Posted by: kerryl29 | March 30, 2016

Missing the Trees for the Forest

I’ve discussed a focus on detail-oriented landscape photography on this blog in the past.  And I’ve hinted that my experience learning the craft (or developing the art…or both) in settings where grand landscapes are rare has surely affected my tendency to discover and capture intimates, even when photographing in locations where grand landscapes are palpable.

It would be a mistake, I think, to regard this as something natural; I believe it’s learned.  When you cut your teeth wandering through dense woodlands and tightly constricted waterways, through narrow canyons and across a landscape that is buttressed on all sides by development, you become inclined–forced, even–to look for the intimate view.  And–surprise!–that doesn’t go away, even when the scenery changes.  Even when it changes drastically.  Over time, the inclination to search for the intimate becomes almost instinctive.

That’s why, even when I’m somewhere that’s known for something like this:

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

I find myself invariably drawn to something like this:

Beauty Creek Intimate, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Intimate, Jasper National Park, Alberta

This tendency is not, by any stretch, limited to the Canadian Rockies.  I’m aware of the same inclination when I’ve photographed in the Smoky Mountains:

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

Whirlpool black & white, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Whirlpool black & white, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

And in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:

Morning Rainbow, Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Morning Rainbow, Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Birch Tree Twins, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Birch Tree Twins, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

And at Monument Valley:

Sunrise Over East Mitten, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Sunrise Over East Mitten, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Juniper and Red Rock, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Juniper and Red Rock, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

And Acadia National Park:

Otter Cliffs Sunrise, Acadia National Park, Maine

Otter Cliffs Sunrise, Acadia National Park, Maine

Lichen Wall, Acadia National Park, Maine

Lichen Wall, Acadia National Park, Maine

And White Sands National Monument:

Heart of the Dunes black & white, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes black & white, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

And…okay, you get the idea.

Perhaps, despite all of my bitching and moaning about how cursed I’ve been, given my love of the landscape, to have been “marooned” in some of the least inspiring locations I can imagine, I’ve actually been lucky.  How is that possible?

I remember having an e-mail conversation a couple of years ago with Royce Howland, who led the Canadian Rockies photo tour that I joined in the fall of 2014.  The discussion revolved around his hope that, by engaging tour participants in all-day field experiences, they would realize that there was more to the photographic gestalt than mere beginning and end-of-day “trophy shots.”  I recall replying that for someone like me, given the places I often photographed, the kinds of images he was referencing are trophy shots.

Bluebells Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Bluebells Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

 

The luck, then, was my being all but forced, if I was to develop as a landscape photographer, to look for intimate compositions.  I certainly wouldn’t have had to do this if I’d cut my teeth photographing in any of the areas that I mentioned earlier in this post.  For better or for worse.

A Celebration of Color, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

A Celebration of Color, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

And, honestly, I think it would have been for worse.  While I might have ultimately developed some level of acumen for recognizing the intimate landscape, it almost certainly never would have been as innate as it’s become for me.   And, not incidentally (but quite ironically), I think it really would have limited my art had I developed my eye in an environment unlike the one I actually experienced.

The interesting counterpoint is that I don’t think that my ability to “see” the grand landscape has suffered despite the fact that I only have the opportunity to photograph in places that encourage such compositions once or twice a year.  Like many photographers, apparently, these scenes seem to naturally reveal themselves, with little difficulty.  But for whatever reason, the reverse is not true.  Few if any people seem to find the revelation of intimate scenes easy.  It invariably requires a great deal of work and/or experience before such imagery begins to feel as though it’s really a part of anyone’s psyche.

Spring Reflections, Matthiessen Lake, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Spring Reflections, Matthiessen Lake, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

I’ll try to remember how “lucky” I am the next time I feel the urge to curse the Fates that have placed me somewhere other than the planet’s landscape photography garden spots.

Clash of Seasons, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Clash of Seasons, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

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Responses

  1. Lovely landscape images.

  2. Thanks for the great post. As a retiree and an amateur photographer living in lower Michigan and southern Florida, you spoke to my heart. Capturing the landscape where I most often am shooting requires that I look for the personality of the landscape in the intimate. You captured some beautiful intimates.

    • Thanks very much. Perhaps the biggest advantage to the intimate landscape is that these images can be found anywhere. Presence of grand landscapes doesn’t foreclose the possibility of finding intimates and the absence of grand landscapes make the search for intimates a necessity.

  3. Beautiful series.

  4. Great photograph ⭐️ love landscape . Great contrast.

    • Thanks very much!

  5. Occasionally I will tire of waiting on cloud movement, light changes, or whatever when photographing a landscape and just take a break. It’s amazing how often a small subject or scene will appear “out of the weeds” at such times.

    The grand view is usually the result of deliberate intent. The intimate view is stumbled upon, more often than not.

    • Thanks, Tom. I essentially agree with what you wrote. Even when I go out in search of intimate scenes, I’m rarely searching for something specific. On very rare occasions, I have “visualized” an intimate, but even then I’m not sure if I’m going to find what I’m looking for. Most of the time, my intimate landscape experience is more of the serendipitous nature.

      Regardless, your point stands. I don’t usually go out in search of a specific intimate shot, but the grand view is a purposeful thing more often than not.

  6. The intimate scenes, the small details, the beauty that many pass by…in my opinion those are what separate the great photographers from everyone else. Of course I want to bring home the grand landscapes, but it is far more rewarding to have seen something different. I think those are the shots I tend to remember. As always, your photos are inspiring.

    • Thanks, Ellen.

      I agree. Many of my own images that appeal to me the most–as images–are of the intimate landscape variety. The grand landscapes often hold their greatest appeal for me as memory triggers of broader experiences in certain places. I wonder if that’s a dichotomy that holds for others…

  7. What you’ve written is so true, especially for those of us that live in the heavily forested, relatively flat midwest. It’s too easy getting fixated on finding the grand view that we over look the beauty that’s all around us. But, either grand view or the intimate, your landscape images are some of the finest I’ve ever seen.

  8. Lovely, it is great to see the intimate studies.Love the colours in Beauty Creek.

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

  9. Really beautiful photos! Like your blog very much. 🙂

  10. […] said it before, more than once:  I take my photographic proclivities–the perspectives, the […]


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