Landscape photographers presented in this article defined the genre for what it is today. They explore the beauties of nature for the astonishing visual results. Much like portraiture and fashion photography, landscape photography is an almost mandatory genre for photographers during the formation of their professional careers. And not just photography - nature has always been a great source of inspiration for artists of all kinds, since the dawn of time. Its beauty, wonders, endless secrets, remarkable variety and vastness beyond imagination grace so many canvases, papers, screens, shape many stones and metals, and are told through endless streams of words. And it is because of its characteristic that depicting it the right way became a form of art, especially in photography. It might look easy, but there are so many factors determining breathless landscape photography - from the amount of light (the famous “the golden hours”) to the choice of lens, exposure, format, color range, position, framing… And the just right combination of these elements creates all the incredible interpretations of landscape we witness through the evolution of contemporary photography. Whether they’re black and white or color images, they often end up in the fine art photography category for their great impact and extraordinary appeal.
Want to learn how to master landscape photography yourself? Here's our book tip!
Editors’ Tip: Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters
Landscape photography truly is art and science combined. Legends like Ansel Adams and his contemporaries Edward Weston and Eliot Porter pioneered this form of expression to perfection, and now, the second edition of the bestselling book Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters will demonstrate what can be learned from the working processes of these masters, and how their lessons on light, composition, and mood can be applied today. As one of Adams' natural successors in the field, Michael Frye's own photography provides many stunning examples of the results that can be achieved. This new edition is enhanced with more discussions of the Zone system, including information about testing your digital camera’s true dynamic range.
Featured image: Ansel Adams - Wilderness, CA. June 2012, Near Thousand Island Lake, via Jeff P
I really can’t even think of landscape photography without Ansel Adams. The American photographer was, and still is, widely celebrated across his beloved homeland, for preserving the country’s natural treasures through his photographs. Ansel Adams was also an environmentalist, which is so visible in his work.
His images are full of detail, depth and very contrasted, thanks to a technique called Zone System, which he developed to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final prints of his photographs.
He also founded Group f/64 (referring to exposure value), consisting of seven other fellow photographers, like Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston. The group promoted a new Modernist aesthetic based on precision in exposure. Ansel Adams died in 1984, at the age of 82.
Featured image: Ansel Adams, Wikimedia Commons; Ansel Adams - The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942, Wikimedia Commons.
You probably heard of Andreas Gursky because his 1999 photograph, Rhein II, held the record of being the most expensive photograph in the world, having been sold for $4.3 million in 2011 (the first place is now owned by Peter Lik’s Phantom). This German photographer works in color, and his images are fairly large and almost abstract in composition, geometry and, just, perfect. Andreas Gursky translates nature into textures, lines, shapes and chunks of colors of impossible explanation, even though there actually is one. Aside from taking advantage of elevated shooting points, he digitally manipulates his photographs, eliminating the unnecessary elements of it in order to create his visions, untouched by man. Many times, his works call to mind great works of impressionism and pointillism.
Featured images: Andreas Gursky, Wikimedia Commons
Like August Sander was in charge of making an archive of German citizens of the 20th century, Bernd and Hilla Becher’s job was to document the country’s disappearing architecture. They were a married couple of conceptual artists and founders of the Dusseldorf School of Photography, whose images of buildings and other industrial structures immersed in nature were done with such dedication and attention to detail. Many consider their photographs to be portraits, rather than documentaries. Often constructing a collage, the photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher called for the preservation of many of the buildings they immortalized on paper, and for several of them, they secured a bright future and existence.
Featured images: Bernd & Hilla Becher receive the Erasmus Prize 2002 from Prince Bernhard (the Netherlands). Photograph- Courtesy of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, 2002, Wikimedia Commons; Bernd, Hilla Becher, Lime Kiln, Harlingen, Northern Holland, 1900, via BM .
In my feature on Sebastião Salgado, I reviewed the extraordinary career of this brilliant artist. Strongly and clearly influenced by Ansel Adams, he creates imagery that takes your breath away.
What adds additional value to his work is the fact that his photographs capture nature from all around the world, its hidden corners and the most remote areas, unspoiled by humankind.
The art of Sebastião Salgado lures in black and white contrasts, light, shadows, rich details and amazing views, and he too has a hidden agenda - to save our planet’s dying wildlife. His series Genesis, created between 2004 and 2011, salutes human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. He lives and works in his homeland Brazil.
Featured images: Sebastião Salgado, Wikimedia Commons; Sebastião Salgado - Pedaços, via cvpts
If there’s a photographer who used the medium to make proper abstract works, then it’s Mario Giacomelli. This Italian photographer was self-taught, whose art was inspired by the Neo-Realist films of Rossellini and De Sica. His images of the community of Scanno are as famous as his images of landscape, in a strong contrast that turns almost everything into black and white photography, and where only small details are left undefined by the exposure. The aerial images of fields and arable land are a proper form of abstract, black and white images that look like pencil drawings and are often unrecognizable at first glance. Mario Giacomelli is celebrated in Italy, and his works are part of many museum collections, like the MoMA and the MET in New York.
Featured images: Mario Giacomelli, Wikimedia Commons
Galen Rowell was an American wilderness photographer and climber, who began doing professional nature photography in 1972. The same year saw his cover story in National Geographic. Considering himself a great adventurer, he was also a writer of topics regarding humanitarian and environmental issues and mountaineering, having published eighteen books and numerous magazine articles. Many of his photographs depict natural events that have to do with light, such as thunderstorms and rainbows and other optical phenomena. The photos of Galen Rowell are of great beauty, where landscapes are soaked in color and glow in all their power. He was killed in a plane crash near the Inyo County Airport in Bishop, California, on August 11, 2002, along with three other people.
Featured image: Image via National Geographic
Mostly known for his still lives of vegetables taken in the studio and for, you know, being one of the most influential photographers of all time, Edward Weston also produced some of the world’s most famous landscape photographs.
His fascination with highly detailed forms and shapes, highlighted by just the right amount of light, make his images so realistic and alive - you feel like you can almost touch them.
For a period of his life, he was a companion of Tina Modotti, and the two artists influenced each other greatly during that time. His photographs were very curated, characterized by long exposures calculated by the exposure meters, carefully printed in platinum and from 1946, carried out from a brand new Kodachrome filmstrip. Edward Weston died in 1958, ten years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Featured images: Edward Weston after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1937, via cea +.
Sandra Senn is a Swiss photographer who mostly works with composed elements of architecture and nature.
But when there’s no architecture, her images depict the pureness of landscape.
Against the natural background, Sandra Senn selects an alteration compared to the image of the uncontaminated nature through its human intervention: dams, slopes with chair lifts and snow cannons, artificial bathing vessels and gravel pits. At this point she adds and edits a shot with medium-format real landscapes on the computer. Mostly she captures that moment in which the intervention made by the subject standing in the picture illustrates the country itself. Sandra Senn currently lives and works in Berlin and Zurich.
Featured image courtesy of sandrasenn.com
Where there’s artistic landscape photography, there is Per Bak Jensen, Denmark’s leading photographer in the field. Born in 1949, he was one of the pioneers of landscape photography, and what’s extraordinary about him is that he never manipulates his photographs once they have been taken. They show nature’s true state, depicted through very polished, yet untouched images. Per Bak Jensen is known for his series of Copenhagen’s parks, cemeteries and areas around museums and monuments, deserted and haunting. His art was once described as “metaphysical realism”, where the photographer creates surreal scenery out of pure realism. He is also the master of turning banality into exceptional, carefully choosing the subjects of his work.
Featured image: via galleryhip
Lois Conner is an American photographer who uses the 7” x 17” format for her platinum-printed cityscapes. She has worked in countries like Vietnam and China, where she got particularly inspired by Ming dynasty paintings. Lois Conner also explored the American West and the Native American Reservations, working and camping along the way. Her architectural photography address the infrastructural changes caused by the economy. The panoramic format of her photographs allows her to incorporate a great amount of detail in a frame and to depict cities and its difficulties, as well as those of the countryside. Lois Conner had numerous exhibitions in many noted museums worldwide, and her work can be found in many important collections.
Featured images: St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, 2010. Courtesy of Gitterman Gallery; Cappadocia, Anatolia, Turkey, 1989. Courtesy of Gitterman Gallery. All images used for illustrative purposes only.