on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Photographic Glossaries

The power to become expressive

Nick Becker

Nick Becker is a nature photographer and outdoor enthusiast based in St. Louis, Missouri.


I recently finished reading Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks1, a captivating book about the relationship between language and landscape. This relationship is explored through a unique interweaving of two components: chapters and glossaries, each pair focused on a different type of landscape. As I read Landmarks, I was struck by its relevance to modern nature photography. In particular, the book’s glossaries provide a framework for a new way to think about collections of images.

Before exploring this idea further, however, it is important to understand what Landmarks is and what it sets out to accomplish.

Each of its chapters examines the work of an influential author who was fundamentally impacted by the subject landscape, from Nan Shepherd and the rugged Cairngorm Mountains of northeast Scotland to John Muir and the diverse woodlands of the Sierra Nevada. Macfarlane’s nuanced narratives give the reader the context necessary to gain an understanding of how the landscapes captivated these authors, inspired them, and shaped their literary work.

Image 1 Borbhan

Borbhan (Gaelic)
Purling or murmur of a stream.

I am no connoisseur of British literature, which is the chief focus of Landmarks, so I will be the first to recognise that much of the subject matter in these chapters was beyond my immediate grasp. I read with the intent to enjoy as much as I was able to, with enough humility to know that I would not fully appreciate every detail that Macfarlane explores.

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