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Monday, April 6, 2009

Landscape Masters Through Time

Photography’s greats must find philosophical constants while embracing change

This Article Features Photo Zoom

A 2008 digital image shot with a long lens and fast shutter speed.
“Aesthetically,” he continues, “I think Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter had a big impact on color landscape photographers in freeing them up to work with classic art compositional techniques. For me, this means being able to shoot images without sky, and using texture, pattern, rhythm, balance and other tricks to make compositions come alive.”

One of Till’s favorite tricks is an unassuming little filter. It worked with film, and it still works with digital. “The graduated neutral-density,” he says. “I think when I switched from Kodak film to Fuji, it was a lot more contrasty, especially the Velvia. So I started using them a lot. I’m guessing I used them on 75 percent of my shots, and I had a special four-stop made that I used a lot in the Canyon Country. I still use them sometimes with the digital camera, and I’ve found that if you use a four-stop grad-ND and the HDR plug-in, you can get eight stops of contrast control easily—and there are times when I need it.”

To see more of Tom Till’s photography, visit www.tomtill.com.

Muench has always been known for the dramatic looming foreground and shrinking background composition. He continues to use it to immerse the viewer in an image, but the overall look of the landscape tends to have a subtlety that earlier work didn’t have. This newer and stunning vista has a decidedly subdued feel, created by the mist and the flat light.
David Muench
Honoring the landscape with photography
When you speak to David Muench about photographing landscapes, he won’t tell you about his camera, or his technique, or even how it feels to make a picture. He’ll tell you about the land.

It’s a nuanced way that Muench sees his work. Instead of using the landscape to create something, he feels an obligation to render his subject truthfully—uncluttered by the emotion a photographer may otherwise choose to hang on it. Yet clearly he realizes the subjects he chooses to photograph are based on an emotional response. It’s an approach he has used since his black-and-white beginnings in the 1960s, but he has honed it more deliberately in recent years.

“I have always had the thread that has held me together, right up to this morning,” he says, just back from a hike, “essentially rendering my response to the landscape in a true form. In other words, not so much an inner response—although it is emotional, of course—but it has been to be true to form to the landscape. The planetary subjects and the forms… The light—and what the light does and is in the landscape—has been the actual guide. It’s always out in front luring and exciting to new adventures and new seeing.”

“That doesn’t mean just a collection of detail,” Muench continues, “but to bring the things that really will speak to people of the landscape. Not just a sterile inventory—that’s one whole direction, too, that can be headed in, but that isn’t what I’m trying to do.”

Muench’s lifelong obligation stems from a desire to appreciate and protect the earth. Not content to simply make pictures, showing his work is as important as making it. It’s a crucial part of the process—to teach about the wilderness.


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