Are All Beautiful Landscapes Photogenic?

Do Beautiful Landscapes and Photogenic Landscapes Walk Hand in Hand?

As I love exploring, I often find myself enjoying beautiful scenery. Sometimes it's close to home, other times it's on the other side of the globe. My camera is always packed and ready for use, but I don't always take it out of the back. Why? Just as with people, every place is unique. Just as with people, not all places look as beautiful on an image as they are in reality.

Gygrestolen glowing in the sunset

Gygrestolen glowing in the sunset

I live in East of Norway. I've spent the majority of my life here, and will always consider this as home no matter where I live. East of Norway is beautiful. We have beautiful woods, nice and round mountains, amazing hiking locations, unique mountain plateaus and an idyllic coastline. Does this mean all these places are photogenic? Not necessarily.

I love hiking in our mountain plateaus, honestly there's nothing quite like it. The landscapes are huge, the view is so good that foreigners have a hard time believing it, and the fresh air heals your body and soul. However, time after time I find myself saying the same words "it's so beautiful, but it's not much of a shot". The conditions can be as good as it gets, but it's still just a ok shot. It's missing the wow-factor, that extra element of excitement, that eye-catcher.  

Don't get me wrong, some of my favorite pictures I've taken are from various locations around eastern Norway, but the majority of the landscapes are beautiful - not photogenic.
Let me just point out that many places around the world are like this, I'm simply using east of Norway as an example since I spend so much time in this region. I've encountered places in Oregon or Iceland, countrys landscape photographers have wet dreams of, that simply are beautiful - not photogenic.

I've had this discussion many times before, and obviously we all have different opinions of what defines a beautiful photograph, and that's good! How boring wouldn't it be if we all liked the same?
Regardless of our opinions, there are certain elements that are needed to make a good landscape photograph. There are always exceptions, but a landscape image needs

  • A strong composition
  • A interesting subject

What happens when we then remove one of the two elements? The image becomes ok.

It's not without reason that locations such as Iceland, New Zealand and Northern Norway are so popular among landscape photographers. These places are surrounded by wow-elements and often you don't need to hike hours upon hours to find a interesting subject

The background mountain adds extra depth and gives the wow-factor even tho the sunset isn't that good

The background mountain adds extra depth and gives the wow-factor even tho the sunset isn't that good

Let's compare this image from Isle of Skye in Scotland compared to a similar scene from the coast of Eastern Norway. On Isle of Skye you have beautiful beaches leading to sharp mountains. What exactly is it that makes this shot interesting? It's the combination of the two elements, how the beach works alongside the mountain. How you're able to create a strong composition by leading the viewer through the image. Starting by the beach (foreground), up to the water (middle ground) then ending at the mountain and sky (background). When you then remove one element, let's say the background mountain, you're left with an ok shot.









Beautiful sunset in Larvik, Norway - missing the wow-factor

Beautiful sunset in Larvik, Norway - missing the wow-factor

Now let's take a look at this image from Larvik, Norway. The beach is rather similar to the beach from Isle of Skye and the sunset is much better. Is the shot as good? No. Regardless of the better conditions, this shot misses one element; a background. There is nothing but a horizon, and even tho you lead the viewers eye through the shot with a strong composition, there is no interesting element to end at. 

The upside about visiting these beautiful - not photogenic places is that you have the opportunity to work on your creativity. Try to see new elements that you don't normally notice. Look for patterns in the beach or maybe theres a cluster of flowers between the rocks. I suggest reading Sarah Marino's 7 Tips for Photographing Smaller Scenes for some great advice on becoming more creative, which certainly can be worth trying when you cant find the landscape shot





What are you're thoughts on this subject? Are all beautiful landscapes photogenic? 



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