Intimate Landscape

The Sequoia Shadows Expedition Masterclass is ground zero for intimate landscape images.

Landscape Intimacy - After 3

Intimacy is a word that describes relationships. Sometimes it implies a sensual component, or a sense of comforting isolation, or perhaps an undertone of tenderness. Intimacy is applicable to landscape photography as well and we sense it when shooting structured scenes. The Sequoia Shadows Expedition Master Class is ground zero for intimate landscape images.

In a previous blog, I noted four major types of landscape photographs. Let’s review:

Majestic Scene

This is the ‘Grand Canyon’ of landscape photography— wide, high, and tall with multiple elements. Majestic scenes make nice pictures, but it takes time and thought to compose and create majestic images that yield a creative point of view.

The Structured Scene

The Majestic Scene identifies a landmark such as the Tetons, but a Structured Scene isolates compositions within a Majestic Scene so that your audience has a sense of being there, but there is not an address; it is an emotional connection. These compositions allow your viewers to achieve an intimate and meaningful relationship with the image.


It may be a single pebble or an interesting shadow that provides mystery or clarity. A small facet can affect enormous clarity because the viewer would otherwise overlook this elemental detail.


Scalable components often appear as one studies a landscape. These components often do not make an image in and of themselves. Rather, they are scene elements for composites or major post modifications, usually previsualized by the photographer at the time of capture.

A small facet can affect enormous clarity because the viewer would otherwise overlook this elemental detail.

Sequoia Landscape Illustrations

When working with the 7 story tall Sequoias, we quickly recognize man’s minute stature within nature and we need to illustrate that relationship in our personal project. However, if we focus only on the possible metaphors of man’s insignificant place in the natural world, then we may miss opportunities to compose the intimate relationships of shadows and highlights.

I’ve included some examples. Sequoia has many Grand Scenic opportunities which we will capture and interpret. Yet, we also want to immerse ourselves in the highlight/shadow relations which the big trees produce as they filter sunlight, moonlight, and color to produce intimate moments.

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Landscape Intimacy - "Sequoias" After
Landscape Intimacy - "Sequoias" Before

A grand scenic provides a strong sense of height and majesty. The foreground rock in shadow and the choice of lens presents the giantness of the Sequoia. Similarly, the variation in coloration allows the red trunks to dominate by relieving the ever-present blue found in the polarized skies. This approach is one of personal expression and emphasizes man’s reduced significance in relation to nature.

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“Congress Trees”

Landscape Intimacy - "Congress Trees" After
Landscape Intimacy - "Congress Trees" Before

An intimate look at the relationships between the Sequoias. The composition uses the repetitive forms of the tree trunks and the sheer girth to tell us all we need to know about tree size. However, grouping the trunks in this composition from a ground level POV makes the trees seem approachable and welcoming. Additionally, the coloration in the foggy afternoon is warm like a cottage fire.

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“Sequoia Shadows”

Layer Stack – Previsualized Workflow
Layer Stack – Previsualized Workflow
Landscape Intimacy - "Sequoia Shadows" After
Landscape Intimacy - "Sequoia Shadows" Before

Let’s take an intimate look at the relationships between the highlights and shadows of the Sequoia Forest. The composition uses the repetitive forms of the tree trunks to support the light and shadow story. We applied a black and white gradient to the left hand side to allow the deep reds and oranges of the Sequoias to come forward. Again we also see that the coloration and relationships make the Sequoias warm and approachable.

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Previsualization and Post-Production

It is more important to counter what is “really” there with your impressions of what you “really” perceive.

In our Landscape Master Class, we teach end to end workflow. In the examples presented, I applied a previsualized workflow for each image using Lightroom and Photoshop. However, the workflow started in camera with purposeful compositions and carefully chosen exposures. You can compare the revelatory character or realism of the captured image to the “pictorial” outcome of the final workflow. I do not insist on realism as the essence of landscape art photography, and in the National Park Photography Master Classes, we do not believe in the superiority of one particular procedure or standard. Although, we do believe in establishing a visual voice, your own. Interpreted more broadly, it is more important to counter what is “really” there with your impressions of what you “really” perceive.

More about previsualization in the next post.

All the Best Light!

scales of justice
  1. Due to limited class size, we request that you cancel at least 30 days before a scheduled class. This gives us the opportunity to fill the class. You may cancel by phone or by email. If you have to cancel your class, we offer you a credit to your account. You may use these credits towards any future class. However, if you do not cancel prior to 72 hours prior to the class, you will be subject to a loss of deposited payment for the class. NPPE has the only right to be flexible with this policy and will make determinations on a case by case basis.
  2. Cancellations made 30 days or more in advance of the class date, will receive a 100% credit. Cancellations made within the 30 day period will incur a 20% fee with the balance applied as a credit to the account. Cancellations made within 72 hours to the class will be subject to a 100% loss of registration fees paid.