Fantasy landscapes: Anne Sutcliffe on the importance of immersing yourself in the environment
Posted: 05 Mar 2019
Anne Sutcliffe’s (FRPS EFIAP PPSA) images have been described as having a ‘painterly effect’ or being ‘pastel pale and interesting’, portraying the uniqueness that ordinary people have conferred on their urban environment. In this piece, Anne shares the story behind capturing ‘fantasy landscapes’ during a visit to Yellowstone National Park in June 2018. Anne prints her fantasy landscapes on Fotospeed Smooth Cotton 300.
You can find out more about Anne here.
Immersing yourself in the environment
In June 2018, I visited Yellowstone National Park with two friends – one of whom is a novice photographer. Although she is keen to learn about camera settings, post-processing techniques and printing, she has yet to learn the most important lesson – that the best images are obtained when the photographer has an in-depth understanding of their subject and takes time to immerse themselves in their environment. This allows them to fully appreciate the photographic opportunities that a location offers.
Whilst there, we climbed the newly refurbished Fairy Trail that now provides easy access to the new overlook for Grand Prismatic Spring. It is disappointing because there are still a few pine trees obscuring the view but they can be cloned out and the light was reasonably good. Before the path was refurbished, the viewpoint had been previously inaccessible to all but the most experienced hikers – at least one hiker tumbled to his death when he used an unstable tree for support.
Considering additional information such as this can really help you engage with the location more deeply, and add another element of authenticity to your work. Although my image is a record shot, I had fulfilled a lifetime dream to see and enjoy the view of Grand Prismatic Spring from above.
Working with the conditions you’re faced with
Several days later, when the lighting was atrocious, my fellow photographer was enthusiastic to walk the boardwalk around Grand Prismatic Spring. It was a dull, damp, and chilly day, with a lot of steam swirling around. The colours of the algae were not as dramatic as I had come to expect but I was accepting because my many visits to Yellowstone have taught me that they depend on prevailing conditions which change not just monthly but daily.
Due to the dull light and steam, I could not improve on previous images I had captured from the same location. I was disappointed. Maybe the frustration of being with fellow travellers who fail to look for something different or perhaps just because I knew that so far, I had failed to capture an image that enthused me, I began to look for something different in the conditions I was presented with.
The importance of thinking outside the box
When faced with these conditions, I first concentrated my efforts on the people around me. Then, during the brief moments when the steam cleared I began to notice subtle colours and the more I looked, the more excited I became. I began to see ‘fantasy landscapes’ amongst the algal deposits and captured numerous images. They are close up images that convey a sense of space which I have edited using transform tools as I felt that as ‘landscapes’ they needed a straight horizon.
Although my concept was fantasy landscapes, I was also aware that the images could just be abstract images without any grounding in reality. Above all, I saw them as painterly images. This meant that Fotospeed Smooth Cotton 300 was the ideal paper to show them at their best – the ultra-smooth surface and white base meant that the varied light, colour, and textures of the landscapes were captured perfectly in the final stage of the process.
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