If you’re like most people, when you hear the term “landscape photography,” you probably conjure up images of beautiful natural scenes: a mountain rising behind a pristine forested lake; a hillside covered with brightly colored spring flowers; a slot canyon dressed in reds and purples sculpted into erotic shapes by the wind and sand; or a golden sunset over a wave-washed ocean beach. To be sure, these and many other examples represent what we would all call landscape photographs. What’s common among them, despite their differences, is their concentration on nature, on the beauty of color or the richness of black and white, and on the general absence of the hand of man. For many of us, such photos are the very essence of landscape photography.
But other interpretations are possible. Take for example Chuck Kimmerle, who in his book Black & White Artistry defines landscape photography more broadly. According to Kimmerle, “landscape photography is at its core a study of our environment, our surroundings.” While these include natural scenes like those described above, they can also include images that reveal manmade elements such as roads, fences and buildings. In urban photography, some might go so far as to include architectural studies, ephemera, and even junk as subjects since they are part of the surroundings in which we live. Thus, as Kimmerle concludes, landscape photography can “include almost any photograph which does not explicitly include people as the primary subjects.”
So who is right? The answer, I think, is that each photographer must decide for him or herself. There is no right or wrong; it is only a matter of personal preference, the subject matter that excites you and draws your interest.
My personal concept of landscape photography is somewhat similar to Kimmerle’s. Sure, I love making photos of pure natural scenes from which the effects of man’s handiwork are absent. But I’m also open to certain images that contain manmade structures where these fit the scene as though meant to be there. Usually, these are such structures as old barns and sheds, fences, churches, lines of telephone poles, even roads. In my view, such elements can and often do fit the scene as well as natural objects do. But in the end, you must decide for yourself on your own definition of landscape photography and how the objects you choose to photograph will fit your personal vision.