Landscape photography, is without any doubt, one of the most (if not the most) famous members of the disciplined family of Straight Photography.
Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
The Supreme Master of Landscape Photography. His prints are the perfect evidence that the work that happens after pressing the shutter button is extremely important. He was an American photographer and environmentalist, which is no surprise since his images depict a pure fascination for nature. His landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park have been his most iconic body of work.
Every Time many of us hear the phrase Landscape Photography, Ansel Adams is highly likely to pop right through our minds. And is no surprise, since his passion for landscape photography transformed his skills into mastery.
Besides making Landscape Photography popular, he also inherited us with a great tool for getting the best tones for each portion of the photograph in print, which is the summit of every photographic workflow. This beautiful gift is called the zone system, and he developed it along with Fred Archer. Basically the Zone System refers to the amount of light a specific portion of the negative needs to imprint the best tones onto paper. Ted Forbes created a great video that explains it pretty seamlessly.
Adams used mainly large format cameras, which are also known as view cameras or field cameras. He used this particular cameras because of its extreme ability of ensuring extremely high resolution and sharpness when rendering images. Large format starts at 4"x5". Just to get an idea of the amount of information this format is capable of capturing, inside a 4"x5" negative (the smallest of large format) you can fit 15 35mm negatives. And inside an 8"x10" (another standard of large format) you get the same amount of information of 60 35mm negatives.
He also founded the photography group known as Group f/64 along with fellow photographers Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston, which is like Magnum but for Straight Photography.
He also created three magnificent books that are like the bibles of photography. The first is The Camera, the second one is The Negative (in which he started talking about the Zone System) and last but not least, The Print. He covers the entire photographic Workflow with these three very dense and technical books.
In the book titled The Camera, he covered from visualization to special purpose equipment and techniques. In The Negative, he covered from Image values to the Value Control in Processing, giving a lot of importance to the Darkroom Processes and the Darkroom Equipment and Procedures. And in the final book of this series (which are not the only books he wrote about photography) he covered from The Expressive Image to Special Printing Applications.
You can enjoy his work virtually here, and if you ever have the chance of seeing live prints of him, please do yourselves the favor, you'll be blown away and will understand how deep passionate he was about getting the best tones in his images while printing.
Michael Kenna (1953- )
Brit photographer famously known for his black and white, unusual, almost ethereal, landscapes. In order to achieve his iconic style, he has taken the extreme approach of shooting at night, with exposures up to ten hours long.
The nature behind Kenna's work has a very characteristic and peculiar quality that is filled with minimal compositions and a high reflective or meditative nature.
He has been introducing us to a Zen, and highly unseen world, that truly exists, but just doesn't unveil to us but him. The quality behind Kenna's work has been vastly awarded through time, and is a constant reminder to us that Landscapes are not just waiting for us to shoot them, we must wait for them to open themselves to us.
He started as a commercial photographer, but gratefully he started drifting apart the world of commercial work, and eventually landed into his own style after working to the side of great photographers such as Ruth Bernhard.
You can delight with his work on his personal website.
Nadav Kander (1961- )
Nadav Kander has created a work that invites us to another world. He created the images behind the book called "Dust". He photographed the desolated landscapes of the Aral Sea where he captured the abandoned and fascinating images of the restricted military zones of Priozersk and Kurtchatov. These two places didn't appear on any map until long time after the end of the Cold War.
These ghostly landscapes became the main subject of the work presented in Dusk, and the consistency of the whole project is impeccable. A great thing we all as photographers must pursue when boarding a project. It reminds me of a more specific project called Restricted Areas created by Danila Tkachenko, another great example of consistency.
Sebastião Salgado (1944- )
Sebastião's formal education is a little bit different of those photographers that had the opportunity of studying arts. He trained as an economist, and earned a master's degree in economics. He began working as an economist for the ICO (International Coffee Organization) and this allowed him to travel a lot, especially to Africa on missions for the World Bank. He started taking photographs, and eventually he became serious about it. So serious that he abandoned his career as an economist, and went full time photographer in 1973. He initially worked on news assignments, and then he later became more interested in documentary work. In 1979, he joined Magnum Photos, and he left the holy group in 1994; and with his wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado formed their own agency, Amazonas Images, in Paris, to represent his work.
After photographing the tragedies of human race, he switched to nature and wildlife photography. Together with Taschen he has published a massive and impressive book called Genesis. In this book he states that this work, is a true homage to nature, and he was trying to give the environment something back. The book has some of the most beautiful landscape shots I've ever seen, and the print quality is really something.
He has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2001, and there is a splendid documentary directed by Wim Wenders that you should watch in order to understand the whole philosophy behind this work called Genesis.
You can also watch this great TED Talk that is both inspiring, and revealing.
Brett Weston (1911-1993)
Van Deren Coke referred to him as the child genius of American Photography, and when you see his landscapes, you just cannot deny the genius behind Brett Weston. He learned a lot from one great master, Edward Weston, his father, and he later became a great photographer on his own.
You can feel that Edward Weston influence in his botanical work, but when it comes to landscapes, he was unique.
The most valuable thing we can get from Brett Weston, is that landscapes can be captured with both wide and long lenses. Many of his images have a tight focal feeling, and this may sound like a contradiction, but seeing his work, encourages us to think outside the box and don't keep caged on the prejudices and the stated rules of photography.
You can see more of his work at the online Brett Weston archive.
Franco Fontana (1933- )
Quite an interesting style of landscape photography, Fontana's world of view is just beautiful. His landscapes have been defined as abstract and colorful, and I couldn't agree more with that, especially with the colorful statement.
He teaches us through his photography, that there are still things that can be discovered in landscape photography. He captures the interrelation and interplay of colors in natural scenes.
Fontana has worked mostly with 35mm camera, and his studio is the world. He pursues his own view of making visible the invisible through art. While browsing his work, I remembered a polemical shot taken by Frans Lanting for National Geographic that depicted a completely surreal landscape, which happened natural inside the camera.
The minimalist and abstract approach that Fontana has over landscapes, is worth watching. Every Time we are trying to capture something different, try a tight focal length in order to see just little portions of the landscape that will eventually render the abstraction of the whole nature in front of your eyes. A great source for teaching our eyes into watching seamlessly abstractions of the world, is through constant contemplation of abstract paintings. You’ll never go wrong with Kandinsky or Miró.
Takeshi Mizukoshi (1938- )
After dropping out of the Faculty of Forestry, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Mizukoshi worked as a naturalist and later as a mountain photographer after studying with the late Yukio Tabuchi, another great landscape photographer from Japan.
Mizukoshi is one of those hard to find landscape photographers, but even though there is unfortunately very little to contemplate and appreciate in terms of quantity of his work through the web, the few things you could find, are a complete ode to nature itself. His works are displayed in a number of domestic and international museums and art galleries, and I think is almost the only way besides books to properly watch his work.
His work portrays serene landscapes that remind us of our true smallness towards the beauty of nature.
Fujifilm published a brief excerpt of Mizukoshi's work here.
David Brookover (1954- )
Like Ansel Adams, capturing the beauty, and form of imagery through his lens and then hand-crafting that image into an exceptional print is the core of his art.
Besides Brookover's focus on traditional techniques that go from the planning to the print, the intuitive artistic detail in his wildlife, landscape, abstract, and western photographs make up the core philosophy of his work.
He practices platinum palladium printing as well as silver gelatin printing. You can watch some of his work at his online Portfolio, and he has a gallery at Jackson, Wyoming if you ever get near, you should stop by.
Great sense of aesthetic and beauty, his landscapes are rendered in accordance with his own natural vision of the world.
Galen Rowell (1940-2002)
He was a wilderness photographer, adventure photo journalist and climber. He turned into a full-time photographer in 1972, and curiously, he was never formally trained as such.
Rainbow over the Potala Palace is an exceptional evidence of how passionate, and patience Galen was.
Galen was not using a large format camera, instead he used the both trusty and popular Nikon FE and FM2. A great example of "the best camera is the one you have with you". Portable, and extremely good built.
He was famous for answering with a pride "f/8.0 " every time somebody asked him How did you get that great shot?", a great answer indeed.
Galen had the discipline of spending extensive time in the outdoors to be at locations when the light was right, therefore this was a great advantage for him when compared to the work of less disciplined photographers.
Carr Clifton (1957- )
American landscape, nature and wilderness photographer, teaching us about the importance of conversation, and to never get comfortable with the status quo, not even with a format. Clifton has created a body of work with a large format 4x5 film camera, and more recently a digital camera. The images of Clifton are the perfect portraits of nature at is purest breath taking form and massive reality.
I think he has been humble enough and enthusiastic as well, to change within time. As an early adopter of photography in the early 1970s, he just wanted to craft good looking images of beautiful places. And today, that same desire pushes him a little further into the great outdoors.
National Parks have been photographed a lot, but Clifton believes that beauty is still there, and that there is a lot left to be photographed. The way in he believes that even a single place, has been photographed to the weariness, there is still a lot left to be shot, and that landscapes have not revealed completely to say everything has been shot.
With his philosophy, we can deeply start to think about the importance of scouting our hometowns, and to don't take any place, anywhere for granted.
You can watch his images here.
And the Easter egg of this day, Per Bak Jensen, with his ephemeral and dreamy minimalist landscapes.