Photo appraisal: Landscape
March 31, 2016
Taken by: Adrian Olsen
Fujifilm X-T1, 10-24mm, 1/220sec at f/13, ISO 200
I think it’s very hard to make a good landscape. It’s much more difficult than most people think, and a constant source of frustration for the self-assessing photographer. I find the most frustrating aspect of shooting landscapes is the difference between the drama, beauty and splendour of nature’s hand and the poor imitation on the rear screen of my camera. In so many other areas of photography we try to make what is in front of us look better, but often in landscape photography we are trying to keep up with the subject.
Adrian has certainly found a good location to shoot, and he must have been a good boy in the weeks leading up to his expedition because his gods have given him the perfect day. It is a lovely scene and has been accurately photographed. The picture lacks something, though.
Adrian is effectively saying, ‘Oh, look – that’s nice,’ but not really saying what it is that caught his attention or should catch ours. A closer look reveals some remarkable features that he could have made more of an effort to point out – the dramatic cliffs, the delightful reflections on the water, the clouds, the contours and ruggedness of the landscape, and that dart of snow that busts into the left of the frame. The camera needs our help to emphasise the exciting parts, so the viewer can be enthused. You can read lines from Shakespeare in a monotone or with feeling and gusto. They will be the same lines, but they’ll sound very different.
I’ve made a slightly different version of Adrian’s image that emphasises the characteristics I mentioned earlier. I had to do it using software, but Adrian could have done a lot of it with exposure, viewpoint as well as in-camera colour and contrast controls. My version may be a step too far for some people, but I wanted to show how differently the same scene could be presented.