View Full Version : Generality in Landscape Photography

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Ulrich Drolshagen
06-04-2008, 08:52 AM
'Why not go to Memmert?' I said, in fun.

'To Memmert?' said Davies, slowly; 'by Jove! that's an idea!'
Lucky guess on my part.
The yachtsmen's bible. I knew, you had it in mind as you talked about romance.

I have only flown over the top, but my sister-in-law took her first steps on those sands. The boat, an old Dutch sailing barge, was stranded by the tide (and my father-in-law's refusal to buy an up to date chart). So they had a picnic on the sand at low water, turned round to admire the scene to seaward, and when they turned back the baby had learned to walk and was heading for Cuxhaven.
It seems to me, there is no better place on earth to learn walking :)

The decline of Baltic and Friesian beaches as holiday destinations would be an interesting project in itself. People still go there - when I lived in Berlin, every second car had a Sylt-shaped sticker on the back - but the general cultural significance of the north European beaches has been eclipsed by cheap charter flights to the Med.
In fact, the local people need the visitors to make a living. But if you like the landscape as I do then there are always too many of them. I most like to go there in winter when you can enjoy it nearly alone if you get up early. The most interesting places are prohibited areas between end of March until end of September anway.

See: you can never completely escape the resonances of a specific place.
Yes of cause, but you got the connotation without reference to the exact place. My point is, that pictures should be in some way open for the own musings of viewers.


Ulrich Drolshagen
06-04-2008, 09:06 AM
There's this "Early Riser" fellow too....
Of cause there is. I am a great admirer of his work and alway be tempted to buy me a ND-filter and follow that picturalistic route.
But that is not my way of seeing things. My prints should be of a plasticity and richness of detail that it makes you want to jump right into it.


06-13-2008, 05:54 PM
Interesting idea, Ulrich, but I must say that it is the complete opposite of the way I think about these things! :rolleyes:

When I look at a landscape for photography, the thing that I try to find is that particular something that most distinguishes that landscape from any other. Indeed I am usually drawn to the relationship between the sky and the land, and I suppose that is a general theme for me per your definition, but what attracts me is how differently the common elements like sky and water and foliage interact.

What I find the most gratifying is to take a shot and print it and later relive my feeling of being at that particular place through the print.

So, the way I see it, the whole power of photography is its ability to record particular perspectives... at particular moments.

The flip side of this approach is that a photo may hold absolutely nothing in it for most people who see it- it may be as foreign as a place they've never visited. That is fine with me, fortunately I'm not in it for the money ;) Though I do see your point that there must be some general "hooks" in the photo that draw people in, if it is to be "successful."

To be blunt, I think that a highly general photograph, as you describe it, sounds to me like a successful stock photograph... Seriously, isn't that what makes stock sell? That it has mass appeal because almost anybody can "get" it?

I understand it's not what you strive for in your pictures. But there is a time and a place for subdued emotionality in a photograph. For example, waiting rooms at the shrink's office. ;)

09-17-2008, 01:23 PM
Generality in landscape photography... If I understand what you are puzzling over correctly, you say your first picture, of the alpine village, is of low generality because most viewers will automatically locate it somewhere in Switzerland or Austria because it's very picturesque and they've seen many pictures like it. Your second picture, of the lone tree in an expanse of field, is of high generality because it's a generic view that they will not recognize and tie to a place. I think you're tying yourself in knots.

Find something interesting in the landscape to photograph, never mind the generality.

09-18-2008, 11:09 AM
Consider the ambition of the 19th century American landscape photographers such as O'Sullivan, Hillers, and especially Watkins. They made masterpieces guided by a notion of "the most general view". Here the word general refers to their utter deference to their subject and the aim to portray it as adequately and concisely as possible. Think of how far we have come (or regressed) when we regard landscape as an occasion to search for "visual hooks".