The National Theatre (mezzanine level - in the Lyttelton Exhibition Space) is currently hosting the 2011 Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition. This year's finalists and winners cover a range of landscape subjects from the traditional to some rather radical views of urban decay. That I was personally left dissatisfied by the exhibition should not deter anyone visiting London from visiting and viewing the show.
There are definitely some exceptional photos in the show, but I was left to look in vain for something genuinely new. I won't say that all the work on display is utterly derivative - far from it - only that in their efforts to find new viewpoints a number of otherwise talented photographers managed to achieved what I can only describe as sharply etched mediocrity. While we all periodically hear advice such as "get down low once in a while" for a new point of view, and "try shooting from a higher position once in a while" for a new point of view, that advice must by kept in the context of a lower or higher shooting angle which effectively contributes to the creation of a more interesting photo. Unfortunately, several of the finalists and winners chose strange viewpoints for their own sake, the result being oddly foreshortened or similarly altered perspectives which hurt rather than helped the compositions.
This year's exhibition, for me, was largely underwhelming. Charlie Waite's work was the exception I think. Remarkable light, interesting points of view, unusual subject matter made up of common scenes in nature. A number of photos revealed too much post-processing, some overcooking, and quite a bit more softness than I've seen in competitions at this level in recent years.
The technical review of the exhibition opened my eyes to some startling realities among this varied crop of landscape shooters. 28 Nikon shooters (predominated by six D200 and six D300 bodies) vs. 62 Canon shooters (predominated by twenty seven 5D MKII bodies). As far as the technology goes, it's a Canon show for the most part. Just as interestingly I think, three different and very solid shots (printed for the show at approximately 16"x20") were made with a Panasonic Lumix GF1, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 and a Lumix DMC-FS11 which just goes to show you that a good photographer can make an award winning shot with something other than a professional class camera.