Can one communicate the experience of Nature through a photograph?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, Jul 28, 2016.

  1. We have all come back from outings only to find that our photos do not begin to do justice to the reality that we saw. We also cannot begin to recreate the openness of mountaintops, the coolness of dry air through canyons or along streams, etc.
    Nature cannot be brought back into our living rooms or be put up on our computer screens. Yet, yet, we keep trying. Once in a while we do pretty well.
    HERE is one by Larry Greenbaum that speaks to me. It speaks to me in part because I have memories of being in places that looked like this. I remember not only how it looked but also how it felt. I am sure that all of that plays a part in my appreciation of his photo, because the photo helps me remember how I felt. I am not sure how well one can communicate nature to those who have had little or or no experience of the kind of natural subject being displayed, whether it be a mountain, ocean, desert, stream, or something else.
    Please post photos of some of your efforts when explaining your point of view, where applicable. If not, at least please do give us your thoughts on the inherent difficulty of capturing nature in two dimensions--and how we might do better.
    I don't mind (at all!) theoretical speculation here, but I would love to see some good practical tips that people have learned from doing nature and landscape photography--along with samples/examples of images that drive home their points.
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    The total "universe" of the outdoor experience cannot be captured in two dimensions. Best you can hope for is to call up the viewer's experiences so that their mind fills in the sensory "blanks" a photo can't capture. A number of Michail Lipakis' sailboat images do that for me. I can almost feel the wind and smell the sea, hear the slap of the waves and creaking of the rigging.
  3. Lannie, whatever one does is subjective. I send some really cool shots from G. Canyon (river level) to a cousin in Europe. Clastrophobia!!!....was her response. My practical tip is to shoot for yourself....and if someone respects it and enjoys it....that's great too.
  4. Perhaps, Lannie, a clue to why viewers share, at least to some extent, how the photographer experienced nature is that they've been to the same location. Is this too simplistic? A viewer may not particularly like the image below, but having been to the summit of Whiteside Mountain near Highlands, NC, the viewer may get a sense of the experience that motivated the photographer to shoot it.
  5. I must add that, having been here during November of 2014, my son's wedding wasn't far from my mind (on 11/02/2014). That obviously had an effect on my perception, so it's unlikely the viewer would haver picked up on it. Otherwise, I was awed by both the summit and the fuzzy appearance and colors of the mountains across the valley.
  6. We have all come back from outings only to find that our photos do not begin to do justice to the reality that we saw. We also cannot begin to recreate the openness of mountaintops, the coolness of dry air through canyons or along streams, etc.​
    It's surprisingly simple to do justice to the reality of a landscape by studying the depth perception techniques photo realistic landscape painters employ.
    Foreground elements have higher contrast and clarity than background elements such as distant trees that diminishes gradually into the distance the rate of which is determined by character of light, air clarity and distance to horizon.
    Some examples linked below from frequent LuLa contributor Erik Kaffehr demonstrates this effect quite beautifully. This gentle style of tonal rendering is also apparent in shots of the Grand Canyon taken by Derek von Briesen where both photographers best convey the presence, ambiance and depth in landscapes with a 3D quality. There are others who render this way with more consistency image to image, but the two I've linked to are a quick find for me.;topic=111143.0;attach=146110;image
  7. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Philosophically speaking it is possible to map 4 dimensions into 2. For example
    A(w,x,y,z) |-> B(w+x, y+z)
    But, as you can see, you will lose some information.
  8. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    Here I tried to show some of the beauty of this place and include some of the impact of human activity. As far as tips...slow down, use a tripod and wait for the light.
  9. This question opened a market for Outdoor Photography Magazine, now titled Outdoor Photographer. There I see some of the best attempts at rendering scenes of incredible natural beauty in two dimensions. As a tent camper, mountain biker and hiker I sought ways to express what I encountered through color photography for decades, and rarely felt successful. This image of the Tuolumne Meadows in evening still takes me back to the Toga Pass. But others might just see it as a mediocre landscape photo. The answer to your question probably lies with each person's inner cues about remembered places and experiences, when viewing a photo.
  10. I have mountain biked through the same woodsy park along the Mississippi every day since about 2005 with my dog except when there is too much snow in the winter to bike. I have noticed that no matter what spot you are looking at, it will change almost hourly as the angle of the sun changes, the clouds move in or out, etc. Also, the seasons change the look of the landscape dramatically, and even subtlety in smaller increments from week to week. Even moment to moment changes such as wind can change the look of the landscape. Its almost impossible to take the same image twice. All this gives a photographer plenty of opportunity to capture interesting views, textures, colors and so on.
  11. Nature is not the same as the OP's 'experience of nature.' One is wine; the other is what it feels like to be drunk.

    Although not the same quality as Mr. Greenbaum's photo, it has some of the same elements; sun shining on distant trees,
    a river that bends into the unknown...
    The attempt on my part was to depict a peaceful moment along a trail that occasionally resembled a superhighway of hikers.
  13. Much depends on the nature of the audience. An urban person that rarely if ever actually visits natural mountain locations will simply not be able to relate much to a typical scenic mountain landscape even though they immediately recognize the aesthetic beauty. On the other hand the visual minds of an audience of mountain enthusiasts immediately recognize with familiarity much in such image frames. But show that urban person an image of a typical city park with people in the foreground sitting on a park bench with tall buildings in the background and they may readily relate to what they are looking at.

    Most outdoor images are not meant to make an audience feel like they are actually sitting in front of whatever scene. But there are some standard technique images that will. Large highly detailed prints made with large format equipment viewed close with a highly detailed foreground and receding frame elements that lead the viewer out into the distance can provide that feel. That is what your example image looking up the stream surrounded trees helps with. It is a favorite strategy of large format view camera landscape photographers and I have many such images. This is just one example:


    Of course the above downsized for web image does not show the detail I am referring to but it does show the structure of such images. My intent here was to have the viewer feel like they were sitting on the turfy timberline grass and to help that my 4x5 view camera was set rather low at about 15 inches or so. Generally the more detail in images the larger the image the more an audience will feel an image gets closer to the actual visual experience.
  14. The simple answer is no. There is no way that a two dimensional representation can come close to being in nature. With all the tricks of composition and Photoshop, a photo is still only a record that can but approximate the view and few do that. The most popular landscape photos represent a scene that few actually see. That lovely early morning light is only seen by photographers. Colors are never accurate, not really, and often amped up in post. Why do so many landscape photo carefully omit any trace of human presence? It's always there, of only the trail hiked in on.
    Then there's the simple fact that the feel of the wind, the scent of earth or grass or pines or water is totally absent. We miss the sound of the running stream or the breeze through the pines.
  15. The simple answer is no. There is no way that a two dimensional representation can come close to being in nature.​
    Since I found out in another thread the link to my landscape requires login to view which means quite a few folks didn't get to see it, I'll post the alternate link...
    I believe this shot comes the closest I've ever felt a landscape communicate the experience of nature through a photograph.
    That hobbyist photographer (Erik Kaffehr) gallery of similar shots does so as well...

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