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Views Across the Landscape [Book Review]

Views Across the LandscapeAgain, another large format book, sized precisely to best show off the subject matter.

As befits this subject, the pictures get priority and so they should … text takes the back seat but not to a demeaning degree.

Author Peter Watson is a self-taught photographer and has authored five other books, all to do with landscape photography. In his view ‘recent developments in digital technology have simplified landscape photography.’ Perhaps this could have been better said as the arrival of digital photography has simplified landscape photography.

How so? Well, for one thing the burden of establishing, equipping and operating a darkroom has gone, along with the bane of keeping chemicals fresh, enlargers clean and dust free and the pain of long hours of operation, mostly at night. In nearly all forms of photography today, software is king!

Photographers now have total control over the process, right from concept through to the tap on the shutter and on to the final print. Never before has the photographer had complete control.

While we can now enjoy enormous control post exposure there are still limits to what can be achieved and many a trap may lay in waiting for the unwary. What may emerge after software processing can only be as good as the original material: RIRO or Rubbish In Rubbish Out!

Landscapes are a demanding subject. You have no control over the subject, none over the lighting of it, its placement or orientation. Watson’s attitude is that it is sanguine to adopt techniques that require minimal post exposure adjustment; as he says ‘post processing should be considered the icing on the cake, not the main recipe.’

The book begins by suggesting research methods for prospective subjects, location hunting, the ‘right equipment’ and accessories such as tripods and pan heads, filters … even down to the right clothing for the location.

The chapter headings show the way:

  • Equipment
  • Technique
  • Light in the Landscape
  • Composition and Design
  • Taking a Closer Look
  • Landscape Locations

In terms of equipment the book is realistic: beware of buying and using a digital camera with a ‘kit lens’ included in the purchase price; they are all built with a smaller maximum aperture and mostly offer lower resolution than fixed focal length primes lenses.

There is some basic info on lens apertures and shutter speeds, understanding histograms, the use of filters, etc.

Then, to my mind, some of the most important elements in successful and satisfying landscape photography are outlined: finding the best viewpoints and using light.

With the former, location recces using Google Earth lets you ‘fly’ to anywhere in the world, check out sample photos of the area in question and even scout a shooting position. The message is search for a shooting spot by discovering one with a useful foreground.

With the latter, light can impart mood, atmosphere, tranquility, harmony etc. Visit the location at different times of the day and year. Notice its angle, colour, strength and distribution.

In scanning the book I was struck at how the author/photographer used light to lift the quality of his landscape images. If the same images had been shot at different times of the day or at times when the light was a less powerful element those pictures would not have ‘worked’.

There are four pages of pictures and text on how to use mist in photographing the landscape: a fine balance is essential; too much landscape will diminish it; too little will leave you wondering what you’re looking at. Balance is crucial.

IMHO the book’s purchase is worth it for the value of the pictures alone!

Author: P Watson.
Publisher: Ammonite Press.
Length: 192 pages.
Size: 25x25x12mm.
ISBN 978 1 90770 884 8. Price: Get a price on Views Across the Landscape

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Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

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