Intimate Landscape Photography

I have received a lot of criticism for shooting the wider landscape in less than favourable conditions. This week I try my hand at more intimate compositions in an effort to improve my shot selection with mixed results.

The view of Skiddaw from one of the forrest tracks at Whinlatter

Monday 21st October 2019

It has taken us a while but today I finally met up with Adam Kappa. Adam is local photographer who also has a YouTube channel and we have been meaning to get together for ages.

Adam and I were joined this morning by another mate of mine, Steve Bennett. We all met at Coniston Water before heading on to Kelly Hall Tarn for a spot of ‘blue sky’ photography.

When we had finished we said goodbye to Steve and Adam and I headed for the mines at Tilberthwaite.  Adam thought they would make a good subject for my hand of man project and I was keen to check them out.

I’ll be honest I am not sure about including quarries and mines in the project. It is supposed to showcase the positive impact that man has had on the Lake District and to many they are little more than scars in the landscape.

I have become concerned recently about my shot selection.

My approach to landscape photography is to research a location thoroughly so that I know my preferred composition before arriving on location. However, if conditions are not suitable I lack the flexibility to deviate from my original plan and end up producing mediocre images for which I have been criticised.

So this week I thought I would try my hand at some more intimate compositions.

Today, with its blue skies and harsh light, was the perfect opportunity to have a go.

One of the hidden mine entrances at Tilberthwaite.
Since going full-time I have received a lot of criticism for poor shot selection. This week I decided to try my hand at a few more intimate compositions.

✓ – The opening to the mine is a clear primary subject that acts as a strong focal point

✓ – The rocks provide context placing the entrance in some form of mine/quarry

✕ – Oh my god! Could this be the most boring photograph ever taken?

Tuesday 22nd

I wasn’t all that happy with last week’s visit to Castlerigg so I decided to return this morning to have another go.

My problem with the shot that I got last week was by trying to include all of the stone circle in the frame the stones themselves were too small.

This time I decided to isolate just a few of the stones in order to make more of their form and texture.

Some of the stones that form the circle at Castlerigg near Keswick
By isolating just a few of the stones that make up the Castlerigg Stone Circle I hoped to reveal more about their form and texture.

✓ – Despite isolating just a few of the stones they still appear to have been placed very deliberately and are a clear example of the hand of man

✓ – The shallow depth of field reduces the impact of an otherwise distracting background

✕ – Photograph doesn’t show off the surrounding area; it doesn’t show how the stone circle compliments the surrounding landscape

Wednesday 23rd

A few weeks ago while descending from Birkhouse Moor I noticed just how beautiful the path was.

Sitting on the main route between Glenridding to Helvellyn the path up Birkhouse Moor is made up of thousands of individually laid rocks forming a beautiful pavement effect.

I definitely want to include paths in my project and so I decided to return this morning to see if I couldn’t get a shot.

The path from Glenridding to Helvellyn is made up of thousands of individually places stones
The pathway from Glenridding to Birkhouse Moor is made up of many individually placed stones that combine to form a beautiful pavement

✓ – Low angle of view makes the most of the stones in the foreground…

✕ – …however, a higher view point would have shown more of the pattern that the stones have created

✕ – Er, it’s a bit boring isn’t it..?

Thursday 24th

For the first time since going full-time I didn’t make it out for sunrise.

When I woke up it was grey and uninspiring and so I went back to bed.

When I did finally make it out I headed for the Whinlatter Forest. I was hoping to get an image of the arrow straight lines of trees you get in man made woodland.

Unfortunately I could not find one no matter how hard I looked. Eventually I settled for a long lens shot of Skiddaw.

The view of Skiddaw from one of the forrest tracks at Whinlatter
Unable to find the composition that I had in mind I had to settle for this one of Skiddaw

✓ – Makes the most of the autumn colour, not easy to find in one of our man made (and therefore mostly evergreen) forests

✓ – The mountain of Skiddaw provides a strong background and added interest

✕ – Not sure it is a particularly intimate shot

Once I had finished I set off in search of something a little more intimate. Perhaps a little more like my original idea.

However, after much searching I eventually ran out of forest. Not wanting to retrace my steps I carried on, finally reaching the summit of Grisedale Pike.

At the summit I was delighted to find more evidence of the hand of man. One to return to in future?

The view from the summit of Grisedale Pike
I accidentally climbed Grisedale Pike and was surprised to find more examples for the hand of man at the summit.

Friday 25th

One of the features of the Lake District that will definitely feature in my hand of man project is the Haweswater Reservoir.

This morning I set out to get a shot of it’s famous water tower. The water tower was made from the remains of the church at Mardale which was destroyed when they flooded to valley to create the reservoir.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get close enough to the water tower. The permissive path that runs alongside the reservoir is closed at the moment and all of the gates leading to it are padlocked.

I have decided to get in touch with United Utilities to see if there is anyway of getting closer to the tower.

As I wasn’t able to get a shot of the tower I had to settle for one of the dam.

The dam at the Haweswater Reservoir
Unable to get s shot of the water tower at the Haweswater Reservoir I had to settle for one of the dam.

✕ – Very little to like about this photograph

✕ – No creativity. Little more than a record shot

✕ – I hate it!

Creating intimate shots of the landscape is much harder than I thought it was going to be.

Overall I am very disappointed with this week’s shots.

The only thing that I can think to do is to try intimate composition more often in the hope that I will improve.

11 thoughts on “Intimate Landscape Photography”

  1. There are positives and negatives to posting your images, feelings and thoughts in a blog or YouTube vlog. Oftentimes you will receive good responses that will boost your confidence. However when bad comments and criticism is received it can have a detrimental effect on your work. Now, if you know the standards of the critics to be higher than you, then learn from them. If you DON’T know their ability you can end up chasing your tail.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is tread carefully, take note of all comments but don’t let them steer you off track.
    When I was judging competitions for the PAGB I would often premise my comments by reminding photographers that it is a subjective medium and that “if you like it, it’s a good photograph”. At professional level self criticism is of course paramount but I hope you get my point and keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Alan – I have always received feedback (both good and bad) with caution. I am pretty confident that I am a decent judge of my own images. I think I can single out the good ones from the bad ones. I have always taken the approach to share all of my images in my videos, good or bad. That way I hope to share a balanced view of my journey. However, there are people out there who are waiting to pounce on the bad, to seize the opportunity to have a dig. I am a pretty positive person and all I really want is to help and inspire others. I would never openly criticise another photographer’s work, so it always comes as a surprise when someone has clearly gone out of their way to undermine my work and knock my confidence. There is a word for people like that but it’s not nice to use it in polite conversation.

  2. Exploring other types of images and photography is the only way to really find out what works for you, but Alan is right – listen to the comments and take on what suits, then ignore the rest. Your images should be a reflection of what interests you and only you can decide what that is. Back when I sold beadwork, it didn’t take long to accept that someone out there would love what I considered a total failure and someone else would love my favorite pieces. The same is true of our images.

    I’m a great admirer of your images. Keep exploring and growing but always stay true to you.

    1. That is excellent advice Theresa, I really appreciate it. In my position it is all too easy to fall into the trap of trying to take images to impress other people rather than sticking to what I like. I have made that mistake and it has left me feeling frustrated both with myself and with my work. I appreciate these little weekly exchanges between the two of us, they often help me to see things more clearly.

  3. The picture of Skiddaw is beautiful. Good composition, an interesting light, the colours of autumn and in the right corner a taste of blue sky.
    I like it.👍😉

    1. Thanks Tom, glad you like it. I rarely get a composition right first time and I would like to return to this one again at some point to see how I can improve it.

  4. Thanks for the update Chris. Intimate landscapes can be challenging, especially if the weather isn’t cooperating. I don’t think it’s my forte but it’s one I continue to develop. I’ve tried different strategies, most of which involve slowing down. Patience. I’ll work a small location before noticing an hour has flown by without taking a shot. Even then, my keeper ratio might only be one out of many taken. However, I realize the experience is helping me develop a better eye for what does and doesn’t work. I’m confident that if you return under different conditions, these locations will provide additional opportunities. Keep at it! Be well.

    1. Hi Miguel – yeah, shooting intimate landscapes is way harder than I thought it would be! I shall have to give your strategy a try, be more patient and slow down. I often scan and area quickly, decide there is nothing worth taking and then move on. It takes time to develop an eye for this sort of thing, the most important thing for me I guess is to keep trying. Cheers mate.

  5. Chris
    For me intimate needs to be intimate, maybe not macro, but getting in close on a feature with some background to give it context, if possible. What you have presented here are more like cropped big vistas, if that makes sense. The man-made features therefore tend to dominate and the landscape gets lost, or even omitted. The best example of what I think you are trying to do, and I may be 100% wrong in that assumption, is the rusty fence post on the fell top. That is a bit of man in the landscape, some might say man adding an eyesore to the landscape, but there is no arguing man has had an impact here. There is (was) a great line of such posts above Far Easedale along Greenup Edge. Worth a shot? We were staying in Rosthwaite and got the bus to Grasmere and walked back via that route, passing Blea Tarn (not the Langdale one) and taking in Watendlath – there is a great view down to the end of Borrowdale as you decent from Watendlath. The section from the top of Far Easedale to Watendlath is not a well trodden route but well worth the effort. Keep getting out there, keep trying different things and give yourself time to make mistakes and learn from them. Remember the old Ansell Adams adage of 12 really good shots a year is about all we can hope for. I would be happy with half a dozen!

    1. You might be right about ‘cropped big vistas’ Steve, I would be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. The aim of the project is to show where the hand of man has enhanced the landscape, made it more interesting or aesthetically pleasing in some way. The best example that I can think of would be the view of Ullswater form the Duke of Portland boathouse. Would that view be so popular if the boathouse wasn’t there? Personally I doubt it.

      1. I would rather shoot a rusty gate hinge than that boathouse. It is it not that it isn’t lovely, it is just so over exposure (pun intended). Nice light in your latest tweets, by the way.

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