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Monday, 15 November 2021


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Gorgeous book! Well-printed in South Korea. Great companion to his National parks book.

Photography is the easiest art, which perhaps makes it the hardest. -Lisette Model

I've never been able to conclude- is it harder to capture a good photograph that includes an interesting looking person, or harder to capture a good photograph that excludes anyone altogether? It depends...

And photographing from the car? Yeah, not recommended- but it depends...


I have come to the conclusion all categories of photography are hard. There is a reason the best are the best at what they do. Natural talent? Maybe but desire, determination and much practice would be my guess. Big scenes are not so easy for me to come by at my location but there are always smaller intimate scenes waiting to be discovered.

This (the change) happened here … I headed out for my annual optometry exam with the sun shining; I put on my sunglasses. I changed back to the regular specs within 2 miles, 3/4 of the way to her office. After the hour or so composed of the the exam and general camaraderie, on the way home there was that rain/snow/sleet mix. Then some rays of sunshine as I pulled into the driveway.

This is Western NY.

My wife, who is much more knowledgeable about the "content" side of photography than this old tech geek, has often said to me, If the picture is right and the light is right, take it right then. It won't be there later.

A serious landscape photographer would take notes after missing a fantastic but very brief scene like yours. Location, date, time of day, weather, equipment, focal length, where to set up, etc. Then one could plan to be there when the conditions occur again. I have a notebook with decades of detailed notes, locations, times, and camera settings.

I was on a photo workshop and the instructor, a highly regarded professional landscape photographer, had the class get ready for a glorious sunset scene. He set up his 4x5 field camera and was pushing the cable release before all the rest of us were still tweaking our SLR's and lens settings. That was the most important lesson I learned that day. Fred Picker said to practice setting up your camera from the trunk of your car to be prepared for when it matters in the field.

Ansel Adams had an excellent story of when he shot his famous "Moonrise Over Hernandez." It almost didn't happen but for his skills at working quickly and efficiently. He only got one side of a film holder exposed, by the time he flipped the film holder for another exposure, the light was gone.

Be quick, be nimble.

I like the second shot. Those clouds in the second shot are screaming to be printed in black & white.

Some people spend a lot of money travelling to exotic locations to make landscape photos. Even with careful planning, it's easy to be out of luck in this kind of excursion photography. Bad weather, illness, too many other people... so many reasons for it all to go awry.

There's a good case to be made for working where you live so that you can get to know the rhythms, and allow yourself multiple opportunities to explore the light, the weather and the seasons. You get second (and third, and fourth) chances this way. It's also a lot cheaper!

What you say is what I love about taking landscapes. But then the consequence is that you have to be out in them, carrying a camera, hoping something magical is revealed. I’m ok with that, maybe like others like motorsports and models.

Also, I’ve become obsessive about trees and them being lit in myriad ways by light. I love them so much that I think I’ve become a bad editor of my pictures of them. I love trees! I really like your second image. The lush and different muted shades of greens and yellows.

I guess I’m an addict.

When I got back into photography I had a "landscapes with 35mm color slides like Galen Rowell" phase but it turned out that I was mostly no good at this. It wasn't so much a technical problem as a mental one ... I can get visually excited by great light on colorful rocks or whatever, but fundamentally I'm not that interested in it.

So I stopped, and started taking pictures in cities instead, which is much more interesting to me.

Oh wow. From the magic of the Internet I now note that I made this same comment about this same subject... heh.


One frustration for me in regards to landscape photography is that I grew up in a flat place with no topography that would generate a "Wow!" in a photograph.

After growing up and traveling for my job, I finally got to see the places that I saw in photographs, which reinforced the fact that it is not so simple to get that "Wow!" even with subject matter that is terrific before your eyes.

Has anyone done this? I was driving from Los Angels to Florida to transfer to a new location for my work. I put my Nikon F3 on my passenger seat and set out with only three days to get to my destination. Outside of Tucson, I put the camera in the trunk and pretended that it wasn't there. Every 10 miles was a fantastic landscape that looked fake, almost out of a Roadrunner cartoon. If you can't separate photography from your life, you better not have deadlines.

David L.,

That's the photo I first thought about for an example of a fleeting moment caught on film.

"Be quick, be nimble"
How many miles to Babylon? Threescore miles and ten. Can I get there by candlelight? Yes, and back again. If your feet be nimble and light, you can get there by candlelight.

With best regards.


I think it is important to challenge your thinking about what landscape photography is. If you think it is a majestic view or a pastoral scene, that is a very small box. Natural landscapes are also chaotic and wild and can arouse strong emotions about who we are and our place in the world. Eliot Porter, one of the greatest landscape photographers of the 20th century said, “Much is missed if we have eyes only for the bright colors. Nature should be viewed without distinction… She makes no choice herself; everything that happens has equal significance. Nothing can be dispensed with. This is a common mistake that many people make: They think that half of nature can be destroyed — the uncomfortable half — while still retaining the acceptable and the pleasing side.”
It is important to also explore that uncomfortable half.

Actually you can shoot from a car. Parking carefully so that your looking in the direction goes without saying but you can raise and lower the window to help support your camera and proceed. This works especially well for birds who pretty much ignore cars but flee from humans. Somewhere I have some pretty nice shots of an osprey pair on their nest which was in the top of a tree on a very small island which was only a football field or so from the road. If I had gotten out of my truck, no pictures case closed.

I was out shooting the landscape yesterday in a remote area of north Florida, where the Ochlockonee Bay meets the Apalachee Bay. It was five minutes from sunset when I was packing up my van. As I started my drive back to the main road, I passed an area of dunes that had a giant dead tree with the moon close above from where I could see. I turned around, rushed loading a roll of 120 in my Mamiya 6, grabbed the tripod and started my journey to find what was calling me there. Even if I did not get the shot, it was well worth the absolutely incredible experience of being there with the twilight. Taking pictures in the landscape is not very difficult if you know what you are doing with the gear and all other things considered, but experiencing the beauty of nature and being able to share that with others through photography is IMO, a different expression altogether.

"Again and again I see something that I have to merely enjoy, because I can't even think about getting it in a picture"

There's a point in the movie The Night Manager where they are trying to organise a photo, and one of them says "Can't we just remember it?"

(I might have got the details wrong)

David L. wrote, "A serious landscape photographer would take notes after missing a fantastic but very brief scene like yours. Location, date, time of day, weather, equipment, focal length, where to set up, etc...."

This semi-serious landscape photographer uses a phone which records most of that information automagically.

The key is to be out there a lot. You’ll get your share of fleeting opportunities.

But I disagree with the observation that what you see doesn’t repeat itself. From my window I look up a mile long stretch of fields bordering a river. I know, for example, that when the sky is breaking after a storm in the morning, and the wind is strong, often long band of light and shadow will glide down those fields as I have seen them do for decades.

I lives on mountainous terrain, which shapes the flow of winds and clouds the way a stream bottom shapes the flow of water: in both waves and eddies tend to appear again and again in the same places in given conditions.

Certainly true for this landscape photographer. I spent 2 h in the early morning at the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis in Northwest Scotland with only 15 seconds of sunlight on the stones, enough for two exposures with the Pentax 67ii: http://www.arnecroell.com/img/s/v-10/p1988289892-4.jpg
The contrary timing was true for this similar scene in Southern Norway, a Viking grave at Istrehagan, where I waited 5h for the sun to set and illuminate the head stone through a break in the trees, taken with a Linhif Technikardan 45s at 10pm: http://www.arnecroell.com/img/s/v-10/p338128640-4.jpg

Landscape photographers need the "eye". There's just no other way to put it. Study the old masters.

There is a story of a photographer walking into Laura Gilpin’s studio and seeing a photograph on the wall of, I think, the interior of a famous adobe church, exclaimed, “How did you get that? Laura replied that she just happened to be there, liked the light, so took a picture, with her 8x10 view camera. The photographer then explained he’d been trying to take that picture for years but the light was only right for a few minutes, for a few days of the year and every time he was there he was either a day late, or a day early, or the sun didn’t shine.

You could be talking about the conditions here in the UK. When I am out photographing the wider views I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time muttering "the light is better over there". In North West Scotland recently we had sunshine, rain and hail in the space of half an hour.The stabilisation in cameras nowadays is so useful when you don't have time to use a tripod.

Your article recalls to mind Ansel Adams story of ‘Moonrise Hernandez’, how quick he had to be to set up his camera for that found picture. And that was an 8x10 if I recall correctly.
About taking photographs from a car. Well when driving I’ll ‘see’ a scene, decide to return later, then realize that to get the shot I’ll need to set up the tripod in the street with the lens at about eye height when sitting in my compact car.
Seldom works out.

I moved to Edinburgh in 2000, and talk about fickle weather there. In the first week it happened to me three times that I walked into a big store and roamed, and when I came out, rain had come and gone again.

I like this quote from Edward Weston which implies that he stuck close to a car (even though he didn't drive)
"Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn't photogenic". -Edward Weston

[That's one of those quotes I've seen attributed to many different people, in the way that most quotes are attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, or Albert Einstein regardless of who said them. Do you have a source? I don't mean to sound like I'm challenging you, I'm just wondering if there's a source. :-) --Mike]

Who hesitates has lost the light.

MikeR's wife has it at least 200% right. I suspect, Mike, that your second problem is hesitation.* As mentioned above, Hernandez, NM was an unplanned rush.

[Sound of screeching tires. Gravel flies as car comes to sudden stop off pavement. Moose grabs camera always at the ready on floor in front of driver's seat, jumps out and runs into trees]

Moose: "I'll be back!"

Even the tide had to be right for this one!

Bass Harbor, ME

Same scenario, sans gravel:

El Capitan, ephemeral falls, breeze, Yosemite

(Click on photos for larger versions.)

* The first is always having a suitable camera at hand. Based on your posts, an iPhone only frustrates; fine for most, then inadequate for the good ones.

Rob de Loe mentions in a comment above the benefits of shooting near where you live (learning what works when and being able to get back at the right times).


I'll mention that when I'm photographing far from home, I try to buy books by locals, precisely because they have that advantage. I still like having my own snapshots of the scenes, but they don't that often rise to more than that. (Also landscape isn't anything like my main thing, and hence I'm not actually particularly good at it.)

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