Sterile Landscape

January 14, 2021

I am a landscape photographer. There is nothing more I enjoy than getting out into nature and spending time with my camera and being in the moment capturing the natural world that surrounds me. There are however some “sterile Landscape” images.

The feeling of being, with the “wind in my hair”, more often the rain. Plowing through mud and water, up and out predawn and sometimes back in after the sun has gone down. just being at one with my surroundings. Brilliant, absolutely love it.

Some of my images are rubbish, some? Most I would suggest. That’s beside the point though. More often than not it is just the getting out.

Sterile Landscapes, why this title?

It comes following a study of a book by 3 photographers that are in the landscape genre and have made a good living. I am not naming them as this would not be fair and I would probably get sued.

Two of the photographers did a first-rate job of capturing the image and representing it very well. Highly skilled at what they do, I would be happy if I were half as good. The third, however, he produced exceptional work.

What is the difference between these people? One has gone out into nature listened to what it had to say and reflected that back in his work. The other 2 took images. I have mentioned before about being part of the countryside rather than a visitor and this is evident in these three people.

About rather than of

A couple of years ago I listened to a talk by a female photographer whose name I cannot remember, she was explaining that good images were about something not of something. I think this is what I find interesting, a lot of landscapes are of the landscape not about the landscape. They have no soul; does that make sense?

Away from the bustle of city life, the countryside is quiet and calm, but this does not always come over in most people’s work. The image busy, in an underlying, “can’t put your finger on it” way. Technically perfect, all focus and exposure blended to produce the technically perfect, dynamic, image. But that’s all it is an image.

Sunrise, an example

Let’s take a dawn shot. I love dawn; I love being out at that time of day watching the day start. How slowly the sun comes up. It starts with a light sky and gradually it gets clearer and lighter you don’t need a head torch anymore the sky just starts to get that tinge of reddish-orange that says the sun is coming. If we are lucky, we have a few clouds the underside of which are starting to light up and provide us with a spectacular colour show. This explosion of light continues to grow and then you realise that it surrounds you and envelopes you in this glorious display of light. All done in silence.  You find your position and take your images and hope that what you have recorded this moment in time.

Or you wait until the sun hits the side of the rocks because that will provide a nice red colour to the side of the mountain. This will give us a nice image.


In one, you are reveling in the moment in the other you are waiting for an image. There is nothing wrong with that. It may be the difference between an amateur and a professional. Maybe it has been made sterile, the story or emotion has been taken out of the image this may be true with all the techniques that are available these days. But when I think back to where I started an hour ago the one that stood out kept this. I know from listening to talks by him that he considers all of this, but I feel the story of the land coming out in his images in a way that other photographers just don’t seem to have.


Another photographer who I think recognises he misses the story, has moved to film and is enjoying his photography more now. Taking out the technique and learning the “craft”. Moving from the sterile to the chaos. From an algorithm to a stopwatch.


It may not be any of this and I may be missing the point altogether. Having read a book on semiotics recently it may just be that the work of the person mentioned above just resonates with me because we have a similar outlook. A similar cupboard for expressions that we go to. This makes his work more accessible to me on a subconscious level.

Good Photographers

What I do think is we have so many very good photographers who are so technically adept at what they do most being fixated on the image. To get the best possible image they can, to play with it in the various extremely powerful software we have. They are so engrossed in getting the perfect image they are missing the best image. This is not the one with the best highlights or shadow detail or the perfect sharpness. One that has been honed to perfection. Made sterile.

It is the one that relates the story of the land back to the viewer. One that communicates the passion and feeling of the moment.

If you have read this far Thank you very much if you want to see some not-so-perfect images feel free to check out my Instagram feed HERE.



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