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Landscapes on fire: A painterly take on nature photography

July 2017 issue

Landscapes on fire: A painterly take on nature photography

They look otherworldly but they’re very much of this earth. Brendan Pattengale’s landscape images push the boundaries between photography and painting. “I’m really flattered most when people think I’m a painter,” he says.

But how does he create such vivid, surreal images of real-life landscapes? Some of it’s accomplished in camera, some of it in post, he explains, such as the white balance setting, or how he processes the raw file to a working file. And sometimes it’s more impromptu. For example, he once put his red-tinted sunglasses over the corner of his lens to act as a filter, which accentuated the red colors in the landscape. Another technique is to put his camera on a tripod and shake it toward the end of a long exposure.

“I’ll do anything out there until I’m happy,” Pattengale says. “I look at the camera as a glorified paint brush. If you’re technically proficient with it, you can have it do whatever you want it to do.” Color is his muse, specifically colors in nature. He made a trip to Bolivia just to photograph Laguna Colorada, a lake known for its red tint. “Iceland looked like somebody came with a paint brush in every color of the rainbow and dabbed every tip of the mountains,” he says. He’d love to photograph Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli rock, which was sourced to make the blue paint Michelangelo used in his works, he says.

“It really doesn’t matter where I go,” he adds. “How I see it is what’s important.”

Amanda Arnold is the associate editor of Professional Photographer.

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