In my continued quest to understand landscape photography, I picked a couple more books: Henry Carroll Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs of Places and Robert Adams Beauty in Photography. I have really been interested in process and practice over the last few months so I am trying to find more material that verbalizes aspects of creativity, purpose and intent in photography in general, so it only makes sense this would affect the way I am tying to understand landscape.
I have been using my experience driving cars at autocross and on the racetrack as a model for learning photography and it is based on a few observations / assumptions, the most important being that if I have to think about driving while I am driving, I will never be fast. Reading the road and the car and interpreting and executing what must be done has to be completed without conscious thought. This is where I am trying to get my photography and I know I have a long way to go, but unless I am aware of it and work towards it, it isn't likely to just happen upon me. I want to make camera control completely disappear when I am photographing. It has to be second nature, a natural extension of my intention. I also desire to develop an innate sensitivity to all the different perspective errors that I can make that will draw attention to my photography when a frame is viewed. That as well has to be invisible.
So much of the work in developing myself is about reduction. Removing this bad habit, removing that process error, limiting camera angle, less and less ISO, etc. In other areas of photography, as I was developing, there were many things that I did, that I don't do now. So as I start to make work and develop ideas around landscape, I'm starting with a better grasp of the technicals, the perceptuals, the interpretives, so I'm left more to focus on what I have to say visually.
Perhaps this is the confluence of reasons why I am struggling with landscape. I'm not thinking about the mechanics of frame making, that is getting less and less conscious concern. My concerns are turning to voice, intrepretations, intention. I have less distractions, and am faced with the reality of having to record frames that matter. I can no longer hide behind conversations about technicals. Which is an exhilarating place to be.
Yet at the same time, I have been feeling blocked by my own lack of understanding. I have been buying more books on landscape / topographics in an effort of comprehend visually what it is, but it wasn't until I started to read words, instead of look at photographs that the significance of landscape work started to make sense.
These two books look at very different aspects. Carroll gives a survey of techniques and explanations, while Adams poses deep questions about photography in general from the perspective of a landscape photographer. I don't think I could have picked two books so different about the same topic. How blessed I am!
Carroll addresses many different aspects of landscape photography in little bits based on the work of other photographers. He can cover much ground and on the surface, it appears quick and easy, but each of the points he makes can take much work to incorporate. He gives much to think about and I try not to underestimate the importance of what he is saying despite the simplicity and straightforward explanations.
Adams on the other hand is more words, carefully constructed which much meaning condensed into an elegant flow. He calls himself a landscape photographer and deals with the challenges of landscape photography in light of changes in society, its values, ideas and perceptions.
This is pay dirt for me. Adams sums up landscape photography from three verities - geography, autobiography, and metaphor. In a single sentence, Adams answers my fundamental questions, which I could not put into words myself. With this answer, I can understand and appreciate good landscape photography and be freed from superficial notions. It allows me to revisit several books on my shelf with a new perspective so that I may learn and glean to the benefit of my thinking which will inform my practice. It is an exciting time.