Landscape Photography Influences - David Noton

I read David Noton's book Waiting for the Light a little while ago. It is a great practical guide to Landscape photography with detailed notes on the many beautiful photographs and information on how David went about capturing these images. David is a former winner of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year.

David travels the world capturing images of remote and spectacular wilderness areas. His work is characterised by strong light and colour and evokes a strong emotional response. He seems to have an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time to capture the perfect image. His images are often very colourful but they are not overdone, which one often sees these days now that the saturation slider on Photoshop is so accessible. His work is mostly images of the classic vista, isolated elements of the landscape and panoramas. Here is an example of his work.

Lake Pehoe, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile                        Photograph by David Noton www.davidnoton.com

In addition to reading the book I have been lucky enough to attend a weekend photography workshop with David on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset UK. I now realise that his photographs are not about luck. David carries out meticulous reconnaissance before any shoot, seeking out the best viewpoints and anticipating the light. He is uncompromising when out shooting. He is prepared to wait for as long as it  takes to capture the scene at just the right time.

He is quite experimental technically. His images often show movement (in foliage, water, clouds, people etc) through the use of long exposures. He uses depth of field to great effect using extreme wide angles and tilt shift lenses. He frequently includes people in the landscape to provide context and/or scale. His portfolio is also well populated with environmental portraits, often with the landscape as a backdrop. In these portraits he generally uses limited depth of field so that the sense of the landscape is maintained but being out of focus it does not detract from the subject.

His management of exposure always seems to be just right. To achieve this he makes very effective use of graduated ND  and polarising filters. In very high contrast situations David sometimes combines two images in Photoshop to avoid clipping shadows and highlights. 

For many years David used both 35mm and panoramic film formats. Today he has moved completely over to Digital SLRs.

During my weekend workshop with David in Dorset, we were not blessed with fine weather. Indeed it was a weekend of storms and winds (of up to 100mph). Watching David work in this situation was very instructive. He chose subjects to hightlight the stormy weather and was very careful to accomodate the wild conditions in his choice of viewpoints and camera settings (high shutter speeds and ISO's were the order of the day).

I was able to capture a few decent photographs during the weekend but I particularly liked the one below. This shows the view looking west along the coast at Durdle Cove. At the time of taking the shot I was lying on my stomach on the edge of a cliff. The wind was blowing at around 50mph. The camera was on a tripod set low with my 70-200 lens and a 0.9 ND grad filter. To avoid camera shake I had the ISO set to 800 which gave a shutter speed of 1/2000th at f/6.3. I remember concentrating on trying to keep the camera steady so as to maintain the framing I was hoping for. With hindsight I think I should also have been concentrating a bit more on what was happening within the frame. Happily I took a number of shots and this one was the best - one of the big positives of digital shooting!

Durdle Cove, Jurassic Coast Dorset England


First Contact with Landscape Course Tutor

Received an email from my tutor for the Landscape module of the OCA Photography programme. Caroline Bloor will be guiding me through my assignments during the course. I sent a brief biographical overview to Caroline and included within this a preliminary statement of my aims for the course which read as follows:

My approach to landscape photography so far has been very clich├ęd. Indeed this criticism could be justly made of my photographic practice as a whole. My ambition is to develop my personal style to achieve a unique personal signature. I hope that my work on the Landscape course will move me along the path to achieving this ambition. I also hope that I will enjoy the course and enrich my appreciation of the work of the great photographers.

This statement will provide a yardstick against which I can measure my progress. It is timely that I read a recent blog post from Michael Freeman entitled 'On Looking Good or why we like sunsets''. This discusses why much photographic endeavour is about the pursuit of beauty and lays out his view of the prerequisites for achieving this goal. He talks about the usual subjects - composition, simplification, colour, light, viewpoint etc. He ends however by making the very important comment about the photographers intent  '....But first, you have to be clear about whether or not beauty is what you’re aiming for. It shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion.'  So what is my intent? Well in my Landscape work so far, I have been seeking the beautiful image. I suspect this is where I will remain, but I will try not to take this for granted.

Here is an image I took a few years ago which I recently posted to Flickr. It has muted colours and soft focus on the misty landscape. The presentation is quite graphic with the square framing adding to this. Colour is almost monochromatic. What do I like about this image? Well it has a dreamy soothing quality about it, which I find appealing. It depicts typically English countryside with the big oak tree and the rising sun is perhaps a reminder of warm sunny summer days. When I took the shot I did so because I liked the way the mist simplified the landscape removing all but the larger stronger elements and because of the appeal of the warm yellow of the morning sun diffused by the mist. It is a pity that there is a car at the base of the big oak! It is also a pity that I cropped the tree to the right of the frame - if I had moved my viewpoint a little I am sure this would not have been a problem.

Dorset Sunrise


Accreditation of Understanding Art:Western Art

Received my accreditation results for the Level 1 course into the History of Western Art. I passed at Level C, respectable but not outstanding - drat! Really enjoyed this course but felt pressure throughout to put pen to paper to sketch pieces for Projects and Assignments. I must admit my limited skills in this regard made me reluctant. However, when I did venture to give it a try I found that it made me look more closely at the subject. This is something I must bear in mind as I continue my studies. I have to learn to study the subject more carefully to select the best view, cropping, light etc.

It is also clear that I was marked down because I did not adequately record my learning experience. My approach to this was haphazard. I am disappointed with this as I did explore around the subject considerably - visiting exhibitions, galleries, architectural sites. I simply did not record my reactions, thoughts, influences etc well. This has to be continuously addressed throughout the course. The principle purpose of this blog is to provide a vehicle for me to keep a record of my learning experience as I go along from now on.

On the theme of art, this is a recent photograph taken in the British Museum.I like the contrast in this photograph between the dark of the background populated by tourists and the white of the subject, the statue of Venus known as Lely's Venus, named after a previous Victorian artist who once owned the statue. When I reflect on this photograph I am happy with the composition, but not with the way the content works. The angle I chose on the Venus, hides her face and there is very little interaction between the statue and the tourists. Were I to take the shot again I would have looked for a different angle and waited around longer to try to capture more interaction between subject and audience.

Technically the image was shot as a colour Raw file with my Canon 5d mk2 and converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro. I am a great fan of this software it provides lots of creative black and white treatments which emulate the way film can be processed.

Lely's Venus, British Museum London


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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