Death Valley 2019: (Day 1)

Alan Clark

Member
Registered User
Right at the beginning of the video Mr Horne comes up with a recipe (his word) for a successful landscape photograph.
A compelling subject.
Ideal composition.
Good light.

No doubt many landscape photographers do follow this recipe or something similar. This is why you see so many photographs, Mr. Horne's included, that have little or no individuality. They all look like they were taken by the same person, because they were all working to the same recipe. In the case of Mr. Horne, the photographs are technically very good, very pleasant and very easy to look at. But rather bland, and inconsequential.

Photographers who go beyond this don't follow a recipe. They find a way to get their work to express what they feel about what they are photographing, and to communicate something that can't be expressed in words.
Great landscape photographers don't need what Mr. Horne describes as a compelling subject. They take the ordinary and mundane and make it compelling. When Blakemore, for example, photographed an ordinary rock in a stream, he transformed it into something entirely extraordinary. There is no recipe for how to do this...

Alan
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Interesting comment, Alan. I think we've just been saying that Mr Horne actually avoids the ostensibly "compelling" subject. No Half Domes, no rock arches at sunrise. No sunrises at all. He may have done himself a disservice by using the particular word.
Perhaps he means compelling to him. His videos show how long he seems to spend prospecting for subjects, and some of them are very slight in terms of compulsion. I suspect we'd not contest the need for light and composition.
He is working in a particular tradition of valorising (horrid word!) the natural landscape. I'm not quite sure how to express it without entering Pseud's Corner but I suggest that Mr Blakemore has used his photography to explore an inner landscape. He says something about this in, for example, Wounds of Trees.

It may be inconsequential, but I've noticed that many photographers nowadays speak of finding "a composition" rather than a picture or an image. Does this indicate a different attitude or is it merely a change in linguistic fashion?
 

Alan9940

Active Member
Registered User
Wow, the thoughts presented here define why I like participating on this board; intriguing, thought provoking, and downright interesting to read! My only “criticism” of someone like Mr. Horne is that his main goal seems to be making pretty pictures. He’s trying to scratch out some sort of living from his photography—nothing wrong with that—but, IMO that pursuit tends to drive the images you make; in other words, ones that sell. All these guys are “Tubers” and trying to gain a large audience. I wish them all the best, but it’s not for me.

I have a Fred Picker print hanging in my home that I remember him commenting to me that it was one of his favorites and, as such, he rarely sold a copy! He had many other examples of more “approacheable” subject matter that sold very well. You know...waterfalls and such! ;) Again, not my cup of tea. I much prefer any art (don’t particularly care for that word) to reveal itself after long contemplation. I’ve had several examples of photographs by very well known photographers hanging in my home for nearly 40 years that I still delight in to this day. If the work can hold my interest for that long, well...
 

Alan Clark

Member
Registered User
When I first became interested in photography I used to take my camera on holiday. After all, who wouldn't want to photograph beautiful places like Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands? But eventually it dawned on me that I could find no good reason to photograph these places because they held no personal connection for me. I was much happier photographing things close to home, that I could visit and re-visit. Places I have known since childhood. My photographs may not be of instantly recognisable places, but they mean something to me, and I'm happy with that.
I realise that my approach doesn't suit everyone. I know people who regularly go to all kinds of exotic places just to take photographs. When I was in a camera club I saw dozens of photos of sand dunes in Namibia, Bryce Canyon, Antarctica, Iceland, etc. Some people love this kind of photography, and good luck to them. But it's not for me.
And I'll say one thing. Photographing what is on your doorstep is a lot cheaper....!

Alan
 

Alan9940

Active Member
Registered User
Bravo, Alan, couldn't have said it better myself! The best complement I've ever received regarding my own work was from a friend who said, "Ya know, I've walked by that same subject many times and never saw it that way."
 

JimW

Member
Registered User
Diff'rent strokes, diff'rent folks. As a professional, Mr Horne markets his 'brand' to many and various. If I recall correctly, Intrepid supplied him with the 10x8 in exchange for services rendered. They want to sell cameras, and Mr Horne wants traffic to his 'brand'. Some of this traffic will be beginners wanting to find out 'what works', others will be improvers looking for the next stage in their photographic journey. Eventually we realise that we don't have to justify OUR images to anyone but OURselves... Hence the term amateur, we do it for the love of it. But Mr Horne is a professional, and he has customers, which he has to satisfy if he wants to be paid. Different set of parameters for amateurs, different set of parameters for professionals.
If he provides images which sell and thus pay the mortgage (or at least pay for a $9000 camera which he leaves out overnight in the windy, dusty desert - WHAT?) then he is a successful professional photographer. Is he an outstanding artist within the photographic world?
I would not presume to impute motive to Mr Horne, but if he intends to be something other than a successful professional photographer (has he ever stated he wants to be uniquely artistic?) then his aim must be clearly stated - this is MY personal work....
Satisfaction comes in many forms, paycheque being one of many. Speaking (probably too) personally, I get my kicks from the looks on my friends' faces when I hand over a black and white silver gelatin photograph of a portrait of them, or more often their kids.
Priceless.


 

Alan Clark

Member
Registered User
Bravo, Alan, couldn't have said it better myself! The best complement I've ever received regarding my own work was from a friend who said, "Ya know, I've walked by that same subject many times and never saw it that way."
Alan, that would be a complement to be proud of. Especially if your friend was a photographer.

Alan
 

Alan Clark

Member
Registered User
Hi Jim,
I understand that Mr. Horne is trying to make a living out of this, and this no doubt has an influence on the kind of photographs he makes. What worries me slightly is that there are lots of aspiring amateur photographers out there who are looking for guidance and see his photographs and think "This is what I should be doing". Then their photographs come out just like other people's work, and they lose the chance to do something of a more personal nature
I know we do seem to go on a bit about John Blakemore, but his strength as a teacher is that he does try to get people to find their own vision and approach......Not that finding your own way is all sweetness and light. It can be very time-consuming and a lot of hard work at times!

Alan
 

Darren Lewey

New Member
Registered User
I shall throw in these excerpts from an article I've written for OnLandscape, which although on the subject of narrative image making, includes some useful links to the discussion here.

'I should point out that I’m not advocating dispensing with excursions into nature’s finest landscapes. The pleasure and mindfulness is essential for some of us and the compositional benefits of training your eye will provide a great foundation for future work. But these trips abroad and into the wilds of your home country should perhaps include a desire to see beyond the obvious and to think about how framing directs the viewer towards metaphor and meaning. Moreover there is surely the struggle to convey meaning within more spectacular locations as many of us cannot connect with wild and remote places. I admire the best imagery from Iceland but cannot derive much meaning, perhaps because it doesn’t relate to my experiences. I would imagine there’s an element of cultural approximation to this, with audiences from further north reading images differently.

For both approaches keep a sense of visual refrain in your kitbag. Sometimes an image thrives on less is more and by not showing the subject or scene in its entirety. However, I would say that clarity of vision is a bigger tool. We also like to be intellectually challenged as well as visually sated. This is something that the photographic landscape community could introduce more into their work. It’s partly why the art world in most cases, rarely accepts straight landscape photography. There are simply not enough embedded ideas, either visually or conceptually. I would argue one should strive for both. There is also the curse of repeating an aesthetic. Again I would reference Paul Hill and how a particular landscape look has become a commodity. Instead his work from the 70’s offers division within his landscape framing. It looks radical compared to current approach to composing landscape imagery.'

Having studied under J.Blakemore amongst others, a formal course of study above all else teaches you to find your own approach to things and to set your yourself apart from other students which is the opposite of some of the Youtube channels Photographers. That's to say their work isn't to be admired, but it is limited. If we look at Peter Lik, we can see a successful landscape photographer, but one that carries no weight in the art world or indeed at the tree tops of the landscape community. His work sells and he takes a remarkable photo at the most visually arresting places on the planet, but he doesn't show me how clever he is as a photographer, only as someone who can both travel, locate and frame.....conventionally.
 
Last edited:

Alan9940

Active Member
Registered User
Jim,

I am sorry if I gave any impression that I'm bashing Mr. Horne; I'm not. You are dead on with respect to him being a professional and, as such, needs to build a brand. I have great respect for any photographer trying to eek out a living through photography; it's a tough road! I started down that path many, many years ago taking environmental portraits of children, but finally decided it just wasn't for me. I loved interacting with the kids, but didn't like the business side. At some point, my wife happened to buy me a book by Ansel Adams for Christmas and, at that point, I realized that LF outdoor B&W photography is what I wanted to do. I toyed briefly with the idea of trying to make a living with this B&W work, but Fred Picker's counsel helped me to make the decision to pursue a paying career and continue my photography as an amateur. For nearly 40 years now, I've enjoyed simply "cruzin' fer snaps" (credit to Fred) and making the occasional print.

Again, absolutely fantastic conversation in this thread. Thank you.
 

JimW

Member
Registered User
What worries me slightly is that there are lots of aspiring amateur photographers out there who are looking for guidance and see his photographs and think "This is what I should be doing". Then their photographs come out just like other people's work, and they lose the chance to do something of a more personal nature.
Yes, quite true unfortunately. I wrote 'what works' in my post without ascribing quality to the phrase 'what works'. It obviously works for Mr Horne as a professional photographer, but perhaps not as art could be.
he does try to get people to find their own vision and approach......
Brilliant advice. I'm not sure if this next quote is from Bruce Barnbaum, but it's in his book.... 'Of what use are lens and light, to those who lack in mind and sight?'
 

JimW

Member
Registered User
I am sorry if I gave any impression that I'm bashing Mr. Horne; I'm not.
I didn't get the impression you were - just that his images didn't resonate at your frequency. Thank you for your comments, and I totally get the fun aspect of children's portraiture - I get a chance to enjoy the time with people as immature as me - but making a living out of it....... ah well.
 
Top