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  1. #1

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    Generality in Landscape Photography

    Hi all,
    further down is an interesting thread about the creation of emotional touching landscape pictures. I must concede, that I am way further up that road. I am much more involved in creating generality in landscape pictures.

    I'd like to illustrate what this means to me with two of my pictures in the gallery. The first one is to my consideration, being all in all not that bad, of low generality.



    Any one having it hanging on the wall would be asked: "Hey, nice picture, where is it taken?" For the reception of this picture, the context of creation would always matter. The picture, nicely composed as it is as I think, this way is of relevance only to me.

    OTOH this one:



    This one may be boring but it seems to be of great generality as no one for the reception of the picture needs to know where and when it was taken. It is just a flat meadow with a tree and some wood in the distance, period.

    It would be of great value for me to identify the elements that create pictures of generality (which not nessessarily means that these would be generally interesting).
    It would allow me to intentionally take pictures that I would not have to talk about much and would, in a further step, help me creating pictures of general interest.

    cheers

    Ulrich

  2. #2
    Struan Gray's Avatar
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    You have an interesting idea.

    Showing the universal in the particular, or the particular in the universal, is a classic way to use photography.

    Your problem is that not every viewer will share your definitions of the universal or the particular. For example, I have looked at a lot of images of alpine scenery in my time, and your photo works well as a general image for me. Conversely, I have a current obsession with cultural landscapes and I do want to know where your second photo was taken.

    I'm not just being obtuse. I think one reason so many photographers converge on a personal language or style, and use it even when making a general point, is that they can then rely on their audience's familiarity with their earlier work to guide interpretation of their newest creations. If you have to rely on the general visual media in which your viewer is immersed the possibilities for confusion or misinterpretation multiply alarmingly.

    Of course, some photographs are all about deliberately creating confusion or misinterpretation. There are no rules.

  3. #3

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    yep.. it's all contextual I think..

  4. #4
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    In my view, what you call by low generality, is an image where the interest falls on the object (site) you are shooting. OTOH, what you call by high generality, is an image where the interest falls on the way you composed with some given elements, in your case found on a site. So, in my opinion your question does emphasize the following dichotomy: object/objectivity (the photographed) vs. subject/subjectivity (the photographer).

    Or, let's put it this way: when seeing the first image people ask you where did you shoot it, but when seeing the second image people would like to know what did you felt when shooting it, what is the message you try to communicate. The first image has no message in it, only beauty, while the second image does have a message: your feelings about something in the picture or suggested by the picture.
    B&W is silver.

  5. #5
    Mick Fagan's Avatar
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    Ulrich, interesting way of looking at your pictures. Firstly when I looked at them I saw two obviously distinct landscape pictures.

    The first reminded me instantly of Switzerland and Austria, as I have seen villages like that with an unbelievable vista at the front door in both summer and winter. It reminded me of my trips and my intended visit to Germany this coming Christmas.

    The second one reminds me of Denmark (Jutland) and/or northern Germany, the tell tale sign is the construction under the tree. I've seen this scene many times in both of those areas.

    Neither of these pictures makes me wish to ask where was it taken and so forth, mainly because I think I know where they were taken.

    However, the second picture has a lot more going for it because it is more general, the positioning of the tree in the frame is what makes this picture quite interesting.

    Mick.

  6. #6
    MurrayMinchin's Avatar
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    I must admit I'm confused by this approach. Why would a person want to step back from, or to isolate themselves from the very thing that motivates them? Isn't being an artist the process of peeling away layers in the search of whatever our most truthful way of seeing may be, not adding layers, or emotionally detaching ourselves from the things that amaze us?

    Maybe this kind of work appeals to people who lead incredibly busy lives and live in downtown apartments in large cities, giving them a sense of peace when they look at them. I lead an uncomplicated life on the edge of a vast wilderness and find these kinds of photographs don't motivate me to spend much time looking at them at all. I can see, however, that these kinds of photographs will gain more importance over time. Years hence, when the forests are gone and when shopping malls sit where lone trees once stood, photographs such as these will become accusations that cannot be denied. Today, in the here and now, I prefer to look at and to create photographs that fight towards the truth, not step away from it.

    Funny thing though, Ulrich, even though we take such different kinds of photographs we both prefer to not explain what our photographs mean to us, and would rather the viewers come up with their own interpretations.

    Murray
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  7. #7

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    Thank you all for your enlightening remarks. Taking pictures helps me seeing, looking closer to the world and its aesthetic qualities. In this respect I am taking pictures mainly for myself and they are in no way limited to landscape. I take pictures of anything seeming decorative to me, mostly finding them en passant.
    These pictures conserve my own reception of the world in a particular time for me and serve as a medium to communicate my view of things to others.
    Only lately, contemplating a rather abstract landscape I took, it came to me that pictures, as they materialize on paper (and of cause as files on the web), sometimes get a life of their own. They may get meaning to others independent of my own intentions. Creating pictures like that intentionally -serving my aims and serving others- would be rewarding for me. I think phenix pinpointed my problem.
    @Struan: Only lately I discovered the uses of Google Earth for me.
    I can not say for sure but I think the tree is this one: 52°45'05.94"N/10°51'36.26"E

    The alpine valley is Sellraintal and the village is Praxmar. It is about 30 Miles from Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria. The picture was taken New Years Day 2005 during our winter holydays.

    Ulrich

  8. #8
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    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?
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  9. #9
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    I'm with Murray. I don't quite get it. By the examples you proffered it seems as though you are referring to general as taken to mean 'dull and uninteresting'. Don't take this wrong. I LOVE THE FIRST IMAGE. The composition is great, I love the subject matter (mountains and snow). I have no need to know where it was taken because it stands by itself as a piece of art. The second image, if you mean dull and uninteresting, it is certainly general to me. Not that I don't like it. The exposure was done very well and there is a good range of print values. But it fails to grab the imagination.
    Thank you.
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  10. #10

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    May be it's due to my limited knowledge of the english language that I am got wrong with the term "general". I hope, I can illustrate my point with an additional image, which made me think about the whole topic in the first place.



    For me it's very specific to the location where it is taken. It is, as I think, not trivial in its reception and therefore in no way "stock photography" and it is highly general as it leaves, as I hope, enough space for the imagination of the viewer to come to own conclusions independent of my initial intentions of taking the picture.
    This works independent of knowledge of the location. It is just some sand flat.
    As a side note: This is the first and up till now only picture I made some effort in time and cost to get there to take it. It is only one of a series of pictures though, from which some may be considered stock photography. I was there in my winter holidays and needed some weeks to work it out. I had to work up my courage, so to say, trying to represent the breathtaking beauty of this empty landscape this way.

    As I think about it further, it seems to me, that pictures need to bear some kind of abstraction in all their naturalism. May be a specific tree, meadow, mountain, sea or beach should be shown in way to represent the essence of their kind leading to some generalization, sort of. I am not happy with the term anymore.

    Thank you all for helping me to rearrange my thoughts on this.

    Ulrich

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