Living Landscapes: Creative Visions of the Wild

Author: Andy Rouse

Publisher: Argentum (Aurum Press)

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Andy Rouse is one of the greatest wildlife photographers in the world. His pictures have been honored by most of the important world competitions. The best are stunning and breathtaking. Both lovers of wildlife and photographers spend many moments being enthralled by his work.

In “Living Landscapes” Rouse strikes out in a new direction. Instead of concentrating on filling the frame, the photographer has stepped back and tried to include more of the landscape so that we can get a deeper understanding of the subject.

The book is divided into an introduction and a conversation with photographer and editor Eddie Ephrams, and chapters on habitat, snow geese, patterns, and the Galapagos. Some of the pictures are quite stunning, particularly the two-page spreads. The two pagers usually show a panoramic landscape with either the subject or subjects on one side, or large groups of animals spread across the landscape. Amongst my favorites is the picture of a group of king penguins against an ocean-filled sunset in the Falklands.

Now comes the “but”. And I realize that my “but” is a matter of aesthetic judgment, probably reflecting my own shooting style, and that others may love the pictures to which I was less attracted. For me many of the pictures included a little too much of the environment. It was not clear whether the subject was the wildlife or the landscape so that a viewer might be conflicted or confused when exploring the picture. From the text I deduce that Rouse would be pleased to force the viewer to do some work to engage the picture and decipher the message, but I fear some will avoid the challenge. That would be a shame, for there certainly is much to engage a viewer willing to do the work. An example is the photo of an abandoned temple in the jungle in India. One has to search the frame carefully to discover the tiger who blends in so well with the orange and black walls. Once one has found the cat the picture takes on a completely different feeling that makes the image far more exciting on a second viewing.

I was also less delighted by some of the snow geese images where Rouse has created more impressionistic, slow-shutter-speed work to capture the movement of the birds. For this genre, the pictures are quite good, but I much prefer the crisper shots like the head-on view of snow geese landing.

Rouse is to be commended for his efforts to expand his style. That’s a tough thing to do for an artist, especially when his old style was so successful. All photographers can benefit from his example (and probably non-photographers too!)

Thumbnails of the images are provided in the back of the book where one can usually find technical information about the picture, but here Rouse is as uncompromising as he is with his images and provides only generalized shooting information.

I must confess that on first reading, I was a little disappointed with the images, but as I worked on them, I began to appreciate the pictures more and more, and even to be inspired to try some new directions with my own work.

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