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Archive 2012 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?
  
 
ben egbert
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p.1 #1 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


A landscape must meet very high standards these days to be considered great. I suppose itís because all the famous places have been done so well so often that to rise above is exceedingly hard. Most landscapes, even very well executed ones tend to be considered mere travel shots.

Maybe this is true for other venues, I canít say for sure. My only other experience is with birds and I think the same is true there. 10 years ago a 500f4 lens on a 10FPS AI servo high resolution camera was a rarity, now it is common.

So this is a question for those of you who shoot other stuff. Are all of the traditional venues so well covered that it is nearly impossible to make a great image? Or are some subjects by nature variable enough to provide the interest that carries them? Like street photography for example. Or must new styles/technique be invented?

An example of a new style might be using new technology like extreme high ISO to take images never before possible with any degree of quality.

Just an off topic philosophical question.



Dec 13, 2012 at 06:17 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #2 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


That gives rise to another question?

Are the technology advances of recent years the source of the problem? IE, anyone can get a bird in flight shot with a bit of practice and the right gear. In 1980, my old Nikon FE with a manual focus 600 f8 and ISO800 film never produced anything usable.

The same camera in my hands did not produce one decent landscape in 15 years of hard use. Not even a travel shot.

I am the same geek I was 30 years ago. I have better gear but the same lack of sensitivity that produces great art. Maybe the gear closes the difference between great and not so great but the final result depends on who is behind the camera.

No matter, the near-great results that are possible in the hands of a not-quite-there photographer cloud the question. Only those with the required sensitivity know the difference and the duffer does not and probably never will.



Dec 13, 2012 at 06:34 PM
sadja
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p.1 #3 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


I disagree with your statement

" A landscape must meet very high standards these days to be considered great".

Greatness of an image has to do with vision and impact and almost nothing to do with technical specs or technique. As you point out in your 2nd remark better equipment has not raised your work to the level of art.



Dec 13, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #4 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


Of course we can argue about "standards" needed to be considered as "great" and we can also argue about who should be the judges. Overall I would agree with your premise.

The popularity and capability of the internet means we see many many more images. Images that are very good just get lost in the masses of images we see.

I also know there are lots and lots of enthusiastic photographers. I see them everywhere. I suspect the popularity of photography increased with the internet but I also think digital had a major impact. Film printing and slides were pretty expensive and of course hardly anyone saw them. The prints and slides mostly sat in boxes and faded.

I do notice on the FM Landscape forum that many images I think are very good receive little or no attention. I also see others that get lots of responses and do not come close to my "standards" for great landscape images. A couple of days ago I did a little study of popularity of images on the FM Landscape Forum. I went back into the archives and looked at 50 images. If there were 10 or more responses, I considered the image to be popular and less than 10 was not popular. Of the 50, 31 were not popular and 19 were. I looked at the images for the amount of post processing. I found 4 categories that seemed to be easy to apply to almost every image. First I considered straightforward, plain realistic processing. Thirteen images feel into this category and all but one were not popular. My next category were images with obviously very skilled processing. Twenty images fell into this category and 12 were not popular and 8 were popular. Initially I expected to have difficulty deciding which images had plain and which had very skilled processing. I actually found that distinction to be pretty easy. I also think almost every image in the plain category could have been upgraded pretty easily--assuming the photographer had reasonable Photoshop skills. My next category was "pop". These were images which had no claim to skillful processing, but the saturation had been increased way beyond realism. One or two were gaudy HDRs and several looked like the colors had been painted on. Eleven images fell into the pop category with 7 not popular and 4 popular. I actually expected a higher count for popularity but many of these images which just gaudy with poor realism and poor WB. I suspect they would be more popular with the general public but the forum members usually can look beyond the bright colors. My final category was "super processed". These images go way beyond popped or skillful processing. They are masterpieces of Photoshop processing. All 6 in this category were popular. I am sure that many of those with great processing skills also start with great raw images. I also suspect that many of the images in the plain, unpopular category could have been processed to the super star level.

So I think we have higher standards due to the internet and digital photography and the overall popularity of photography. I also think the standards are moving up due to processing. Maybe there are a few "great" landscapes when the conditions were exceptional and the photographer did everything right. But I think more often the greatness of the images is coming from skilled post processing.






Dec 13, 2012 at 09:09 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #5 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


sadja wrote:
I disagree with your statement

" A landscape must meet very high standards these days to be considered great".

Greatness of an image has to do with vision and impact and almost nothing to do with technical specs or technique. As you point out in your 2nd remark better equipment has not raised your work to the level of art.


But standards is an all inclusive word, I meant it to include artistic as well as technical.



Dec 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #6 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


Camperjim wrote:
Of course we can argue about "standards" needed to be considered as "great" and we can also argue about who should be the judges. Overall I would agree with your premise.

The popularity and capability of the internet means we see many many more images. Images that are very good just get lost in the masses of images we see.

I also know there are lots and lots of enthusiastic photographers. I see them everywhere. I suspect the popularity of photography increased with the internet but I also think digital had a major impact. Film printing and slides were pretty
...Show more

Good points Jim and I am glad you did that research. I have never felt that art or any sort of truth was democratic. IE reducible to a vote or by virtue of popularity.

But then in a general sense what we seem to look for is some sort of voting process. A general acclimation. Some would leave it to a higher level of critics, and I am not adverse to that either.

The fact is, I know what I like almost the instant I see it, and like you, it is often at odds with popularity, either general or refined to experienced critics. In fact I am often more at odds with the knowledgeable critics than others.

I wrote more on this subject but wanted to let it get started first.




Dec 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #7 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


To stand out it must be different. But is it a difference of kind or quality?

There is always a trend to be different, to shock as opposed to improve on what is traditional.

I see modern art forms like fashion, hair styles, furniture, music that are butt ugly to me. I greatly prefer Rachmaninoff to Phillip Glass and donít ask me about Rap. I still like early American furniture and never liked Danish Modern which is probably no longer modern. White mats with a black metal frame is another thing that I consider ugly. So shock/novelty alone does not work for me.

But aside from the novelty/shock factor, is it possible for traditional photo styles to rise above by some factor of quality alone?

This is partly why technology has made a difference. I can use a 35mm DSLR to get technical quality approaching what was once reserved to MF or even LF gear. I need far less skill to do so because much of the hard work is done in the camera.

I had already written this But the next reflects Sadjas point.

But technical quality alone is not enough either. The quality we seek in greatness is in the subject itself in addition to how well it was captured.



Dec 13, 2012 at 09:30 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #8 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


A while back I saw an article in a photo magazine describing the work of several landscape photographers. There images had graced several magazines I'd followed for some years. All of them shot with high-dollar medium format digital backs. I'd noticed that there work was heavily tweaked in Photoshop, but what I didn't realize was how heavily it was manipulated, including heavy use of compositing for some of their most iconic images. In short, to make their landscapes stand out, not only did they spend many tens of thousands on gear, they spent heaps traveling to exotic places. Then they heavily processed and manipulated the images. Naturally, they had to have big dollars to invest. They had to have the skill and eye to make great captures. They had to have the skill and eye to do superior post processing. It took the best of the best to make their landscapes remarkable. The level of the ordinary has risen. It takes a lot to rise above the ordinary. It's always taken a lot. It's just that the bar of what is "a lot" keeps rising. I suspect that's a consequence of more folks with greater and better resources applying themselves and continually upping their game.


Dec 13, 2012 at 09:54 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #9 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


AuntiPode wrote:
A while back I saw an article in a photo magazine describing the work of several landscape photographers. There images had graced several magazines I'd followed for some years. All of them shot with high-dollar medium format digital backs. I'd noticed that there work was heavily tweaked in Photoshop, but what I didn't realize was how heavily it was manipulated, including heavy use of compositing for some of their most iconic images. In short, to make their landscapes stand out, not only did they spend many tens of thousands on gear, they spent heaps traveling to exotic places. Then they
...Show more

Great addition to this, I had not considered how far this extended. I suppose Tiger Wood also needs lots of practice and uses only the best gear.

So is this also the case with other styles beside Landscape? It occurs to me that photojournalism may be one case where the event trumps all. Like a history making shot. But maybe that falls into the same bucket. It takes luck to be there, but it also takes a lot of hard work to make that luck possible. And when it happens, it takes some skill to capture it.



Dec 13, 2012 at 10:00 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #10 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


+1 @ Karen.

I think it is in the vein that increased competition has a natural way of requiring increased distinction to be noticed ... whatever form that be (technical, artistic, different to be different, etc.).

A five minute mile was a big deal a long time ago, so was a 10 second 1/4 mile. By today's eilte standards ... yawn.

"Been there, done that." kinda gets in the way as well. If you recall some of the more iconic shots on Nat Geo ... when someone pulls it off again in the future ... well it just doesn't have quite the same impressiveness to it.

As to the gear ... eh, it helps and it doesn't matter at all.

I'm shooting on a camera's from around 2004 to 2007 and with glass from the 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's.

Having a TS-E is one thing, Knowing how to use it (still learning) is quite another. Sure there are things that I could not do without the TS-E (or other movement glass), but if I lost my TS-E, it wouldn't slow me down very much at all.

Edited on Dec 13, 2012 at 10:43 PM · View previous versions



Dec 13, 2012 at 10:35 PM
 

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ben egbert
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p.1 #11 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


Right, my Toyota Avelon would have done well in 1958 at the local drag strip.

But what level should an amateur aspire too? My answer is the highest attainable. I never set a standard for myself that I could actually attain.

But expectations of attainment are another matter altogether. Itís a goal not a life or death or even a moral attainment we are speaking about.

But what level is required for day to day entry? As Jim's stats point out, only 19 of 50 met the simple popularity test. Should those 31 that failed the popularity test have not posted at all?



Dec 13, 2012 at 10:43 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #12 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


Aspirations ... simple, imo.

Continuous improvement until you're satisfied (or frustrated). Some of us aspire to emulate, and work toward that. Others of us aspire to NOT emulate. Personally, I aspire to increase my "command & control" so that whether I want to emulate or not, I've got the ability to go for it.

I also realize that since I'm on a beer budget ... I'm not likely to ever pull off a shot that looks the same as one from a 400/2.8 or 200/1.8 lens, so it is a waste of my time, money, energy & effort to fret over it. But that's just money ... so who gives a rat's behind. Same goes for a travel budget, etc. It isn't an apples to apples comparison, so I don't worry about it.

My goals are more along the lines of the apprentice / master relationship of the renaissance ... you simply keep learning (and applying), and never stop.

Karate Kid ... "Wax On, Wax Off" ... you just keep putting it in you, so that it is there to use when / how you want / need to use it.



Edited on Dec 13, 2012 at 10:59 PM · View previous versions



Dec 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #13 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


..."upping the bar" is something I have been thinking about lately. A few years ago I joined a camera club. The club had been around for maybe 20 years, but even in the year or so I was a member it was clear the standards were being upped. Members seemed to be getting better and better at photography and it took more than ever to win a competition. I don't think gear had much impact. It seemed to be the individual effort not the gear.

Many years ago I did a competitive sport where gear was almost irrelevant. I competed at a national level at blackpowder rifle matches. The gear was specified and basically unchanged since the era of the mountain men. Even so the bar was constantly being upped. Each year competition scores would get higher and higher. The cumulative effect over 5 or 10 years was quite impressive. I often wondered how this was possible. Our DNA and basic abilities have not changed but the bar goes up. Somehow it takes more dedication and effort to keep up. For some activities maybe the gear is better or there are more participants than ever. That was certainly not the case for blackpowder rifle competition where the gear was fixed and the popularity of the sport was decreasing.

I can think of lots of other human activities where there is an element of competition and winning takes progressively more ability and effort. Photography is not a competitive activity but it is certainly not hard to see that the standards will continue to increase. The improved gear is I think only a minimal factor.

I also don't think this upping of the bar is somehow restricted to landscape photography. In fact wedding photography standards have really upped in the past few years. I would expect to see the same trends for macro, architectural, street, and other forms of photography. I have no idea about photojournalism. I would think that is a struggling field since there are very few magazines or other publications and TV is geared to video.




Dec 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #14 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


+1 Kent.

I suppose I specialize and get the best gear I can afford on a beer budget. Just sold all my bird gear and some primes to pay for a simple set of landscape stuff.

The best thing I could do for landscape is buy a trailer or camper so I could stay on sight longer. But that is not likely.

I have long since known that I am never going to be great, but I would like to be better. Heck I would like to be good enough.

One of the eternal questions for landscape is what the final image should look like. If your native vision is not a popular one, it is not likely to ever become so.



Dec 13, 2012 at 10:57 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #15 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


ben egbert wrote:
If your native vision is not a popular one, it is not likely to ever become so.


If it's truly "my vision" ... do I care?

Have you looked at Kaden's work. He is well to be satisfied with his efforts, yet he perpetually strives to improve ... not a snowball's chance in Southern Utah in July that Kaden's work will become "popular". And not a snowball's chance that the popular masses could ever have the tenacity to do what he does. They'd all be a bunch of quitters as soon as it got tough.

There is "popular" poetry ... and there's other stuff. If they are writing for the purpose of being popular, that's one thing. But whether one becomes popular or not ... I think it is important to know what your true goal is.

There is no doubt, I enjoy an "ooh", "ahh" ... especially when the image met my goals. But if it didn't meet my goals ... all the "ooh, "ahh" in the world just feel like I'm being a bit patronized (although I know they are being honest in their "ooh", "ahh") ... unless my goal was to get an "ooh", "ahh".

There's a lot out there competing for the "ooh", "ahh" ... and sure the bar keeps changing. It doesn't matter if it is incremental or revolutionary, but it does always keep changing.



Dec 13, 2012 at 11:00 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #16 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


Camperjim wrote:
..."upping the bar" is something I have been thinking about lately. A few years ago I joined a camera club. The club had been around for maybe 20 years, but even in the year or so I was a member it was clear the standards were being upped. Members seemed to be getting better and better at photography and it took more than ever to win a competition. I don't think gear had much impact. It seemed to be the individual effort not the gear.

Many years ago I did a competitive sport where gear was almost irrelevant. I competed at
...Show more

I agree with this, its largely from competition, but native ability also plays a part. When I started DSLR in 2004, a guy over at DPreview was using a 10D and 100-400 to get bird shots I never equaled with twice the gear and years of practice. But he just kept getting better.

I suspect I could not beat you with your black powder gun with a match rifle and scope.

Also thinks for answering m original question on other styles.

I suspect I am better at asking these questions than in photography.



Dec 13, 2012 at 11:17 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #17 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


RustyBug wrote:
If it's truly "my vision" ... do I care?

Have you looked at Kaden's work. He is well to be satisfied with his efforts, yet he perpetually strives to improve ... not a snowball's chance in Southern Utah in July that Kaden's work will become "popular". And not a snowball's chance that the popular masses could ever have the tenacity to do what he does. They'd all be a bunch of quitters as soon as it got tough.

There is "popular" poetry ... and there's other stuff. If they are writing for the purpose of being popular, that's one thing. But
...Show more

I need to look up Kaden, never heard the name, but I don't keep up.

+1 one on ohhs and ahhs. Many times it does seem patronizing. I sometimes wish we had a simple thumbs up thumbs down thing. I make it a practice to only comment when I like an image at landscape and say as little as possible.

Over here I go further because it is a critique forum.



Dec 13, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #18 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


I think Karen's post comes closest to what I see happening with photography especially for professional landscape photography. It is not just the camera gear, which I think is often of minor importance, but it is being at the right place at the right time as often as possible and THEN applying some amazing level of transformation due to post processing. I was especially thinking about Tom Till because I visited his gallery in Moab and about Michael Fatali because I visited his gallery in Zion. Both apply very extensive and very complicated post processing techniques. The final images they sell probably have only a faint resemblance to what actually come out of camera. Incidentally I went to look up the spelling of Fatali's name and find that he admitted guilt to setting fires under Delicate Arch and in several places in Canyonlands. He faces tens of thousands in fines and up to 5 years in prison for each incident. It just goes to show how much effort can go into trying to do something different and spectacular.


Dec 13, 2012 at 11:37 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #19 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


Camperjim wrote:
The final images they sell probably have only a faint resemblance to what actually come out of camera.


If you think about it ... how can it come out of their camera any different that it would come out of your camera, if you stood there and took the same shot, same time, same exposure.

We know from our own efforts that what comes out of the camera is rather lackluster until it gets processed ... either by the camera's profile or by our PP efforts. Dynamic processing yields dynamic images. It starts in your mind (your vision), you do what you can to capture it, then you process it. not unlike hunting ... see, capture, process. The difference in good venison jerky or sausage is more about the way it gets flavored ... i.e. S&P to taste ... yum.

If the camera is not going to produce anything different (@ the RAW level) then essentially all the difference must lie in the processing. Until one realized and accepts that aspect ... they'll beat themselves up over their inability to emulate the others.

Same goes for fashion/beauty shots ... the PP is what makes it (beyond the obvious lighting, makeup, clothing, etc.). It is important to know when you are chasing reality vs. chasing the myth. My PP has a long way to go, but I realized quite some time back that it isn't my camera work that keeps me from reaching the next level ... it's my processing. I don't like that answer, because I romanticize with the purist in me ... but it is a truth I must embrace if I truly want to improve.


Edited on Dec 13, 2012 at 11:56 PM · View previous versions



Dec 13, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #20 · Must landscapes meet a higher standard?


ben egbert wrote:
......................

But what level is required for day to day entry? As Jim's stats point out, only 19 of 50 met the simple popularity test. Should those 31 that failed the popularity test have not posted at all?

Obviously my 10 post criterion was arbitrary. I decided to take a look at images with 20 or more posts. I only looked at 10 of these starting on page two of the landscape forum. One I discarded since it was an abstract so I really looked at 11. Of the 10, I would classify 4 of these as skillfully processed images. Actually one of these was Ben's current images from Utah Lake. Ben, nicely done. The other 6 images, I would classify as super processed and had been greatly transformed from whatever came out of camera from however many images needed to be blended.



Dec 13, 2012 at 11:53 PM
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