline Bloor, I have been researching the work of Terri Weifenbach. This has been an interesting excursion. She has her own unique personal style. At first sight I found her work to be very inaccessible. So I have delayed posting my thoughts until I have had time to reflect and revisit her photographs.

Weifenbach's work steers well clear of the cliches of landscape photography. Her subjects are often slices of the landscape in the fringes between the true countryside and areas inhabited by man. Large wilderness vistas are not for her. She focuses on local intimate subjects. Her style is to make images which leave much for the viewer to ponder and interpret.

To quote an essay on her work by Gareth Branwyn  'Her photographs unapologetically challenge our everyday visual awareness, provoking the normal conduct of the eye to quickly and categorically assess the visual information we take in. Using narrow depth of field, selective focus, forced perspective, and other techniques, she's confidently taken photography to a place that is both familiar and strange, a realm somewhere between painting and photography.' 

This is an excellent description of what I found when reviewing her photographs.

Her work is difficult and generally unresolved. Much is left to the viewer. One is forced to look closely and to consider.  It is very thought provoking and forced me to consider some uncomfortable questions about my own work. Am I too hidebound by classical landscape traditions? Are my images too predictable and cliche? Am I really looking at the landscape around me or am I just seeking grand vistas - which in turn make it easy to produce appealing, apparently beautiful images? Am I really trying to develop my own style or am I simply a sheep following the latest trends in the photographic media? Heady stuff and important if I am to truly find my own signature.

For me Weifenbach's work is a curates egg. Some images I find both moving and attractive. When one looks carefully one finds nuances or secrets within them....perhaps this is why she entitled two of her series 'Secrets' . She forces the viewer to look carefully to find the hidden nuances.

Other images I find more difficult. They are both difficult to understand and unattractive. I have decided for this review to examine this dichotomy in more detail by comparing images from Secret Series which I like and from the Woods Series which I find more difficult. 

Here are two images from Secret Series:

Secret Series 14 by Terri Weifenbach

Secret Series 26 by Terri Weifenbach

Both of these images are impressionistic. Number 14 is completely out of focus or blurred with a heavy vignette. It is almost like one is has a fleeting glance though some leaves into a clearing in a wood. The colours are rich and saturated and have an autumn feel about them. There is a path leading out of the frame to the right. It poses questions. Where is this clearing? Why can't I see it clearly? Shall I go there to investigate? Where is the path going? Will someone be coming along soon or am I alone? Because it is unresolved it allows the viewer to use his or her imagination to interpret the photograph. However, I wonder if I like the photograph because of its intriguing nature or because of the strong colour and the associations that this has with autumn landscapes? I am not sure.

In Number 26 Weifenbach has used limited depth of field to throw most of the image out of focus. There is just a single leaf from the maple treein focus. This is situated close to the intersection of thirds towards the top of the image. The colour is very strong with complementary reds and greens predominating. The bokeh in the out of focus areas is very attractive. Beyond the green (of foliage?) in the background one can make out the blue of the sky. There is what looks like the trunk of the tree at the edge of the frame to the right. What I really like about this image is the way the in focus leaf leaps out of the frame and says look at me. It seems to me that this image is about that leaf....Its five pointed shape. Its rich red colour. Its position at the  high-point of a branch on the tree. The out of focus areas around the leaf add context but do not detract from our concentration on the leaf itself. 

Turning now to the Woods series. Here are two images I find more difficult:
Woods number 9 by Terri Weifenbach

What strikes me immediately is that I find the colour of the woods images unappealing. Green is a colour which recedes and as such everything in these images seems to move away into the background. In number 9 we once again appear to be looking through trees into a clearing or path. However in this case what we are looking at is less distinct. The impression is therefore more difficult to resolve. There does not appear to be any main subject to grab my attention. The same could be said of Number 3. Although in this case the out of focus leaf towards the bottom of the frame does command attention as does the glimpse of the sky through the centre of the frame. Once again though the lack of a clear subject or point of focus makes this image unappealing for me. Both images do however convey a sense of what it feels like to be lost in a wood....perhaps this is Weifenbach's intent.

Whilst my initial impression of Weifenbach's work was not a positive one, looking at her work has been very thought provoking. I have also come to admire her iconoclastic style and indeed some of her images I now personally rate very highly. I think I will return to her work again for inspiration.


Brighton Photo Biennial 2010 Visit

On Sunday 7th November I visited the Brighton Photo Biennial 2010, along with OCA CEO Gareth Dent, OCA tutors Jose Navarro and Clive White and fellow student Eileen Rafferty. The trip was organised by the OCA.

We had a very full day visiting several Exhibitions at different locations. The theme for the event is New Documents and it has been curated by Magnum documentary photographer Martin Parr.

We began with a visit to Strange and Familiar: Three Views of Brighton on show at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. In this exhibition three well known photographers were commissioned to produce a set of photographs which present their response to the city of Brighton and Hove. Sadly Alex Soth was unable to produce a set of images due to work permit issues. Instead, he presented a set of photographs made by his daughter with limited direction from Soth. These were interesting in that they presented an uninhibited and naive view of the city from a 7 year old girl. Indeed the perspective of the images is that of a small girl looking up. Whilst interesting and thought provoking in terms of what can be achieved when one frees oneself of adult inhibitions, I did not find this work too instructive. The second contributor was Stephen Gill, whose 'Field Studies' work I had come across in my documentary photography course. Stephen's work is very radical. He had collected detritus from the streets, beaches etc of the city and had included some items in each of his images. The effect is for the photographed scene to appear as a backdrop for the items resting on the film inside the camera. I was left wondering what the linkages were between the background and the items....the recorded interview with Stephen was not very forthcoming in this regard. The final contributor was Rinko Kawauchi. She produced two sets of photographs. One made in the winter with the murmuration of starlings over the sea. I liked this set a lot...as the images were taken at twilight the  colour is predominantly blue and whilst the images show flocks of the birds there is a sense of isolation and sadness about them. Here is an example of her work..

Murmuration by Rinko Kawauchi

Her second set was taken in Brighton during the spring festival. Her subject this time is people. I had the feeling she was trying to depict people flocking to the event. Her subjects were anonymously presented generally shown only from the waist downwards. Many of the images had great tension with the compositions very unbalanced  and unresolved. For me this set did not work as well as the murmuration group.

Our next stop was the House of Vernacular at Fabrica. This was an installation with seven collections of vernacular photographs, ranging from baby photographs to images of the interiors of African dictators private jets. To be honest this was not for me....although the jets were in my opinion the most interesting. They were presented as a typology in a very consistent manner and the quality of the work was excellent. Wonder how the photographer Nick Gleis managed to persuade the owners of the jets...shows anything is possible if you try hard enough.

Next stop was Lighthouse and the 'Queer Brighton' exhibition showing work by Molly Landreth and Zoe Strauss. I was particularly impressed by Molly Landreth's sensitive portraits. She seemed to be able to gain the confidence of her sitters such that they have relaxed their guard. The resulting images reveal the sensitive and vulnerable personalities underneath the veneer of exotic clothing and make up. Here are a couple of her photographs:
EJ Scott, Brighton, England (2010) by Molly Landreth

Johanna and Anna, Brighton, England (2010) by Molly Landreth

Finally we visited the showpiece of the festival, 'New Ways of Looking' at the former Co-operative Department store. There was much to see here. The work 'Sleepers' by Dhruv Malhotra was well received. I felt that the series of images worked well to document the situation of many homeless people who sleep outside in India's big cities. Here is an example of his work...
Untitled, from the series Sleepers, by Dhruv Malhotra

Personally I was more taken by the series of photographs 'Windows' by Oscar Fernandez Gomez  a Mexican taxi driver. They are presented as a typology of sorts with each image a scene on his travels. Every image has the same framing with the door window of the taxi clearly visible. Here is one of his photographs...
Windows by Oscar Fernando Gomez

I also spent some time looking at the Simon Roberts Election project ...on first sight they left me a bit cold. Although I have to admit as I spent more time looking at the images I began to see more in them – perhaps this was Simon Roberts’ intention…to make us look and think. There is something of Stephen Shore in these images in my view. This could be simply the format used- large format 10x8- which is very static but has the ability to capture immense detail. 

All in all a good day out and great to meet with and talk photography with tutors and a student from the OCA. I will sign off with an image of my own. The day in Brighton was also the day of the London to Brighton  Vintage car rally....here is a piece of the action. 

Finish of London To Brighton Rally 2010

Postscript.... I have looked some more into the influences on Simon Roberts' photography and judging from this quote from an interview in 2009 about the 'We English' work there is no doubt that Stephen Shore's work had had an influence on Robert's style...'I’ve long been fascinated by the tradition of the road trip in photography. Two of my early influences, the photographers Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld, have both employed extended journeys as an avenue for exploring America’s cultural landscape.'


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About Me

I have been taking photographs since I was young boy some 45 years ago, but only seriously since 2005 when I enrolled to study at the Open College of the Arts. I am working towards a BA in Photography. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society. This log record details of my projects and assignments during my studies. It also records ideas, work by other artists/photographers, notes on books/websites/exhibitions, influences, discoveries, thoughts, research findings and observations as I work through my courses. You can contact me at keith.greenough@btinternet.com or simply leave a comment on one of my posts.

Landscape Photography Bibliography

  • Andrea G Stillman (2007), Ansel Adams 400 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Andy Grundberg (1999), Crisis of the Real, Aperture Foundation New York
  • Ansel Adams (2007), Examples The Making of 40 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Ben Maddow(1989), Edward Weston, His Life, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Charlie Waite (1989), Scottish Islands, Constable London
  • Charlie Waite (1992), The Making of Landscape Photographs, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (1999), Seeing Landscapes, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (2002), In My Minds Eye, Photographers Institute Press East Sussex UK
  • Charlie Waite (2005), Landscape, Collins and Brown London
  • Clive Minnitt and Phil Malpas(2009), Finding the Picture, Envisage Books London
  • David Noton (2008), PHOTOGRAPY ESSENTIALS: WAITING FOR THE LIGHT, David & Charles PLC, London
  • Fay Godwin(1985), Land, William Heinemann London
  • Fay Godwin(1990), Our Forbidden Land, Jonathan Cape London
  • Fay Godwin(1998), Glassworks & Secret Lives, Stella Press East Sussex UK
  • Fay Godwin(2001), Landmarks, Dewi Lewis Publishing Stockport UK
  • Galen Rowell (1995), Mountain Light, Sierra Club Books San Francisco USA
  • Galen Rowell (2001), Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Norton & co New York USA
  • Galen Rowell (2002),Galen Rowell's Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, University of California Press USA
  • Harry Callaghan (1993), Ansell Adams in Color, Little Brown New York USA
  • Hunter, Biver & Fuqua(2007), Light Science & Magic, Elsevier Oxford UK
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2006), Working the Light, Argentum London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2007), Developing Style and Vision, Argentum London
  • Joel Meyerowitz (2002), Cape Light, Little Brown and Company New York USA
  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Modern Classics
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book 2 Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book I Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John Szarkowski (1981), American Landscapes, The Museum of Modern Art New York USA
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 01 (2007), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 02 (2008), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 03 (2009), AA Publishing
  • Liz Wells (1996), Photography:A Critical Introduction, Routledge Oxon
  • Liz Wells (2003), The Photography Reader, Routledge Oxon
  • Marc Garanger (1989), Louisiane, Kodak
  • Robert Adams (1996), Beauty in Photography, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Robert Adams et al (2009), New Topographics, Steidl Germany
  • Stephen Shaw (2004), Uncommon Places The Complete Works, Thames and Hudson, London
  • Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin Books London
  • Terence Pitts (2008), Edward Weston (Icons Series), Taschen
  • TPOTY Awards (2010), TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR Journey Three, Travel Photographer of the Year Suffolk UK