Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Guest blog by Graham Wiffen - What is a Landscape?

Brentor GRW
Graham Wiffen

So, what is a landscape?

This is a question that has been posing all sorts of concerns for the members of my local club recently. Bridport Camera Club (www.bridportcameraclub.co.uk) has competitions throughout the year and it has come to light that not everyone has the same understanding.

For me, Landscape, is a generic term used to describe the view in front of view. It can of course include fields, hills & mountains, but the question seems to be what else can it include?

Wikipedia: Landscape Photography: Photographs typically capture the presence of nature and are often free of man-made obstructions.

Dictionary: a section or expanse of rural scenery, usually extensive, that can be seenfrom a single viewpoint. OR a picture representing natural inland or coastalscenery.

One of the big questions for me is : Can a landscape include buildings, or the sea/coast?

So for competitions such as 'Landscape Photographer of the Year' entries are accepted including just about anything, although they do sometimes add sub-categories (Urban View), but certainly buildings and the sea/coast are actively encouraged.

In a recent landscape competition I had an image rejected as it showed St Pauls Cathedral in its own City landscape and the judge decided it was not a true landscape. He wanted to see fields and flowers.

In an upcoming competition, 'Churches in the Landscape' again the rules have been stipulated that no urban/city landscapes are allowed. But what about churches on the coast?

So what do you think? Should the term landscape be sub-divided into urban, city, sea-scape, coastal etc. or should the judges be a bit more flexible in their interpretation? Let me know your thoughts and feelings and join in the discussion.


  1. How long have you got?:When i was a successful Landscape Photographer in Wiltshire in the 1980's, mainly working in monochrome and printing my own work for several successful exhibitions,I was careful to make sure the viewer only saw what nature was offering,and its harder to do in Black and White than people imagine, its all about tone and drama, not buildings or people or even that annoying telegraph pole, if I had to think about leaving it in i knew viewers would also see it and wonder why it was there, so it would be left out, no photoshop manipulation back in those days, when I pressed the shutter I could see the finished print in my mind's eye. So, in answer to the question , A Landscape, is exactly that, and if the sea is in the background its still a landscape , it contains what nature gives us, not what we may have changed, cheers, doug

  2. A rural view - countryside with or without the odd building.

  3. Hi Doug, Alan and Graham,

    It's an interesting topic. As our rural landscape is 'intruded' upon by urban buildings and town planning it may be that we hold on to an idealistic view of a landscape, an expanse of land that may include a lake, mountains, animals in the distance without blemishes. A beautiful or successful landscape, for me, can include and maybe should reflect our surroundings as they are and if you live by the sea it would naturally be in the frame as it would be if you lived in the city.


  4. Hmmm, it's a tricky one. What about a cityscape? I would say that's a landscape myself, especially if it is at all abstracted. It may not be the natural form of the earth, but it's how that land looks now. And if there are buildings in a more traditional, rural landscape, that's still landscape for me - it's an honest representation of the form the land takes I guess. And inevitably, that increasingly includes buildings. Even in the most wild, deserted places, I think a building actually can contribute to a landscape. I was in Iceland this weekend and some of the photos I took were in the bleakest, most uninhabited places, it felt like the edge of the world. But one of my fav images is of a lonely shelter at the foot of an immense mountain, totally overwhelmed by the nature around it. But somehow it brought the photo to life. Nature is the most beautiful thing, for sure, but human presence I guess sometimes makes a landscape more reachable....or something....

  5. Anything that includes a lot of sky

  6. Thanks to everyone for your views. Its great to have the debate. Lauren, the image of Iceland sounds great and would love to see it up here soon. Doug, you raise the issue of the sea and I'll be expanding on that in my next blog.
    Keep 'em coming.

  7. This is a great debate :o)

    In my view (for what it’s worth…)

    I agree with the Wikipedia definition “Landscape Photography: Photographs typically capture the presence of nature and are often free of man-made obstructions.”

    But the key word in this definition is “often” free from man-made obstructions, and not “always”.
    As long man-made objects aren’t the focal point of the natural view, then for me it’s a landscape.