The Intimate Landscape

March 27, 2018

Like many,  I revered and continue to honor the photography of Ansel Adams, David Muench and other photographers of the grand landscape tradition. Their black and white and color scenic landscape images are an inspiration. 

But my favorite photographer of all time is Eliot Porter. As a young photographer myself, I was captivated by the beauty of his lovely landscapes, which honed in on the intricacies of nature. To this day, I continue to enjoy and be inspired by the images in his beautiful books.

Autumn Gold on NC215 Porter began shooting black and white in 1912 at the age of 11, then became a pioneer in color photography beginning around 1930. Over the years he gradually evolved his visual expression using both. 

His work ranged from captivating images of nesting birds to wide-angle views of the landscape and, finally, to intimate views of nature that celebrated textures, patterns, colors, value ranges, abstract qualities and other details of a scene—a much smaller scene. These images resided somewhere between the wide-angle scenic and the close-up details of a flower and became known as Intimate Landscapes. 

Although color photography was not embraced as a true art form until the 50s or 60s, he continued working with it—perfecting it—over the years. He became a master of the dye transfer print, which made his images “jump off the page”; their impressiveness could not be denied. 

The Sierra Club, on whose Board of Directors both he and Ansel Adams served, published his first book of color images, In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World, in 1962. This book and his work, in general, were influential in passing the Wilderness Act in 1964. In 1972, his book Birds of North America: A Personal Selection was published, again by Sierra Club, and in 1979 the Metropolitan Museum of Art published his book, Intimate Landscapes.

Fern Dance For most of my photographic life—before digital—I shot black and white film. In spite of the influence of Eliot Porter, as I continued on my photographic journey I did not switch over to color photography since black and white was my first love. But I did evolve my own interpretations of the Intimate Landscape. I loved the detail and value ranges that emerged in black and white. I still do.

When the digital revolution emerged, it was a “no-brainer” for me to switch over to the new technology, even though it took digital quite a while to catch up to (and surpass?) film quality. But, an allergy to darkroom chemicals made it a timely transition. 

Initially, it presented the challenge of switching my photo mind from black and white to color, but I did and have for some time now captured images with both in mind. While color sometimes provides the best expression of a scene, other times black and white is preferred. Or infrared. But, as a friend says, I “live in the Intimate Landscape,” regardless of technique. That’s where I’m comfortable. Capturing wide-angle scenics has never been my forté.

Broad River Because of my love of Eliot Porter’s nuanced images, I’m pleased to present my upcoming workshop, “Photographing the Intimate Landscape: An Intensive In Vision and Craft,” which will explore this beautiful genre. 

We'll study Porter's and others' works that exemplify this very personal, more focused way of seeing. We'll delve into what goes into the making of an Intimate Landscape image—story, vision, composition (which is critical), lenses, filters, light and light control, and camera settings for optimum exposures. And we’ll get outside to explore and capture the landscape in our own interpretations of the Intimate Landscape. 


Join me to learn and to express your vision with this beautiful genre! For more information go to


For more information on Eliot Porter:


© 2018 Susanna Euston. All Rights Reserved.


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