The art of seeing #14: Landscapes as geography, autobiography and metaphor

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine.

Recently I led a workshop for the Royal Photographic Society in the wild and wet mountains of Snowdonia. It’s probably my favourite location anywhere on Earth – despite the incessant rain!

The emphasis of the workshop focused on capturing the ‘spirit’ of place. The musings of the great Robert Adams were central to the agenda. Adams suggests that ‘geography’ is the simple, visual record of a location’s topography, the meteorological conditions, the light and so on; that ‘autobiography’ introduces an element of personal expression and how the photographer feels about a place; and that ‘metaphor’ can be used to imply an alternative meaning or message. He goes on to suggest that individually these ideas can be a bit limp, but when all three elements come together, landscape photographs start to become more interesting. It’s a notion that resonates with my own photographic aspirations.

To be honest, this image isn’t a profound epiphany after meditating under a lone tree for hours. I was simply demonstrating in the workshop how slow shutter speed can be used to add (sometimes) interesting intentional camera movement. This can be a way of using the language of photography as an expressive tool.

While reviewing my images at home later, I found that this image hit a chord, and quite possibly all three of Adams’ elements came together – for me. I’ll leave it to you to find your own meanings...

It’s fair to say that my enforced whatever-the-weather policy during the workshop meant we were mostly wet. However, I think it’s also fair to say we all discovered that some of the more interesting images were taken in the worst conditions. So if nothing else, don’t be deterred by bad weather. Wear the right clothing, keep warm and dry, and protect your kit – but make sure you get out there and do it! BB

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Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He graduated with a degree in photography from the Derby School of Art in 1991 (now University of Derby), where he was tutored and inspired by photographers John Blakemore and Olivier Richon, amongst others. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and also sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel.

Until July 2018 Benedict was editor of Britain’s best-selling consumer photography magazine, Digital Camera Magazine. As a journalist he met and interviewed some of the world’s greatest photographers and produced articles on a wide range of photography related topics, presented technique videos, wrote in-depth features, curated and edited best-in-class content for a range of titles including; Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Professional Photography and Practical Photoshop. He currently writes a regular column, The Art of Seeing, for Digital Camera magazine.