Assignment 1 - Tutor Feedback

I received the feedback from my tutor on my first assignment today. It was very instructive. Overall the report was favourable but I have some significant areas to work on. The overall selection of images and design of the submission was positively received as were some of the images. The key area for improvement concerns creating a clear focal point in the frame. Some of my images lacked this. The image below is an example:

Hedgerow and Field, Bledlow Ridge Buckinghamshire UK

The lines in this image lead the viewer to the hedgerow at the top of the frame where in fact there is little of interest. This is clearly a key learning point for me to build on.

Based on my own views and those of my tutor, I have decided to include the images below in my Seasons Portfolio for submission at the end of the course.

Bledlow Ridge, Buckinghamshire UK

Bridge over River Thames, Sonning  Berkshire UK

Sycamore, Northend Oxfordshire UK


The next part of my Photography 2: Landscape course deals with Light and its measurement. As a starting point for my work in this section I decided to do some background reading and a web search revealed a book which tackles the subject of photographic lighting from basics. The book is Light Science and Magic.

I am very pleased I did this. It is an excellent book. The section Light: the raw material of photography is particularly instructive. It begins by describing what light is from a scientific perspective. It goes on  to discuss how light is described by photographers, covering the aspects of brightness, colour and contrast. Finally, it deals with the how the nature of the subject affects lighting. Light can be transmitted, absorbed or reflected by a subject. I have made a mental note to consider how elements of the landscape are responding to the light conditions and what changes to the lighting could improve the prospective image.

I remember reading a comment by landscape photographer Charlie Waite in which he stated that it is important to observe how different surfaces respond to light. Reading this book has brought this comment to life.


Assignment 1: the season

I have just today sent off my first assignment on the Open College of Arts Landscape course to my tutor. I was quite please with the photographs that I included and so it will be very interesting to see what my tutor makes of them.

When compiling my observations on the images I included some comments on how I might have improved upon the images. There were two recurring themes.

 First, I might have waited for better light on several occasions. The location was good but the light could have been better. This is partly a function of having to complete the assignment in a reasonable timeframe and so I had to make compromises. But it is also because I need to work a good location more when I find one. There are one or two images which I think I should revisit later in different lighting conditions.

Second, I might have framed the view better in some images. This is about care and attention at the time of shooting. I MUST make doubly sure I am happy with the framing before I shoot a sequence of images.

Here is a contact sheet of the images I sent to my tutor. I will post a full report when I get the feedback.


Landscape Photography Influences - Galen Rowell

This is the first of what will probably be several posts on Galen Rowell, is one of the selected photographers as possible subjects for Assignment Four. Whilst in Lanzarote I spent some time reviewing his book Galen Rowell's Vision The Art of Adventure Photography.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Rowell's enthusiasm and passion shines through the work. Rowell specialised in adventure photography in extreme wilderness locations. He started off as an active participant, climbing extensively all over the world. Photography was something he did as he pursued his adventures. Progressively he became more a photographer and less an adventurer. Sadly Rowell and his wife were killed in a aircrash in the early 2000's.

The book comprises a compilation and reworking of articles Rowell published in Outdoor Photographer magazine. The chapters are grouped into four sections:
  1. Goals: Transforming dreams into realities through personal visions
  2. Preparations: Pushing the limits of equipment, film and technique
  3. Journeys: Merging visions with realities
  4. Realizations: Communicating your worldview through photography
It is a highly readable and practical book. But as can be seen from the section titles Rowell  was emotional and passionate about his work. 

I found the first section particularly influential. One of my key goals for undertaking the Landscape course is to try to develop my personal style or signature. Rowell talks at length about the subject of personal style. The key lessons on style I have taken from his ideas are;
  • style should be internally directed and come from an emotional to the subject
  • emotionally distancing oneself from the subject will result in the photographer avoiding developing their style
  • the photographer should seek to simplify to produce powerful images
  • fine photography communicates by metaphor
  • clarity, emotional response, and a sense of order combine to create style from within
These are really interesting insights. I have made a mental note to  ask myself three key questions when considering making an image: what emotions does the scene  evoke (if none then perhaps its time to move on); how can I convey these emotions simply and powerfully; what metaphor can I use to achieve this. 

I also found Rowell's ideas about image maturity very interesting. He defines the terms mature and immature as follows:

An immature image is a normal subject photographed for an immature audience, ie an audience not familiar with the subject. Such images need to be bold, direct and obvious. In the case of landscape this might be a straightforward depiction of a landscape scene.

 A mature image is a normal subject photographed for a mature audience, ie an audience familiar with a subject. In this case the bold and obvious might be regarded as a boring cliche so more subtle imagery is needed suggesting the presence of something. For example a detail from the landscape which symbolises the big picture.

The key lesson from this idea of image maturity is that I need to consider who is the audience for the image whether the subject is well known by this audience. 

Rowell also makes many interesting points about photographic ethics and suggests that the ultimate aim is to pre-conceptualise an image and to go out into the landscape and find the image. Emphasis is on the word find, rather than manipulate, control or contrive.

Section 2 on equipment, film etc is somewhat dated now, but it is clear that Rowell was on top of his game technically and this is an aspiration I aim to adopt too.

Section 3 talks about the practical challenges of access, commercial encroachment on wilderness areas, environmental and human pollution issues. He raises many issues which remain important today. 

Finally in section 4 he talks about using photography to communicate your views on issues you feel strongly about which are of importance in the world today. Rowell had for many years provided through his images support for Tibet in its fight for independence. This gets back to the issue of passion and emotion. I have to say that reading Rowell's articles made me realise how superficial some of my work is and how I need to challenge myself emotionally if I am to radically move my work to another level. 

All in all this is an excellent and extremely influential book. I intend to read further works by Rowell and may well select him as my photographer for my detailed review in Assignement Four.

My favourite image from the book is the one below. It is a shot of bad weather clearing El Capitan in the Yosemite valley. I love the way the snowclad pine trees point inwards accentuating the height and scale of the mountain behind. The cloud covered but still sunlit mountain looks wild and threatening. This is not a study of the detail of the rock face. Rather it is  an emotional depiction of the awesome nature of weather in the high mountains. 

Clearing storm El Capitan Yosemite by Galen Rowell


Project 10-soft colours

In this project the idea was to prepare three photographs where the range of colours is very small and colour contrast is muted.

I have included three images as suggested. The first was once again taken at Timanfaya in Lanzarote. This image isolated part of the landscape with the subject interest is created by the diagonal lines caused by areas of light and shadow. The sun was obscured in some areas by cloud. The second is taken at a place called Famara on the north side of Lanzarote. It is a beach shot taken with the sun to front left. This has had the effect of softening the colours which are predominantly blue - sky and sea reflecting the sky. There is a windsurfer in the image which provides some context and interest. The final image is one from my archive. It is a shot of Harrison Lake at Harrison Hot springs in British Columbia Canada. Taken just before the sun came up the cool light has given the scene a blue tone.

Timanfaya, Lanzarote Canary Islands

Famara , Lanzarote Canary Islands

Harrison Lake, British Columbia Canada

It is interesting that when looking through my portfolio I seem to favour image with strong colour contrast and indeed strong contrast. Whereas when looking at other photographers portfolios I am very attracted to well made images with a narrow colour contrast and a subdued almost monochrome appearance. I need to retune my thought processes to consider all colour options - not just the highly saturated contrasty ones.

Project 9- colour themes

I seem to be posting all my work on the same day. I guess that  his is what happens when one is working on a number of projects at the same time away from home. Back at the ranch the paperwork has to follow.

This project is about colour themes - whether colour is a deliberate feature within a composition or incidental. I had to explore three aspects:

  1. Capturing a scene with the largest number of greens 
  2. Making an image with the largest range of colour constrast, eg blue to orange
  3. Finding an image with one strong isolated colour against a contrasting background.
First the shot with greens. This one was taken at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire looking out towards Cookham over the River Thames(not in view):

Cookham from Cliveden Reach, Buckinghamshire UK

The spring growth of the deciduous trees combines with the darker greens of the evergreens to provide a great array of green. The range is expanded yet further by the desaturation of the more distant colours (agreed they are not different hues but they are lighter in tone). 

For the second part I have included two images taken on my recent trip to Lanzarote. The first is another image captured at Timanfaya. In this shot I contrast the blue sky with the orange of the slopes of the volcano. The second was taken from the highest point of Lanzarote on Mirador del Rio. It shows the turquoise blue of the sea contrasted by the orange/yellow of the Island of Graciola. A boat heading across the water provides context and scale.

Timanfaya, Lanzarote Canary Islands

Graciola from Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote Canary Islands

I found it much easier to find this type of colour contrast on Lanzarote than back in the UK. Strong colours in the UK tend to be green for grass/foliage, blue for sea and sky and yellow for fields of crops/rapeseed etc. There are few bright reds, orange or violet hues other than in small elements of the landscape such as flowers etc. I was reasonably happy with these two images although it would have been better had the colour of the land in the second image had been stronger.

The final task of isolating one strong colour against a contrasting background I found hard. I have included an image taken in the wine growing area of Lanzarote, La Geria. Whilst I am happy with the image itself, I am not sure it properly meets the brief. The yellowish green vines contrast with the reddish brown soil and walls. The colours of yellow and red are however very desaturated. I think I will need to complete another image when I find an opportunity to improve on this.

La Geria, Lanzarote Canary Islands

Project 8 - using perspective to help composition

The course notes contain wide ranging and useful information on perspective. Consciously I had tended to think of perspective solely in terms of linear perspective. Having considered the course notes I am now much more aware of the variety of ways in which an image can be given depth.

Leading lines converging towards the horizon is the most obvious. But the use of diminishing scale, receding colours, reducing sharpness, lightening tones and diminishing colour saturation are now all aspects which I will consciously think of when considering how to make my images appear more three dimensional.

I have included three images in this post. The first shot in the wine are of La Geria in Lanzarote makes use of linear perspective in a very obvious way but diminishing scale  and lightening of tone also add to the images depth. The second is an obvious use of diminishing scale with a row of trees at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. This latter image is however not one I consider to be strong. The composition is unbalance with the trees to the left overwhelming the distant County House on the right. The third image was taken from Watlington Hill near Henley in Oxfordshire. This uses atmospheric, tonal and colour perspective to create depth. I am happy with the perspective within this image but not so with the way the centre of the frame is cluttered - I think I was seduced by the hot air baloon in the background - the old impatience coming through!!

La Geria, Lanzarote Canary Islands

Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire UK

View from Watlington Hill, Oxfordshire UK

The key lesson I have taken from this is to consider all options for creating depth through use of perspective and not to just go for the obvious linear and diminishing scale approaches.

Project 7 - figures in a landscape

My trip to Lanzarote was successful from both sporting and photographic perspectives. I managed to complete work on projects seven to nine.

In project nine the aim was to capture several images with figures in them. Figures in the landscape are intended to add balance to the composition, create a focal point, or to establish scale. The images I shot are shown below- the first was taken on the Thames walk at Cliveden Reach, the third and fourth on the slopes of the volcano Tifanmaya in Lanzarote and the final one at Studland in Dorset.

Cliveden Reach, Bucks UK

Timanfaya, Lanzarote

Timanfaya, Lanzarote

Studland, Dorset UK

In all cases the figures provide a focal point and a sense of scale to the images. I am less convinced that they add to the compositional balance. What came clear to me during this work is that there is a fine line between figures simply adding to the landscape photograph or alternatively taking over the image as the main subject matter. In the second Timanfaya photograph it seems to me that the subject has moved from being a view of the desolate red landscape more to that of a photograph of a camel train set in that landscape. The lesson is to be clear what the image is meant to depict and if it is intended as a landscape to take care that figures merely provide context, scale and a point of interest and do not become the main subject in themselves.


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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