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Author Topic: Mike Johnston's Scenic Fatigue.  (Read 32819 times)
Jack Flesher
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« on: June 08, 2004, 09:43:00 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Okay, going out on a limb here....  I liked it -- direct and to the point.  I feel the intent of this article was to challenge us to create better than pretty.  For me as an artist, I agree that a "pretty" image isn't often enough -- I think it needs to also have "impact".  Do all of the images I post have impact?  Admittedly they don't and I'll often post a pretty image...  However I may be doing less of that from now on [/font]
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Ray
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2004, 08:31:28 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Ray, to each his own.  I just don't buy into "The one with the most toys (good photos?) when he dies, wins."  .......

There simply hasn't been enough time since the big bang to do a lot of worthwhile things by accident.  It takes some planning.[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']Howard,
Is a good photo a toy[/i]? I'm really talking about efficiency in capturing the moment. I didn't take the figure of a thousand literally. A hundred is probably more realistic. Of course a certain amount of planning is always necessary. Let's say we both plan to visit a particularly beautiful spot for a day, or half a day, whatever. You take your time setting up your cumbersome equipment, taking many readings from your spot meter, waiting patiently for the sun to get in the desired position and so on. At the end of the day, you've got 3 shots, one of which is good.

If, on the other hand, I can get 3 equally good shots through a process of taking 100 shots, and I've enjoyed the experience as much as you and have perhaps even explored the possibilities to a greater extent, then what's wrong with that?

Often it is simply not possible to plan everything to the finest detail. There has to be a certain amount of fortuitous accident or serendipity to make things interesting. Your parents might have planned to have a baby, but there's no way they could have planned for the particular mix of genes you've inherited from both of them  Cheesy .[/font]
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poliwog
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« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2004, 07:09:42 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']
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I guess this goes to show that the old adagium still applies: talent is inversely proportional to equipment...

Nah. Mapplethorpe used a bunch of 'Blad stuff, Adams had all the cool Polaroid films and cameras before everyone else, Wynn Bullock had a darkroom to die for, as does Meyerowitz (sp?). Annie Leibowitz has a shitload of equipment-- wait, mabe the adage is right!

Les[/font]
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pmkierst
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2004, 05:58:43 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Back to MJ's article, the current issue of LensWork has an article that is at least somewhat related and fairly interesting. The article is "Embracing Beauty
The Post-Postmodern Pictorialist  Landscape Photograph"

and is a defense of the pictorialist landscape.[/font]
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Paul K.
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2004, 01:05:01 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Having read Mike Johnston's latest article here on the Luminous Landscape's site, I thing he does us amateurs a bit of an injustice.
Not everyone who posts images on the web is a professional. Not everyone thinks their images are the best thing since sliced bread. Some people post images to show other people and to remind themselves of good times. Or maybe not so good times.
If you come across a zillion sunsets, Mr. Johnston, please don't pan them all as boring, Instead maybe consider that a zillion people throughout the world each saw what was to them a real eye opener.
Yep, my own pbase images contain a number of sunrises. None of them with eagles wheeling or boats capsizing, but the colours took my fancy, and we're moving house soon away from the USA west coast. And maybe, just maybe I want something to remember.[/font]
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2004, 03:27:22 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']do people come here to improve their photography or just to criticise Mike's latest article (whatever it may be) ?  Just wondered.

You can treat photography as an art form, with a context (or several), and aspire to work within that form, or you can treat it as a way to get hard copy pictures of the cat. It doesn't actually matter which, but generally this site, and Mike Johnston, are working in the "art" context, and to start spouting vitriolic attacks because somehow this seems to be derogatory to the those who are not, is pointless.

I think MJ makes a basic assumption that people posting photos on a site which includes review functionality are inviting review (reasonable assumption ?) and therefore are working in an "art" context, possibly unwittingly.  There are myriad options for sharing photo albums on the web which do not have forum / review functionality.

Finally, I don't think MJ said that "prettiness" is bad. Simply that it is not, in itself, enough.[/font]
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2004, 08:51:21 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Good points on all sides.  I could slam MJ for writing in a simplistic way.  There wasn't much depth to his very article talking about the lack of depth in these "pretty pictures".  Other than being curmugonly, there wasn't any real content to the article.

However, I won't.  MJ is a good guy and I do understand where he's coming from in.  Do I agree with him?  Yes.  Do I disagree with him? Yes.

My "pretty pictures" are what sell.  My "Artsy" stuff doesn't near as much.  I can either choose to satisfy the stock sales by providing carbon-copy shots or I can go on my own way and end up starving because most people can't understand it.  Modern art is cool only for those who think they understand it.  Street photography is interesting, but is dated material.

Striking the balance, as a pro, is what makes us pros.  Non-pros can shoot whatever they want.  If it pleases them, great.  Who am I to judge.  However, I'm still miffed at everybody that sold out to "Royalty Free".

Ken N.[/font]
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conradfxt
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« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2004, 07:37:10 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Took pictures of a graduation with digital for the 1st time and put together a slide show on a laptop for people who were unable to attend the event.. As usual, I received request for prints of certain slides. The requests for prints from slide shows have been going on for years.  After reading Mike Johnson’s essay and the responses to the article I thought of the requests for prints as being a kind of selection criteria.

My purpose has been to document our lives with occasional attempts to be “creative” along the way. With the exception of a few photos that resemble postcards available for purchase at any drugstore nobody has asked for prints of my creative pictures! I asked people I know who have been doing slide shows for their family and friends about requests for prints and their experiences are very similar regarding their creative photos.

So now I am expanding my hobby to landscape and nature photography and proudly show my images on the monitor to people who come over and have yet to get a request for prints.  :laugh:[/font]
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Ray
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« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2004, 12:00:51 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Howard,
Okay! Let's consider the shotgun analogy. We're both out shooting at grouse. I've got the shotgun. You've got the .22 or .303 sporting rifle (whatever). At the end of the day, I've bagged 3 grouse. You've bagged only one. I say to you, 'Howard you should have used the shotgun as I advised."

How do you reply?  Cheesy[/font]
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Scott_H
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« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2004, 06:05:52 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']
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talent is inversely proportional to equipment...

I don't think that is neccesarily true.[/font]
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opgr
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« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2004, 10:23:00 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']
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If that was really true, why did he use the best equipment available?

Perhaps because by the time he got really famous, he gets the goodies for free? I don't suppose anyone of us really believes Michael Jordans talent was in any way related to his Nikes?[/font]
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Oscar Rysdyk
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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2004, 08:48:56 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']To bring this back to the original topic...  Galen's photographs, as good as they are, when in quantity will also result in MJ's Scenic Fatigue.  There is a saying:  "Familiarity Breeds Resentment".  Too much of anything can wear on the viewer.  I like going to art museums, but after two or three hours I've had enough.  Even originality and extreme creativity in quantity will fatigue you and you end up returning to a tried-and-true picture to calm you.[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']Maybe that's part of the key ... too much of a good thing (doesn't "fatigue" imply "too much" anyway ?)  photo.net is a really interesting place - it's fascinating to see trends; to see what gets rated "original" versus "aesthetic".  The creative nudes get old; the closeup wide angle cow-in-a-meadow was refreshing (at least on those pages; it's certainly been done before) but within a week, it had been repeated by three other photographers.  A lot of the stuff out there, while technically good, seems very contrived or forced.  For me, the toughest part about bridging the gap between "pretty" and "art" is pretension.  I don't pretend to understand "art" and as a result, I interpret a lot of it to be pretension.  Sometimes I think a lot of so-called artists are just bluffing - if they call themselves artists and claim their work as art, then anyone who doesn't appreciate it simply doesn't understand !

Another thing that I think comes into play WRT Johnston's article is the simple fact that he doesn't like landscape photography.  We shouldn't take this "scenic fatigue" too seriously when Mike has said he has little regard for landscape photography to begin with.  (In an earlier article in which he expresses appreciation for Brandenburgs "Looking for the Summer" as a unique work ... I admit, I think it's one of the more interesting nature photography books I've seen in a while).  

And back to Rowell, while a lot of his stuff might be deemed "pretty" (I've never been a huge fan of his photography) I've always enjoyed reading what he had to say about photography - in particular, "Galen Rowell's Vision" included some good essays that helped me nail down some of my own thoughts about photography.  

You mentioned familiarity, too ... I remember an article on familiarity written by Rowell.  I think that article helped me be content with photographing locally and not trying to turn every travel expedition into a photographic expedition - I'm going to get far better images from places I know well, and while it's not true for everyone, I enjoy those images better.  I've lived in Connecticut all my life ... the last thing in the world I'd want on my walls would be photos of slot canyons or volcanoes or deserts or anything that doesn't "fit" ... some people go the other way - they've seen so many maple leaves they want the strange; the exotic.  

In the end, if we're not aspiring to whatever goals Mike Johnston has in mind, we don't have to worry about his criticism.

- Dennis[/font]
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Ray
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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2004, 07:05:11 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']A lasting photograph will have a subject, not just a buch of detail.  [/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']What about a subject and[/i] a bunch of detail. Some people, such as myself, only ever see the Grand Canyon through a photograph  Smiley .[/font]
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ctgardener
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« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2004, 01:45:42 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Hi Tony,

I read that article this morning w/mixed reaction.  I wonder if Mike is misinterpreting the intent of a lot of this photography ... he seems to have a lot of experience in the "fine art" world, yet most of the stuff posted is by hobbyists with pipe dreams but who may be, many times, more realistic than that.  Some of my photographs that I feel might lead me in a "fine art" direction, if I took the time to pursue it, are nothing I want to hang on the wall.  And as a professional in a field that has nothing to do with photography, producing prints to hang on a wall isn't such a bad goal, I think.  So the question becomes: should I post them ?  There was a recent thread over on dpreview bashing all the newbies posting "bad" pictures on the internet.  But you have to start somewhere, and the fact that there are so many bad photographs is, IMO, a phenomenal thing for photography.  Prior to a few years ago, out of all my friends & family & coworkers, I knew *1* person who was "into" photography as a hobby.  For some strange reason, digicams encourage people to experiment, to be more intentional, and to become more interested in photography itself.  It's great to be part of a hobby that may have been dying, but that's made an incredible comeback.

Back to Mike's article, at the same time he may be a little harsh on amateurs, I can definitely take some value from it.  When I look through the "top rated" photos on dpreview, I occasionally glance at a couple of the pretty remarkable landscape shots - shots that do all the "right" things - usually the first couple pages has more top notch landscape shots than my entire portfolio !  But I only look at a few.  They do get tiring quickly.  The same is true of subject besides landscapes, so I think it's pretty generic advice, to be more intentional and more intelligent if you want to stand apart (and that's the question, isn't it ?)  

On a similar note, I was out at another nature photographers website recently - one where you join up and they host 30 photos for you (can't remember which one) but one of the pro photographer site hosts wrote that amateurs need to develop more of a sense of style to stand apart, because one of the things he noticed in looking through the galleries is that most times, there's no way to look at a photo and determine whose it is just by the photo.  OTOH, compare MR to Galen Rowell to Jim Brandenburg to Art Wolfe to Tom Mangelsen to David Muench - certainly Frans Lanting - and I think you'd have a pretty good idea whose photos are whose.  

Galen Rowell's book "Galen Rowell's Vision" had some interesting articles that helped me identify what I do & don't like in photography - even though I wasn't the biggest fan of his work, he had plenty of interesting things to say about photography.  Now the only problem is that as much as I'd like to pursue certain avenues in photography with some of these thoughts in mind, I have so little spare time, I'll likely be unable to see well enough to focus by the time I produce anything resembling "fine art"

So - take Mike's article for what it's worth - don't be offended and see if you can take something beneficial out of it !

- Dennis[/font]
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Scott_H
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2004, 11:20:05 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I think I know where Mike Johnston is coming from.  I post to a couple of sites, and a lot of the feedback I get isn't very valuable, on one site especially.

I post on one site because it is public, and I can show stuff to friends without them needing a password.  I can link to photos there that I can put up on another site where the standards are higher, and people are less afraid of being negative.

People are reluctant to be really critical, and negative feedback is often more useful than positive feedback.  Positive feedback can be useful if it is insightful, but there isn't always much insight either.  Comments like good detail, or this is pretty don't help me improve.[/font]
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2004, 05:23:27 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']A simple example of when "what is pleasing" becomes "non-pleasing":

A slice of cheesecake for dessert is a wonderful thing.  A meal consisting entirely of several cheesecakes is sickening.

But that doesn't mean that cheesecake is bad.  Cheesy

Lisa[/font]
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howard smith
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« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2004, 12:37:39 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Ray, to each his own.  I just don't buy into "The one with the most toys (good photos?) when he dies, wins."  It is my personal belief that there is a lot more to photography than just taking good photos.  Otherwise, I might get a helmet cam and photo everything I pointed my head at, and sort them out later.

There simply hasn't been enough time since the big bang to do a lot of worthwhile things by accident.  It takes some planning.

I guess too that my ego is big enough that when I do get a good image, that I actually had more to do with it than carrying the camera bag.[/font]
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Ray
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« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2004, 09:35:40 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']if I wanted a lot of meat, I would go to the grocery store and save a lot of money and effort.  [/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']I suppose next you're going to tell me, if you want a lot of photos you'll go to the gallery, buy some and save the effort.  Cheesy[/font]
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ctgardener
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« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2004, 07:39:39 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']
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If that was really true, why did he use the best equipment available?

Perhaps because by the time he got really famous, he gets the goodies for free? I don't suppose anyone of us really believes Michael Jordans talent was in any way related to his Nikes?[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']Oh, c'mon, is there really anything to debate here ?  I agree with someone who said that the opinion that talent is inversely proporitional to gear is probably someone who has neither.  There's simply no relationship.

As for the basketball analogy, sneakers are no more a 'tool' than your underwear is for photography ... and yet, I'm sure every good basketball player still chooses his sneakers with intent. And if anytihng, your analogy disproves your earlier post - how is it that Michael Jordans talent isn't "in any way" related to Nikes, yet photographers talent *is* inversely related to their gear ?  (Answer: photographers talent is NOT related to gear, inversely or otherwise - the gear just lets the talent produce better results).

Look at any craft - the more visionary artist produce more interesting works; the more talented craftsperson produces better crafted works; the artist/craftsperson with more/better gear at his disposal can produce a wider variety of pieces, and produce them more efficiently.  Argue all you want about the relative importance, the fact is, at any stage of craftsmanship/artistry, I'd rather have a better selection of gear at my disposal !  And the goal of any photographer should be to improve on his artistry and craftsmanship and to have at his disposal the tools needed to get the results he wants.  

It's really all about the right tool for the job, and the better artist will make a conscious effort to choose the right tool, instead of suffering with limitations and whining about how living with limitations makes him the better artist.

As for the importance of the tools, it's critical if you want to be able to achieve the results you want; not so critical if you're willing to work within limitations.  If you're willing to restrict your subject matter and enlargement capabilities, then fine, call yourself a superior artist and have fun shooting street scenes with your 70's era SLR and 50mm lens.  Console yourself with your elite status when your buddy takes his 500mm lens out to shoot wildlife, or shows you a gorgeous pano taken with an Xpan.  

Personally, my photography and my gear have all gotten progressively better over the last 10 years - my own take on it is that as I've grown, I've exposed the limits of my gear, and that's when I've traded up.  

And I know the stereotype of the amateur with "more money than brains" is popular among those who choose not to spend more money on gear, but by & large (with only a few exceptions), I've found that the photographers I've run across (friends, acquaintences, working pros) who produce the best work are using what I consider high end gear, and those using consumer level gear aren't good photographers.  Again, one doesn't depend on the other, but good craftspeople realize the value of good tools.  

Now that I've just wasted 10 minutes adding to a debate over something that, IMO, isn't up for debate, it's back to work ...

- Dennis[/font]
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Willowroot
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« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2004, 08:25:25 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']To bring this back to the original topic...  Galen's photographs, as good as they are, when in quantity will also result in MJ's Scenic Fatigue.  There is a saying:  "Familiarity Breeds Resentment".  Too much of anything can wear on the viewer.  I like going to art museums, but after two or three hours I've had enough.  Even originality and extreme creativity in quantity will fatigue you and you end up returning to a tried-and-true picture to calm you.[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']I suspect that is in fact the heart of the matter.

For myself, I went through a photo.net phase where I was looking at a lot of photographs.  I noticed that my ratings for originality especially, but also for aesthetics, went down over time.  Viewing too much good work is like eating too much dessert - it is no less good than when you started, but you don't enjoy it much after a while.

Also, a comment out of left field: I find that many if not most landscapes share a common flaw, that of being overly complex.

Jason[/font]
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Jason Elias
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