Big Landscapes – the constructed landscape Stephen Robinson and his Leica M9-P

Stephen Robinson is a professional photographer operating from his Zambia base.  He makes his living doing assignment photography for commercial, mining, agricultural, environmental project and donor aid project clients.  His reportage project “Life in the Shadows- Albinism in Africa” was featured by LEICA Camera in two parts at: Life in the Shadows – Albinism in Africa Part 1 ; and, Life in the Shadows – Albinism in Africa Part 2. In Part 1 of this blog post, Stephen Robinson reported on his initial experimentation with the use of LEICA M aspherical (ASPH) lenses to make what he calls ‘the constructed landscape’ (BIG Landscapes with the small LEICA- Part 1).

“When I started my nature & urban landscape project ( I decided to use a panoramic medium format film camera.  I wanted to get something of the reality of the 3-dimensional scene into the 2-dimensional picture, and so portray more of the ‘being there’ feeling that the human eye’s peripheral vision gives us.”

“More recently, to try to get more of that ‘being there’ feeling, I began to experiment by using LEICA M ASPH lenses (on a LEICA M9-P) to make multiple, overlapping exposures of the landscapes, each one a shot of a just a small part of the pre-mapped scene.  Then I combined these into one frame in a ‘reconstruction’ of the panoramic landscape – not as the wide lens would record it, but as the human eye saw and experienced it.”

“I found that the selective use of the technique could help attend to the problem frequently facing the landscape photographer – that of not being able to get close enough, ‘up-close and into’ the landscape, whilst maintaining the wide view.”

He began by practising and using the technique in his nature and urban landscape work (featured in BIG Landscapes with the small LEICA- Part 1).

He also applied & adapted the technique to a series of commercial work assignments for a mining client.  The photographs here are from that work, done at two copper and cobalt mines in the Katanga province of Congo (DRC).

“The client’s brief was to photograph a complete operations profile and show the large scale of their projects and investments.  The work was for general corporate uses but, in particular, it was to be used in my production of high quality, large format photobooks.”

“When first I saw the mining operations, it was clear that their huge scale would be difficult to portray in the usual series of 35mm frames.  A series of shots of parts of a subject was unlikely to result in an impactful photobook.  I started the assignment with some aerial work, but no matter what the time of day, air pollution and heat haze was a major problem.”

So he decided to get back to ground level and use the ‘constructed landscape’ technique to try to portray each vast scene in one photograph, rather than by a series of images.

“To give you some idea of the scale of these scenes, take a look at the photo Open Pit Operation #1.  Here, even dump trucks of 140 tonnes capacity are dwarfed by the massive scale of the open pit mine workings.  In the photo of another mine, Open Pit Operation #5, the dump trucks in the middle distance are each of 200 tonnes capacity.  They are the size of a house, but are made to look toy-like in this immense scene.”

Certain of the client’s plant areas and processing plants were also of large scale requiring a wide view but an ‘up-close’ technique.

“The process plants are big as well, some of them really big.  It was often the case that there were few options for camera position and angle.  So the constructed landscape technique was used here as well.  It was often the only way I could get a view wide enough to show the whole of the subject, whilst being close enough to make a shot which would approximate to the human eye’s view.”

About Stephen:

Stephen Robinson is a professional photographer operating from his Zambia base. He makes his living doing assignment photography for commercial, mining, agricultural, environmental project and donor aid project clients. For more information see:

‘Spirit of the Land’ project website a project using panoramic photography of the remote landscape of Africa

WILDFOTOAfrica website – stock, portfolio, art photography work plus commercial work.

PhotoMails – an occasional online photo-journal which publishes short photo-features on a wide variety of subjects.

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  • The blight of industrialization! The awful grandeur and colors of a ruined landscape.
    The huge yellow dump/mountain reminding me, of my birth city, Johannesburg.
    “Egoli” the city of gold. Thankfully the dumps now covered in growth of a plant.
    The pix are grand but sometimes a larger format would be better!
    Edward Burtinsky uses large format in his quest. I still applaud your work!

  • The first photos of this majestic landscape are one of the many wonders that nature can only produce. Shapes and colors that no painter would paint better. They give me great emotion!
    But sadness to see man-made transformation. You have been able to grasp the majesty of this man-made work and the great sadness of those who like me see another piece of humanity disappear to leave the pleace of “progress”.

  • Thank you Jason and Roberta for looking and commenting. Yes, here there definitely is the industrial blight and the sadness in man’s transformation of Nature’s landscape. But we all want those cell phone, tablet, laptop and PC devices that demand this transformation – and yes, cameras too.

  • You are right Stephen, this is the price of progress! Nobody wants to give up all this!
    Thanks anyway for your beautiful photos. The only way I can see a world that maybe I will never see, but that I can see with your camera eyes as if they were replacing mine.

  • I’m looking to get into photography more seriously now but don’t have a decent camera yet. I’m looking for something which can deliver similar results to what’s been achieved above. Can anyone recommend a camera around the £700 mark? I was actually thinking of renting one first to try out before to be sure. Do any of these look suitable?:

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