What is the purpose of landscape photography? Is it the act of capturing the natural world? Or is it the act of creating art? Is it perhaps both?
I think that many of us come to landscape photography through an appreciation for the outdoors and the quality of the light we enjoy. Photography seems to be a natural progression to want to be able to capture what we saw and felt.
Some of us, like myself, come to photography through art. As a young kid, I was always drawing and painting, and when I was around eight years old, I was dabbling with charcoal pencils and paper and oil paints that my aunt Helen would send me (she married a famous painter). So for me, the art world had been part of my creative outlet from an early age and when I came to photography, it was through a love of the beautiful art that Ansel Adams created. In his pictures I saw the same application to composition as I had studied while drawing still life's and painting pictures. Photography was a new way of painting pictures. I was drawn to the interpretive side of it from the beginning.
Even though many of us come to landscape photography through an appreciation for nature, I believe there is still space in our lives for the manufactured landscape.
Although I do love nature, and think that there is so much beauty in nature's 'randomness', I do however think that manufactured landscapes can also possess beauty. even though they are deliberate (read contrived) constructions.
In the case of my two photographs shown in today's post, there is very little about this scene that is natural. The tree has been carefully planted in a farmers field. It has been manicured to be a precise shape. I think why this location works is because of its contrived-ness rather than in spite of it. There is symmetry present, and I would go as far as to suggest that somehow, we all picture Christmas tree's as having perfectly symmetrical shapes. I think we would also like to believe that out there somewhere is the perfect Christmas tree, sitting in its own space. Well, now you know it exists: this place is indeed called the Christmas tree of Biei, Hokkaido.
But there is still one more aspect to this scene which makes it appealing. Despite it being a manufactured landscape, there is still a degree of nature at play here: the properties of light are at play here and the atmosphere of the location is wonderful as a result. It was an overcast morning with very very soft light. While I was there, I could not discern any difference between the ground and the sky as both were full of snow. With such soft wonderful light, the tree cast a diffused shadow on the ground. It was as if I was being shown the basic properties of shadow and light.
And so, I can't help but think that the reason why I love images like these, is because they are an interesting mix of the manufactured and the natural. They blur boundaries and make me look again. To the viewer who knows nothing about this location, it could simply be a rare occasion where nature has produced something so aesthetically pleasing, and I think the uncertainty of how natural a scene this is, intrigues us.
Isn't there space in our lives for images where the landscape has been constructed?
I think so.
In fact, I think that if an image is compelling in some way, perhaps because it is at odds with nature, then that can be a good thing.