on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

End frame: Taos Gorge, taken in 2007 near Taos, New Mexico by Jack Spencer

David Fanning chooses one of his favourite images

David Fanning

I started learning about photography as a way to better illustrate the presentations I was making about long backpacking trips. I wanted to improve at capturing the grand landscapes these trips offered. Unexpectedly, I find I now mostly ignore the grand landscapes. I prefer the intimate landscapes that connect me more personally to what I value in nature.


I didn't begin to take photography seriously until a couple of years ago when I retired and started hiking most summers on the 500-mile Colorado Trail. Like most outdoor photographers, I imagined I'd become the next Ansel Adams. I aspired to portray the great landscape vistas of the trail.

As a "serious" photographer, I started to acquire photo books as an important part of my photography education. Most of these were by photographers I wanted to emulate. One of the books I acquired, however, was This Land: An America Portrait by Jack Spencer. This book was a revelation to me and has changed my photographic trajectory, or at least the way I think about photographs. Spencer, a self-acknowledged "pictorialist at heart," captures in his images more than a landscape. He manages to capture, especially in his images of the American West where I grew up, my sense of what has happened to America and the American landscape.

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