During one of my photographic outings, I met a young photographer on location and, as photographers do, we started a very interesting conversation. Opinions were flying in all directions and so were thoughts and points of view. One view that was coming across from him very clearly was his opinion of a good landscape photograph: a photographer had to be on location during the golden hours and the sky had to have immensely coloured clouds, which occurs usually around thirty minutes before sunrise and after sunset.
Of course, I do not oppose the idea of having a sky with outstanding colours in the frame; who would not want that. I disagree, however, that this is the only time that landscape photography should be executed. After all, I have discovered personally the hard way that, if you are a resident of Scotland, then colourful skies are few and far between.
Genres & Subgenres
I tried to explain that he might have been confusing landscape photography with skyscape photography. Landscape photography includes a variety of genres and sub-genres and is definitely not dependent on colourful skies. It was at this point that I mentioned black and white photography and the length of time it dominated our world; undoubtedly that did not rely on colourful skies.
I tried to explain also that landscape photography is what we make of it. It is all about the subject, shapes, patterns, textures and obviously, the way we portray a landscape or even a part of it: that it is all about the way we see landscape and the way we convey it through our images.
At this point, a fine glow with beautiful colours was brewing on the horizon but, to him, this was not enough. I set up my camera quickly and took a photograph that included two thirds of the colourful glow and a small amount of land; he really liked it. Then, I changed the camera’s picture style to monochrome and took the same picture again. It was obvious that, although the composition was exactly the same, he did not like it. I explained that this was due to the fact that the subject was not powerful enough and was dependent upon the colourful sky to provide us with an eye pleasing picture.
It was then time for both of us to concentrate on capturing a photograph; after all, this was the reason we were there in the first place.
I need to mention here that the location was the little fishing village of Elgol on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. This is a well-known location for landscape photographers. The rough coastline, in combination with the spectacular backdrop view of the Black Cuillin Hills, can be every landscape photographer’s utopia. However, Elgol, and the Isle of Skye in general, is notorious for unpredictable weather. I have visited Elgol on about twenty occasions and only on a handful of those was I lucky enough to witness decent weather, it being mostly “moody”, as I describe it.
The Final Capture
Finally, I managed to capture on that day the photograph you see here. I loved the lines on the rocks that lead the eye into the picture, the almost rounded rock in the centre of the frame with the reflecting light on it and the depth the composition provides. The glowing colour along the horizon line was more than enough for me. Besides, when there is not much colour in the sky, we can keep it to a minimum and concentrate on the landscape subject itself.
Experience has taught me that I should never have high expectations when it comes to landscape photography and weather, but accept gladly what nature offers on each occasion.
Nicely put! Also thanks for describing what it is about your picture in this article that was pleasing to you. Very insightful!
Spot on Dimitri. A great description of landscape photography. Some people are totally obsessed by having to shoot only at golden hour and looking at their images I wonder why they bothered as their results are usually poor with bad composition etc.
Thank you all for your comments and lovely remarks.
Great article Dimitri. Probably one of the best descriptions of landscape photography I have read or heard. Thank you.
Very true, I find the best photos come from the times you arrive at a location and are blown away by the sights in front (or behind) of you.
Never mind if it’s the wrong time of day, if it impresses you, you stand a good chance of making a good image. If you put restrictions on your photography, like time of day, must have a blurry sea or waterfall etc, you are limiting the possibilities.
Thank you for your article Dimitri. You are right, you cannot always count on the weather, but that is also part of the challenge—to see what is out there in a way that shows the beauty in any landscape. You may not always get to it but it’s sure wonderful to try.