Has landscape photography changed? Or...

I agree with many of your observations. I don’t “consume” a lot of landscape photography but I feel I see the problem you describe but also in other genres and even media. I think it’s driven by the following.

  1. Strict adherence to genres. Conscious or not.
  2. To much control over both the subject and the tech
  3. Weak or non existent “intent” behind the photo. Why is the photograph taken.
  4. Photography as a pure visual thing. Nothing beyond imagemaking.

I interpret the grand vista vs detail discussion as being a sidetrack to the OP post. It’s not the tree silhouette vs wide valley shot but the tree silhouette executed so that it becomes generic and with no feeling or intent for capturing the actual tree (as a silhouette).

I’ve mentioned it before but I find that colour grading and colour theming of movies have gone way over the top. After colour film was invented they always did control it but it’s gone to the next level. It seems props, wardrobe and post processing now allow for such control that the nerve is lost. it becomes “plastic”

Someone shared new topographics photographs where several new photographers copied the style of the original seventies photos down to picking scenes with older cars. It can’t be overstated how wrong this is in this particular genre. Again they just made images that looked like the genre but completely failed at understanding why the photos where taken.

I think these problems come with the enormous amount of images being consumed. A sort of increased visual literacy but only a very superficial one. People have seen so many images and know what they “should” be like.


Has landscape photography changed, or do we just now have way more exposure to average photography? I think the latter. Social media allows us to see a lot of average shots we never would have seen otherwise. A lot of stock photography is just ho hum and that all gets used on the Web

That said, its not just about exposure. Early digital photography really suffered from limitations of the medium and poor colour science. In some ways the tech is less limited now but in many ways the popular colour science still panders to the novice more than the expert.

Taste has also changed. Many early landscape photographers would have been influenced by the master oil painters. Now modern art dominates, and photographers become more influenced by the abstract and avant garde, rather than the beautiful, ideal or majestic.

@nosle also mention movies, which is important. The trend since the 90s has been to make everything look moody and dark, and more young photographers today would be influenced by bleach bypass than technicolour.


^Very important point!

Publishers did do (still do) an important job sifting the chaff from the wheat. We never had to see the low quality stuff unless the photographer was a personal friend. It took a lot of people with a lot of education and knowledge a huge amount of man hours to do that sifting. Of course mistakes were made but it’s way better than social media algorithms.

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I may not have mentioned it before, but I live in Pitlochry :rofl:. According to our next door neighbours, before the Covid lockdown, the town used to get about 30 coaches per day during the season.

One of the most popular places within reach of the town is Queen’s View, which has parking for the majority of these coaches. The itinerary tends to be:

  1. Park in the visitor centre car park
  2. Walk up to the view point (70 metres from the car park)
  3. Take selfie, with you in the foreground and the view hidden by your head
  4. Ensure that others can’t get to take pictures, by taking additional photographs of you, your companions, your dog…
  5. If you aren’t caffeined out, walk down to the café for a coffee and a cake
  6. Get back on the bus for the next scenic spot

As a result, the view has become difficult for people who want to take pictures of the actual view, and clichéd. Like many other tourist places, the only time to take good pictures are at sunrise or sunset, when there are fewer people about.

If you want the huge landscapes, then the only way to get them is to be prepared to hike and climb a good distance.


Maybe sometimes we should be taking pictures of the queues of tourist coaches rather than pretending they don’t exist? Or at least include some of those in a series. That would be honest and also say something about the pressure on nature (from photographers, too). It might even be more interesting than the endless perfect vistas (I admit I try to do this, too). There are landscape photographers who use often technically limited equipment to do something that’s out of the ordinary. Kate Kirkwood, who I think lives on a farm, is one. She has a lot of interesting pics on Flickr.


This one is particularly relevant, I think


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I made some half-arshed efforts to do this myself recently in Cyprus by leaving things in rather hiding them behind foliage.

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Good old survivorship bias, the past looks better because we’ve already lost track of the garbage.

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Sounds like a restatement of Sturgeon’s Law.

I can almost see some people’s mouse hands twitching as they fight the urge to start cloning… :rofl:

Haha. Brilliant. It’s as if Stephen Shore decided to clone out all the “shitty” 70s American cars from his pics because they look so boring. Maybe we’ll look back and think, wow those Toyota Camry’s are classic

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We will. This is how the passage of time & human’s longing for nostalgia works.

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Wow! Those are a lot of replies… :slight_smile:

First, a clarification on my somewhat Magellanesque wanderings… I’m not promoting nor decrying any particular style. I’m neither realist nor stylist, grand vista-ist nor detail-ist, digital-ist nor film-ist (or is that filmic? :smiley:). I like them all on any given day. I tend toward realism but with drama if possible. Kinda like I’d rather hear a skilled human drummer ultra-accurately killing a pattern rather than a drum machine ultra-accurately playing the same pattern. Same result either way (basically) but I like the idea of the work, effort, craftsmanship and (dare I say) professionalism of the human approach. It’s just that after looking at a lot of landscape photography, some of it seems rather generic, even if immaculately executed and (in terms of subject matter) fundamentally awe-inspiring. I guess that means I’ve seen too much? LOL

An interesting thought that occurred to me last night was that while “we” (for some value of “we”) generally decry the effect of AI-generated images on photography, the shooting and processing lengths some go to (in order to create perfect images) ends up looking quite like AI imagery. Just sayin’ … :upside_down_face:

Yeah, our woodlands here (Louisiana, USA) are very messy, densely undergrown with lots of briers, thorns, vines, etc. And LOTS of pine needles covering everything in site. So I guess a little clean-up wouldn’t be objectionable! :slight_smile:

I suspect there’s also another factor. Although there are lots of scenic areas worldwide, I strongly suspect (without any hard data to back me up) that there are still far, far more ordinary, bland (if not outright ugly) views. And now that the Internet makes viewing images from everywhere so easy, it seems like “all” the grand vistas have been photographed. Of course, that’s not true but to “see” the less obvious grand vistas will require seeing and capturing “grandness” in views that might not have traditionally been considered grand. That’s quite a challenge, simultaneously interesting and frustrating.

I can’t argue that point too much, but I think if the rendering is strictly literal, it’s incumbent to select “grand” subject matter that can carry the load solo, so to speak. Then again, for those of us who live in boring areas, even a marginal snapshot of a grand view intrinsically has some value. For example, the only time I can view a hill is either by traveling or looking at an imge.

I’ve seen a bit of Joe’s work and it’s extremely nice. In NZ, William Patino does some stunning (entirely hand-held, BTW) work. I also like Mads Peter Iversen, although he’s pretty stylistic at times. Also Nick Page, Sean Bagshaw and Thomas Heaton. Mitch Dobrowner creates phenomenal B&W imagery of weather and the natural landscape. Gavin Hardcastle puts a lot of humor into his YT videos, but his photographs are very nice, too. Of the older, film photographers, John Shaw’s work was really nice.

That’s a good word. Sublime.

Yeah, exactly (as I pointed out above). I can tell you for a fact I’ve walked by many, many tree bark shots and such thinking, “yeah, like no one’s done that before.” Well, the Actual Fact is if I want to do something truly unique, I’m setting a very tough row to how for myself. As the saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun. So I need to loosen up. :smiley:

I understand what you’re saying and don’t really disagree (it’s a similar idea to my drummer analogy above) but I tend to think of digital and film as two coexisting media, not replacements for each other (despite the reality that digital has functionally replaced film). But as some move back to film – for film’s sake – I think they’ll be more “different but equal” in many ways.

Yep, same here, kind of like the muted colors some past-era-targeting TV shows have used . And the same goes for CG replacing live effects. I totally get the practical factors, from safety to expense to whatever. But it seems there are basically no real action, actually filmed, effects any more. And as good as CG has become, it’s still instantly recognizable. But now with AI? Who knows…

Yeah. like about 1,500 miles for me! LOL

Not quite the same thing, but sort of similar – I’ve thought more than once about shooting a series of (probably B&W or very de-sat) images showing the trash that’s found everywhere in my home state. You can go for a walk in the woods and in the middle of nowhere there will be bottles, paper, broken ice chests, major appliances… It’s almost impossible to drive down any significant road without seeing trash. It would be interesting to shoot nothing but that sort of thing in a gritty style, but it would probably also be a bit disingenuous. Not everyone in Louisiana throws trash on the ground, but obviously are more than a few who do.

Hey, I resemble that remark!! :slight_smile: Actually that’s why I mentioned a gritty style - it would need to be obvious what’s being done so that the images don’t come across as just a bunch of poorly composed / cropped snapshots.

Anyway, it’s all just my pontificating at the end of the day. Excuse me, I need to go in search of that Killer Grand Vista Sunset. :smiley:


Look at this recent thread… I think it contains a lot of your “feelings”

I think you’ve got that backwards. The ai is just emulating what people on the internet are doing. Or more precisely what images were part of it’s learning.

I’d say shoot it in the style of technically perfect epic landscape photography!

I’ve thought about trying to do this. An epic landscape with a portaloo/potty in the midground

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Hence the current interest in mid-90s fugly “digicams”

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Yeah, I participated in that one, too. :slight_smile:

Well, maybe. But my point was the end result - Simplification of forms, perfectly clean “surfaces”, very smooth gradients, no flaws, etc. Both end up looking artificial, even if it’s a two-way relationship.

But I can very well understand the draw. I like precise, smooth, perfect. This may sound funny given the very-far-from-perfect character of my images, but it’s very difficult for me to not correct a “flaw”.

Experience also increases with age, so the eye becomes more critical. That’s at least my experience as an amateur
Greetings. Roberto

Until you get to the age where you get to experience the same thing for the first time every day! :rofl:

(Seriously, though, the idea of outliving my mind is one of my main fears as I get older)

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Indeed. I think many would be surprised to find Monet (and many impressionists) actually painted a very large number of uninspiring works (you can trawl through thousands of their paintings online). But those are forgotten, with people today only focused on the masterpieces.

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