In preparing the summer photo-tour in Auvergne for Nordic Vision,I had set Intimate Landscapes as being one of the themes covered during the week: what an intimate landscape was and how to create a well-balanced intimate landscape composition. As the programme of the tour unfolded, and as the participants were getting deeper and deeper into their own creations, we soon realized that what each and every one of us had a different definition of Intimate Landscapes were. Indeed it turned out that during other photo-tours and other photo-presentations, fellow photographers had given their own personal idea of what an intimate landscape was, just the way I did last July.
The question still stands : what is an intimate landscape ?
The answer does not seem as obvious as it seems, especially if I recall the lively discussions I had with the participants of the tour last summer. There were so many different definitions, so many different approaches even. As everybody had a representation of what a landscape was, we could settle a point there. I therefore came to the conclusion that the word intimate was the catch.
Perceptions of what intimate is are obviously very personal. A feeling of intimacy can be fed by a certain atmosphere, certain colors, certain elements or certain details in a landscape. All these personal elements make intimate landscape photography very interesting. You have to study the landscape scenes more carefully and focus on the scene that best defines an intimate landscape in your eyes.
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When looking at my intimate landscape images one can say that I am not a large scale landscape photographer. On the contrary I tend to zoom in. Very often my eyes are attracted by a detail amidst a wider landscape. Combined with a certain atmosphere, depending on my mood, this can be colors, or light or just a nice form in nature. Then I translate this scene into a realistic, graphical or abstract image. For me, an intimate landscape is a combination of all the above, including the emotions I feel at the very moment I create that intimate shot.
To deepen the subject, I asked some of my fellow photographers to give their point of view on the matter. Hans Strand was the first to reply, and that was not a coincidence I think. A lot of Hans’s work is a very good example of intimate landscape photography. His latest book INTIMATE I features a great selection of intimate landscapes.
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‘Intimate Landscapes images are more about reflection of the photographer way of seeing rather than the greatness of the subject. When horizons are excluded, nature is scaled down and the feeling of location is lost, then poetry can take over like a whispering that makes an impression, with ingredients of complexity and composition, rather than a dramatic large scale landscape in seductive light. Forest and trees are also favourite subjects who fits within the definition of intimate landscapes. Maybe it is the feeling of comfort I am getting from the trees around me, but working in a forest makes me both relaxed and concentrated. However the untamed chaos of a forest, needs a lot of analysing to come out as a well composed image…‘ – Hans Strand.
Kyle McDougall and Orsolya Haarberg also gave their thoughts about intimate landscape photography. For Orsolya intimate landscapes photographs are peaceful, calm images, they have a softness that comes from her personal use of colors.
‘The qualities are embodied by shades of grey, white and pastels which are the natural colours of the rocks, so I usually only need to find shape to the colours, as I did in the case the image blow. When you photograph intimate landscapes you use your camera to arrange nature’s elements to a structure that makes them meaningful. The only thing you need to do is to distil the essence of the scene and carefully compose your image. You to simplify things – frame a pattern, that you find the most powerful in a landscape, a single motive that attracts your eyes’ – Orsolya Haarberg.
Kyle refers to intimate landscapes as images that reveal particular features or details in nature that are not highly visible to the untrained eye. They reveal a slice of nature that can easily go unnoticed; rocks, leaves, trees or any collection of elements that are separated from the chaos by use of lines, colors, patterns and light. These images do not need to be strictly detail or macro shots, but rather can take a number of subjects and create a larger scene out of them. On the other hand, ‘grand landscapes” like waterfalls, mountains and dramatic coastlines all jump out of the page at first glance and typically are worked into wider compositions more easily.
‘ I think there’s huge benefits for photographers in creating these type of images. They certainly can be more challenging and require you to study the landscape in depth which can help you develop your creative eye. In my opinion, these types of images rely on the use of patterns and light. You need to study you surroundings and figure out the best way to’ organize the chaos’. Light and weather can play a huge role in this. For example, fog can simplify an otherwise busy forest scene and really create a surreal mood and help isolate subjects’ – Kyle McDougall.
As I’m starting preparing for my next workshop, the issue of intimate landscapes still hangs over my head and makes my programme a little more thrilling. What if intimate landscape photography was just a very personal, an almost intimate translation of the relationship a photographer has with the subject in his/her viewfinder? Intimacy as part of the creative process, intimacy as the last resort before pressing the shutter button. That can be a nice exercise for the participants of my next workshop to wrack their brains upon.
(Text and Images by Kristel Schneider with text adaption by Fabienne Rousseau)