When I enrolled on this course, I felt that that the genre of landscape was not my favourite subject. I am not a great outdoors person and like most people I will appreciate a beautiful view or a view of sublime drama; but I would not normally spend my spare time looking for them. Having said that, I felt that landscape was and is an important aspect of art and photography and that I must learn more about it to get a better understanding from an artistic point-of-view. For this the course did not disappoint me.
I decided that I should read the books for both the required and recommended reading for this course before I started; so it was several months before I started the course in earnest. On reflection, I am not so sure this was a good idea, as it not only delayed and lengthened the time I took to work through the course I am not sure how much of what I read made much of a difference to my work.
Technically, I have learned more about the use of focus and depth-of-field. In the past I would tend to use wider apertures and think that shallow depth-of-field was good, but landscape changed my ideas. I learned how wide depths of fields were important to landscape and I learned that good depth-of-field made a lot of pictures more interesting and often more capable of engaging and holding an audience’s gaze. I have continued to be conscious of using a wider depth-of-field in my new portrait course and so I have carried this learning forward. With the use of depth-of-field brought with it the knowledge of deep focusing an expression and technique that I learned through this landscape course. Moreover, this course gave me more experience practicing manual exposures and I learned a technique to control my autofocus so that I could still obtain deep focusing whilst taking advantage of a reliable sharp focusing system. Much of my photography is handheld, for much of the time this often suits the subject matter and circumstances; but again landscape helped me look at and start using slower methods of photography through tripod, filters and slower exposures. The tripod certainly forces the photographer to spend more time considering the composition and again I have since used these techniques for portraiture.
Through my reading, research and my course text book, I was introduced to some new artists whose work I very much liked for example: Richard Moss and his use of infrared, Shimon Attie’s projections on walls, Chris Marker’s, La Jetee, (1962) and Mitch Epstein’s, American Power (2009) to name a few. From these artists I learned that landscape can be used for much more than just stunning pictures for the National Geographic; but could be used to convey a message or ideas. A good example of a landscape photograph that can be read as a narrative is a photo of a roundabout, Andersontown, Belfast (1984) by Paul Graham. Landscape has been used by photographers and journalists who have missed the main event but photographed the aftermath such as battles and disasters, but this could also apply for other types of pictures for example (in the right context) it could represent a portraiture of a busy or active individual.
I have to confess that I found this course hard work and mostly because I struggled to be excited with the genre of landscape. However, I am glad that I did the course and I do feel that I learned a lot from it. I feel that there are often aspects to most if not all activities that we do not like, but we must learn them and practice them in order to be better at our chosen skills. I know that aspects of landscape disciplines are important for other photographic practices such as portraiture and street-photography and these disciplines I am already putting into regular use.
On completing the course my tutor recommended that I start practicing using the Harvard referencing system and a Bibliography before I start level three; so I have made a start by checking that all my blogs have been properly referenced and a Bibliography created listing all the books, websites and photos, that I used, read, and referred to. My conclusion is that although this course took me over two years to complete through work commitments, my reading and its challenging subject matter, I don’t regret doing it and overall, I had a good experience.