Photography was invented at a time when western cultures were exploring new lands. it was used as a medium for documenting the natural environment and usually included very small details.
Early landscape photography used the same principles used in landscape paintings. the landscape was only used simply as a backdrop for the main subject of the painting/photograph but over time artists such as John Constable and William Turner have started to romanticize the landscape and use it as the main subject of paintings.
Landscape photographs typically focus on the natural presence of a landscape but landscape photographs with man made features in are becoming more and more common.
Classical landscape paintings came about in the 17th century, they were inspired by classical anquity and made to illustrate an ideal landscape replica of Arcadia which is a legendary place in ancient Greece known for its quiet pastoral beauty.
During the 18th century Italy was considered to be a popular source of inspiration for landscape artists. France and England became the new centres of landscape art although the ideals of 17th-century Dutch and Italian landscapes including the classical model retained popularity.
Landscape masters through time:
The history of landscape photography is closely linked with the history of land exploration in the American West. Ever since photography came about photographers have explored wild lands for art. A lot has changed since then but there are still many similarities that remain between the first landscape photographers and the ones we have today. Though 50 years of work preceded him, Ansel Adams is the spiritual father of American landscape photography. Not only is he perhaps the most recognizable name in all of photography, but his work transcended art and science to make him an icon of popular culture as well.
“It’s rare to find a landscape photographer,” says Carr Clifton, “or any photographer who hasn’t been touched by Ansel Adams’ black-and-white work of the exquisite landscapes of the American West.”
Like Watkins and Muybridge before him, Adams made many famous photographs of Yosemite National Park. What set him apart was his work’s timeless quality. Technologically innovative and advanced enough to surpass much of the printing done today, Adams’ photography was simple enough to maintain a direct connection to the earliest pioneers of the medium.
As a teen, Adams came to nature before photography and ecology became a driving factor throughout his life. That conservationist thread still runs through landscape photography today and perhaps is stronger than ever. Adams’ exquisite black-and-white prints were only possible thanks to the photographer’s innovation of the Zone System, a technique for exposure and processing to provide the utmost control over every tone in an image. His technical curiosity, as reported by those who knew and worked with him, as well as a habit of reinterpreting prints on modern equipment throughout his career, inspires “what if” questions about how the master would work today.