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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Next Generation Landscapes

Digital innovation has allowed Marc Adamus to deliver a more refined vision than ever before. It’s the new look of landscape photography.

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"Paradise Forest," Olympic rainforest, Washington.
Just like landscape photographers have long done, Adamus starts with previsualization. He then shoots to that image in his head, capturing the elements he'll need to fulfill the vision in post. Seeing the image is only the first step. Equally important is the ability to identify the challenges that stand in the way of achieving one's vision.

"It's almost like if you can identify in the field what technical limitation you're having," Adamus explains, "you can find a way to capture or blend an image that's going to fix that problem. Depth of field, for instance. We, as photographers, are really trained from day one to see within the limitations of depth of field. Now, when you start looking outside that box and start saying this doesn't have to be out of focus—I can shoot with a 200mm lens and get something 15 feet away in focus and I can get something a mile away in focus in the same image, or I can use a wide-angle lens and make a foreground at six inches across look like a lake—then I've got a whole lot more opportunities at my disposal. Learning to recognize which situations are going to work best, and opening up your mind to be able to do that, it's really opened up a whole new world for me. I would say at least one out of every four or five images that I take is depth of field blended to some extent."

The biggest challenge isn't always a photographic one. It can be difficult to ensure that viewers understand that while his photographs may be edited in Photoshop, or assembled from multiple frames, that this is done not to trump nature. Rather, it's done to better serve the subject with a photograph that more accurately renders reality.

"Next time you're at an art show," Adamus says, "go tell somebody you manipulated the heck out of this image to make it look more natural. Watch their head turn around a couple of turns.

"A Moment Together," Ruby Mountains, Nevada.
"I think people misunderstand what we're doing in Photoshop," he says, "or even what we're doing in RAW. Usually, I find that they want to be assured that if they go to that place you photographed that they're going to see the flowers, the trees, the rivers, the mountains, everything, in the way that it was portrayed in your image. It's just a product of why people enjoy photography. Because they can imagine themselves being right there, and maybe they actually will go right there on account of seeing your images."

Not many are likely to follow Adamus to the edge of the earth, in the heart of winter and the middle of the night. But scenarios like that are totally in his wheelhouse, partly because low-light imagery has always spoken to him and partly because they're now more doable than ever.

"I've always trended toward the darker side of things," he says. "I find that darkness is a great way to showcase light. Darkness is an element of simplification. It's something where you can hide whatever doesn't fit perfectly within your compositional plan for the image to create the visual flow that draws the eye from point to point. If the image is bright throughout, there's a higher likelihood that it's going to reveal some sort of distraction. Whereas I think you can simplify—which, of course, is so critical in photography—and draw the eye through multiple different elements of interest, with darkness. My images are very complex in that there might be four or five interesting things that I'm trying to showcase all at the same time, and in the process of doing so, especially with wide angles, you might introduce more in the way of distractions. So I've kind of learned to look for ways to lead the eye through the light, so to speak."

Adamus' photograph of icicles and aurora in the Yukon, called "Under the Lights," represents the lengths to which he'll go to juxtapose darkness with light.


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