“Sometimes you can tell a large story with a tiny subject.”
When I learned that our first morning in the Great Smoky Mountains would be spent photographing in the parking lot of a visitor center, I thought that I may have wasted a bit of money going there. For a hiking fanatic, sitting at the edge of one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world, heading to a parking lot to shoot seemed like a mistake. As usual, I was wrong.
Eliot Porter (1901-1990), a pioneer of color landscape photography, introduced the concept of the “Intimate Landscape.” Unlike a grand scene of mountain ranges, the intimate landscape focuses, literally, on the intimate part of a scene like the shape of a tree, the visual flow through a meadow, or the texture of water flowing over rocks. The intimate landscape is what we were looking for because a parking lot in a national park can offer a unique glimpse of the forest’s edge.
How I Did It – When photographing the intimate landscape it is important to notice the details. Dan Sniffen, a great West Coast photographer, uses the term “complex simplicity” to describe this process. A simple thing like a tree is really a complex array of branches, colors, textures and tonal range. The trick is to put all of these complexities together in a way that delights the viewer and invites them into the simple little piece of the world you are recording with your camera and lens.