Tag Archives: A Sense of Place

A Sense of Place

Longs Peak, Low Clouds. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2018.

I’ve talked with some photographers of landscapes who have told me they need to travel away to distant places in order to be inspired to make photographs.  I’ve also heard it said that a real photographer should be able to stand in a random place and make an interesting photograph based solely on what’s available to see there.  It’s opposite ends of the spectrum.  One view says it’s preferable to be in a special place to make a good photograph, and one says a good photograph should be able to be made anywhere.

There’s merit to both positions, I think.  Myself, I think I lie somewhere in the middle.  My approach generally is to put myself in an interesting place at an interesting time, but to then, as much as possible, have no particular agenda and let the photographic opportunities fall where they may.

In general, though, I do try to imbue my landscape images with a sense of place.  But this is interpretative – the sense of place I’m seeking is what a place means to me personally.  It probably doesn’t take much imagination to connect the subject of this photograph, Longs Peak, to the sense of place of being in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  Sometimes, a sense of place lies with obvious things.  But other things that have connected with me as embodying a sense of place for Colorado include mundane things such as grain silos and railroad cars, both of which are well represented here on the Front Range of Colorado.  If I were to put together a “Colorado” portfolio, it would include mountain peaks, pine trees, railroad tracks, industrial agriculture, and modern architecture, all having nothing particularly in common with one another other than embodying what “Colorado” means to me.

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A Sense of Place

On the Low Road to Taos Near Taos, New Mexico, 2015

On the Low Road to Taos
Near Taos, New Mexico, 2015

How closely should a photograph reference the place at which it was taken?

I think back before I got into the practice of photography, and simply was a consumer of photographs, I tended to favor photographs of landscapes that I had personally been to.  I think I’ve always been an observer of the landscape, and on that basis photographs of landscapes that I had personally experienced were more meaningful to me.

When I began making photographs of my own, I think my perception of photographs changed.  I’ve tended to favor photographs of anonymous locations, where one can’t tell simply by viewing the photograph where it was taken.  Perhaps I’ve felt the emphasis should more properly be on the content of the photograph itself, divorced from any associations one might make from knowing the location.

But I wonder if that view really holds up.  When I went to title this image, I could have used a title non-specific as to location, such as “Tree and Mailbox” or “Reaching Tree, Curving Cloud.”  But somehow I felt that the title, and therefore the image, should reference its place at the side of a bend on the Low Road to Taos, New Mexico.

Maybe it’s better not to overthink these things, and just go with your instinct.

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