Introduction

If you've ever stood on the rim of a canyon and watched the afternoon colors turn to sunset, listened to the splash, gurgle, and roar of a river flowing swiftly past, or looked up at a spectacular sky to see the clouds sailing by, you'll understand the urge to use photography to capture the scenery that surrounds us. But as Ansel Adams, the great master of landscape photography, observed, “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer, and often the supreme disappointment.”

There seems to be some sort of paradox or conundrum in operation here. It is relatively easy to find interesting—or, indeed, spectacular—landscapes. Unlike some other kinds of photography, no specialized gear is needed to capture these landscapes. In real life, most people are moved by sublime landscapes, and it's not uncommon to find romantic and religious sentiments brought out through a landscape view. It's easy for most people to intuitively understand the emotional appeal of nature's landscape.

In addition, landscape photography is not the most specialized or technically difficult kind of photography. Often, the key issue is simply being there. As Ansel Adams put it, “Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have someone click the shutter.”

But despite the apparent technically straightforward aspect of landscape photography, and its easy appeal to a wide audience, creating landscape photos that are not trite, that help viewers understand underlying truths about ...

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