Introduction to Project 3: A sense of place

Exploring the ground ahead with Creative Arts Today (pages 167-170)

Landscape photography is a whole area to itself, to explore it further CAT suggests reading Malcolm Andrews (1999) Landscape and Western Art, Oxford: OUP for a good introduction.

Basic Question: How do photographs convey a sense of place?

It’s necessary to consider space, placement and depth in images, by means of juxtaposition and perspective.

A sense of depth can be created by placing smaller objects near to the camera and larger objects further away.

Ian Berry 1974

England. Whitby. A sunny Sunday afternoon brings tourists and…, from https://pro.magnumphotos.com/image/LON1828.html (Accessed 23/05/2017)
I think that without people in the foreground this image would look flat and uninteresting.
I’m trying now a simple experiment with two objects – a big bottle and a small cup – placed in front of my Iphone to see what happens inverting their placement

It seems to me that the placement of the bottle near the camera stops the eye from moving behind it (left), while advancing the cup to the foreground helps moving the eye forward.

Scale in photographs relies on placing familiar subjects within the frame, by way of comparison: I know how tall people roughly are, so I judge the rest of the image from them.

I am now having a good look at ‘Cathedral’, Box Freestone Quarry, Wiltshire by Jesse Alexander (https://jessealexanderonphotography.com/thz/, accessed 23/05/2017).

The absence of familiar subjects in the image makes it difficult to evaluate distances and sizes of what I am seeing.

In photographs the three-dimensional world is reduced to two dimensions, but we assume that the arrangement of objects and their orientation in the spaces correspond to the view we have in front of us. ‘This ‘realism’ comes into question when wide-angle or telephoto lenses are used to give, respectively, either a much wider field of view than our own eyesight, or a far narrower one.’ (page 169)

Will Crites-Krumm at: https://digital-photography-school.com/wide-angle-versus-telephoto-lenses-for-beautiful-landscape-photography/ (Accessed 23/05/2017) explains in simple words (that I understand) what happens when we use a wide-angle and a telephoto lens respectively.

‘This is the most basic difference between the two lens types: wide lenses give you a wide view, telephoto lenses give you a narrow view. And while landscapes look great in their entirety, it’s a good habit to take a moment and look for details. There are beautiful elements of the landscape that might get shrunken, or ignored in the expanse of a wide-angle image. This is where your telephoto lens comes in. Its narrow field of view is perfect for trimming off the extra elements, and focusing right on small, beautiful scenes like the curve of a mountain, a reflection in a far-off pond, or the silhouette of a tree.

WILLCK 2 YOSEMITE

‘In the two images above, you can see this in action. They were both taken from Olmstead point in Yosemite National Park, one with a wide angle lens and the other with a telephoto. In the first image, the wide angle shows off the total landscape. It includes both sides of the valley, the up-close textures of the rocks and the far off peak of Half Dome. In the second image, the telephoto lens brings the eye right up to the mountains, showing off their shapes and the details of the geology.’

 

Still quoting from Digital Photography School:

‘Here’s an easy way to summarize it with a simple idea:

Wide angle lenses show off space, telephotos show off objects.

The wide angle lens’s big field of view, ease of uniform focus, and depth-distorting abilities, are great at showing off big, expansive landscapes. However, they take focus away from individual elements within the landscape in favor of showing the whole. Telephoto lenses are naturally the opposite: they’re great at showing off the size, shape, and intricacy, of detail of individual elements within the landscape. But their narrow field of view, small depth of field, and depth-compressing qualities make it hard to capture the landscape as a whole.’

But as CAT explains (page 169, the bold characters are mine), there is more to it than it seems, since ‘in addition to the realism of the two versions offered by wide-angle and telephoto lenses, they can have a profound impact upon what the image communicates.’

‘The telephoto image crops into a scene and so excluded the viewer from information that was available to the photographer … the telephoto lens can lead to quite ‘immersive’ imagery, i.e. the scene is crammed into the frame and the viewer ‘homes in’ on a particular part of the view. In that sense, the telephoto view epitomises the subjectivity of the photographer’s gaze. The wide-angle view, on the other hand, offers a more ‘naturalistic’ viewing experience. It shows the ‘depth’ of the scene.’ (page 169)

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