The perfect landscape shot…

Gorges du Doubs, Franco-Swiss border

An imperfect landscape image…

A headline on the cover of a photography magazine caught my eye recently. “Compose the perfect landscape shot”, it read. A quick look inside revealed the usual advice about leading lines, rule of thirds, etc., etc. What the article didn’t reveal was anything about how the ‘perfect’ landscape photograph might look or, indeed, why you might want to make such an image in the first place. For me, and I imagine a lot of other people, if we were ever to produce such a thing there would be no point in bothering to make another image since any photographs after that would, necessarily, be inferior! It’s the striving to do better each time that keeps us going.

But what is perfection, anyway? Surely it’s very personal. There are those whose idea of perfection is consistently winning competitions at their local photography club. For others, it lies in making an image of a famous landscape ‘icon’ that is so technically proficient it garners unending praise on Flickr or other photo-sharing sites. For me, the ‘perfect’ landscape image is one that completely communicates everything that the photographer is trying to say; it’s about having a message and the means to put it across effectively. It’s about personal vision and this makes perfection a very elusive thing. How can you create the ‘perfect’ image  if everyone has their own ideas about perfection? The answer is, you can’t. There is no such thing.

Of course, if you approach landscape photography with a checklist and manage to tick off every single item then that’s a sort of perfection. Except that is more akin to, say, accountancy than art.

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7 Responses to The perfect landscape shot…

  1. Mike Green says:

    I totally agree with all of this. I saw the same headline and went through a similar thought process!

  2. Phil Hemsley says:

    An excellent article to accompany your superb collection of ‘imperfect’ images! It amused me last year whilst on a course with Joe Cornish that he talked about the same issues of magazines and of a certain camera club’s ‘rules’ for competition entry – he pointed out that the initial letters of Rule Of Thirds ironically spelt the word ‘rot’, something he felt led to encouraging enthusiastic photographers to produce no more than a formulaic pastiche or cliché … something many photography magazines are often guilty of too.

    Your photos clearly show a connection with the environment on an emotional or visceral level, a factor that makes photos enduring and compelling. That ‘connection’ is missing when photographers just follow the ‘rules’ and strive only for ‘technical perfection’ – they invite only a short attention and are easily forgotten. Images that are a heartfelt/ soulful recording of the photographer’s musings are the ones people will talk about with respect and reverence. Images that strike a chord with the viewer and invite them to step-into the picture are the ones that people will want to put on their wall and gaze at – seeing more things in the image as time goes on – a silent narrative maybe.

    I told Joe that we had one of his moody photos of the North Devon coast on our lounge wall that continues to fascinate and invite continued exploration of its details and composition on a daily basis, 6 years after buying it – everyone who comes to visit mentions its entrancing nature…. and that this one image had inspired me to practice photography. Yet despite its brilliant composition I pointed out that it’s probably ‘imperfect’… he was rather amused at my comment and said that “rules are definitley meant to broken!”.

    The journey of landscape photography for me is something that I relish and I will only photograph when I feel that ‘connection’. The desire to learn and experience more about the subtleties of transient light and the way light falls upon the land is one that will take a whole lifetime. I don’t want to get that ‘perfect image’ either for the same reasons – I enjoy photography too much 

    • I’ve also done some workshops with Joe so it’s no surprise that I share his views… 😉

      Thanks for sharing your journey into photography. You are right when you talk about ‘connection’ and taking a considered approach. Too many are in a rush to set-up as soon as they arrive at a location. It’s so much more satisfying to spend time simply looking at what’s around you before reaching for the camera. That way you can go to a much visited location and find compositions that nobody has found before.

      Best,
      Julian.

  3. I wish someone would come up with a foolproof way to make the “perfect image”. Maybe your next project?

  4. rohan says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading.really very informative.

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