Sunday, January 29, 2012

P28: intimate landscape

I am currently spending a lot of my time shooting winter images for my portfolio.  Recent snow and a dramatic drop in temperatures means that world is gradually turning white yielding the images I need for my portfolio, but also an opportunity to shoot some stark imagery that captures the sense of winter.  I have always been interested in the details of landscape, and frequently try to avoid inclusion of the horizon in my shots, attempting to pull the viewer into the photograph, asking that the image be inspected more closely.

With snow and a cloudy overcast day, the horizon begins to lose its integrity, where the ground meets the sky is frequently a simple line delimited only by a few shrubs or trees, the ground and sky have almost the same tonality.  I enjoy this bleakness and try to represent it in my photography.  The following photograph illustrates this effect, the ground bleeds into a featureless sky

In this photograph I have accentuated the already blue caste that the snow carries with a little split toning, adding blue into the highlights.  I have chosen this frozen landscape as the location for my "intimate landscape" photographs.  I have, however, gone in the other direction and removed all colour from the photographs, presenting this set in B&W.  I have also adopted a very high key processing approach, almost reducing the images to a binary black and white toning.  The whites are white and I have risked a loss of integrity in the edge of the frames, clearly something that would have to be carefully considered in printing these photographs.

The first close up still has the sense of a landscape image and in fact has a horizon, though in this case it is the meeting of water and land.  I have eliminated the sky from this shot, but it still has the formal structure of landscape with horizon.

I have used this project as an opportunity to explore the man made structures of the Olympic park, reduced to their very basic structural elements.  The lake side amphitheater covered in snow reveals its stepped seating in the following image.  Without the snow the stone steps blend together and the structure is harder to see.  The footprints in the snow serve to indicate the presence of people in this bleak white world.

Another set of steps leads up a grassy embankment, a popular picnic spot that is now deserted. The steps form a pyramid structure leading to a nothingness.  I have cropped the sky from this photograph and very deliberately allowed the frame edge to vanish, bringing the structure of the steps to the fore.

My final shot, lifts above the snow and considers the structure of the roofing of the stadia.  In fact snow is in the shot, but on the other side of the roofing, creating the mottled pattern in the transparent roof.  Without the snow the roof would be very much whiter.

I find myself drawn to these types of images, and in many of the assignment shots for this course have steered away from the inclusion of a traditional horizon line.  Landscape as a genre need not be constrained by convention, it is a study of the environment we find ourselves in not a statement of a specific aesthetic.  The text suggest looking at the work of Elliot Porter, a photographer whose style I have considered and has influenced my recent work.  He frequently brings his camera into the landscape, losing the sky and filling the frame from edge to edge.  These photographs are perhaps some way away from his style, but they do attempt to drive towards an intimate view, but, not a friendly one.  I have striven to portray the cold bleakness of winter, a hostile and forbidding place, intimate may not be the right word.

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