John Greengo, an international photography educator, describes three approaches to nature and landscape photography; the grandiose landscape, the intimate landscape and specific details. A story on different levels, which may be dictated by the conditions you find on the day.
Back in the early summer of this year I got up early to go and photograph England’s biggest waterfall; High Force in Teesdale, surely therefore an opportunity for the grandiose image? Well yes… and no. I’ve been here before for one thing, and so has everyone else so my chances of an original outcome were limited. Most visitors park in the same place, and follow the same path, to the same viewing area, and even those more adventurous souls who descend to the riverside rocks tread a path that has been covered many times previously.
So I rebelled. I parked further downstream; beyond the torrent’s smaller sibling Low Force, and found a small bridge to cross the river with the intention of finding a new (for me at least) vantage point, and a much higher one at that.
In my favour the skies ahead of me looked full of rain. It wasn’t forecast so I was at risk of a drenching but at least I’d have some drama in my pictures.
My goal of finding a high vantage point meant a lot of climbing and so I concentrated on reaching my objective as quickly as I could, probably missing opportunities to left and right as I went, but there was one that I couldn’t forego. It wasn’t as close as I’d have liked but I was thrilled to find this small doe just before the summit of my climb. I stopped immediately and so did she. What’s more she froze there long enough for me to walk on sufficiently to get a decent angle.
And then onto the small rocky platform that was the objective of my journey. I set up my tripod and laid out my filter collection and began shooting, switching from landscape to portrait, wide to telephoto to find a shot that I liked. Which is when I became aware of voices just behind me. Both photographers.
Expecting that Nadia and her son Vladimir would be wanting my same viewpoint I hurried to grab my shots. I’d needn’t have worried; they were intent on continuing to the head of the falls and shooting back towards me. No matter, I made two new friends and wished I’d photographed Nadia who had the most piercing blue eyes but I was here for the landscape.
Was it grandiose? That’s a subjective question of course, but for me the narrowness of the channel carved out by all of that water creates a more restricted view. What’s more those dark clouds were rapidly blowing away to the north so I soon found myself reaching instead for my telephoto to increase the drama in my image.