on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Landscape and the Picturesque

Joe Cornish and Borrowdale Fells

Thomas Peck

The real pleasure of photography is that it forces me to slow down and really look. That’s never easy in our rushed world, so a chance to stop, look and see is truly valuable.


Borrowdale Fells, from Castle Crag, Lake District, late autumn.

For a magazine dedicated to landscape photography, it is perhaps occasionally worth asking the question, why bother photographing the landscape, what’s it all for? And what does landscape photography mean, for the photographer, but also for the viewer? Charlie Waite gave a most succinct answer, at least from the photographer’s point of view, in his book Seeing Landscapes:

Photographing the landscape should give you pleasure ~ Charlie Waite

I’m sure this works for all of us: the sense of being there, seeking to marry the fleeting experience of the moment with our technical mastery of the camera.

However, the viewer’s reaction to an image is slightly more complicated to disentangle. The viewer is not there, may well be completely oblivious to the technical skill of the photographer, and yet still has an aesthetic response to the resulting image. This is why it’s interesting to analyse the mood that pictures create, the feelings they inspire, and to link that back to the decisions the photographer must have made at the moment of making the image. A case in point is Joe Cornish’s image: Borrowdale Fells, from Castle Crag, Lake District, late autumn. (see above) There is a soft, wistful feel to this image, tranquillity and quietness - it is all very peaceful. An image of subtlety rather than explosive drama. Why is it so pleasing? Compositionally, the picture is very contained. The eye is perhaps drawn first to the sunlit foreground area bottom left, with the tiny sparkle of light reflecting off the beck and the warm-toned trees and heather.

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