Of Metaphysics & Landscapes (Part 2) - Distillation

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Of Metaphysics & Landscapes (Part 2) - Distillation
18/06/2014 - 12:36



What we ‘see’ depends upon our personal perception of the world. ‘Looking’ is based on merely allowing ourselves to acknowledge something visually in a matter of fact sort of way. The words ‘see’ and ‘look’ are often regarded as being synonymous, but they are very different activities.



For example, if I were to take a group of 5 painters and 5 photographers to explore a 10 metre long stretch of a moorland river, with the caveat that they could only make one image, the results could produce a variety of studies, based upon their individual style of creativity within their particular medium and the ability to divert the mind by focusing-on expressing part of the landscape. Some may be enchanted by the ‘whole picture’ but others, curious to explore component parts of the river – such as the subtly changing dance of  ‘standing waves’, or close–up studies of curvaceous flow lines of white-water emerging from shadowy mossy boulders.



‘Original’ possibilities are infinite, particularly when the surroundings have been acknowledged , and the essence of visual flow has been conveyed. This process of distillation invites one to become acquainted with a time and place. It can result in elements of anthropomorphic allusions (such as the Green Man, below), which may only work from limited viewpoints


'Verdure' - deep in a wooded coombe on southern Dartmoor, are the graceful twin cascades of Venford Falls.
The Venford Brook runs from here down a steep hanging-valley into the River Dart.



– through to intimate ‘inner landscape’- studies that become abstractions of the immediate environment.



Abstracts may be esoteric if we choose to make them so, yet they may still have a depth that touches other people, even if the viewer can’t fully-interpret what the artist was trying to say.


A resurgent standing-wave dancing in the evening light upon the East Dart River



 The artist could be trying to express: a metaphysical engagement with the world and the drive to learn about the geophysical processes of landform. They may be considering in their composition the flux of aeons of weather-fatigue & erosion; or the flora & fauna nearby and the flow-rates & variant depths of the river itself. New compositions can be realised on subsequent visits when the water level has changed.



'Basin of Audhn' - a mossy ancient rock basin on the granite walls of the Aune gorge, upstream of Shipley Bridge on Dartmoor.




'Impermanence' - early morning light reflects from the tree canopy upon the swift waters of the River Dart.



We can consider other factors in the environment such as: the impact of human endeavours on the landscape – such as the effects of tin mining in the past within a valley; studies of Mesolithic stone circles or Bronze age settlements on the moors; transition zones of agricultural & pastoral farming to open heathland; or the tidal variations upon an estuary or beach; the changing hues of emerging seasons; a bolstered spring verdance or autumn’s fiery tones.




“To learn to see - to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it;  to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.”


 Friedrich Nietzsche





If you engage with all the natural beauty of a seascape or landscape, the outcome can be rich and rewarding because you will have ‘tuned-in’ to the wonders and powers of Nature in all its glory. Get ready to reach for your camera, easel or sketchbook, and make use of your five senses to: feel the textures of mosses, rocks, fallen leaves; see and listen to the running-water of a brook,  as you stand in the shallows;  to study the light; to smell the wild flowers; or to absorb the resonance of the ‘keeow’ sound of a buzzard gliding through the trees.  With such an appreciation of the outdoors, we can allow ourselves to make pictures about something rather than just of something.



'The Sweet Restful Silence of Nature' - the swift waters making their way through the fern festooned Upper Colly Brook, on an autumn afternoon. The Colly Brook runs through a steep combe (hanging valley) on the western side of Dartmoor National Park below Smeardon Down.



“Here and there a tawny brook prattled out from among the underwood and lost itself again in the ferns and brambles upon the further side. Save the dull piping of insects and the sough of the leaves, there was silence everywhere - the sweet restful silence of nature."

(from ‘The White Company’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)










*Part 1 of this series can be read here



**Workshops on Landscape Photography, run by Phil are available - from a 3 or 4 hour morning/ evening course, to a full day. Ideal for beginners and those with some experience who want some help with their creative compositions. Gift vouchers are available as a present for a friend or relative – towards the full cost of a course.






Lois Wakeman
20/06/2014 - 09:40
Beautifully written Phil - your thoughtfulness about the process of making (rather than just taking) a photo shows in the results too!
Maria (Autumn light)
20/09/2014 - 22:05
Your images are an inspiration Phil, i hear music and see magic!

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