Michael Kenna and the Environment

Mar 1, 2010
by: JakeS
Double Sunset, by Jake
Snow Covered Pier, by Michael Kenna
Abandoned Oyster Dock, by Michael Kenna

 Something I have become interested in learning more about is photographing landscapes and using light to create contrast in my photos. I started to become interested in Michael Kenna because he took amazing photographs of landscapes. Michael Kenna was born in Britian in 1953.  He takes contemporary landscape pictures in black and white.  Sometimes he takes pictures at night with extremely long exposures.  He has also worked for large companies, such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz. One of his photos, Snow Covered Pier, caught my attention.

Snow Covered Pier


 This information is from the Weston Gallery  website. The Weston Gallery is in California and displays some of Kenna's work. They have some of Kenna's work on exhibition.

  This topic relates to me and my interests because I like taking pictures of landscapes using light to make things look nice. I would like to try it in black and white. One thing that surprised me was I had seen Michael Kenna's work before, in a calendar. One thing that I wonder about this person's work and life is how someone can take the perfect picture in nature? How do you get your environment to do what you want it to?

Michael Kenna was involved with incorporating the natural with the artificial, as we can see in Abandoned Oyster Dock and Highway One where he uses the man-made pier and road as a bridge into the world of Mother Nature.


Abandoned Oyster Dock and Highway One 


 Being that I didn't have a lot of background information on Michael Kenna, I chose to do some more research. As I searched for another source of information about him, I came across Michael Kenna's website.  This website provided a lot of information and opinions about Michael Kenna's photographs and personal life.

I saw that he did a lot of commercial work for large corporations. This didn't really surprise me all that much, but it did make me feel weird because I realized that I had seen his work in that aspect before as well.

 Now that I have done this research, it makes me think more about my own work Double Sunset.  I think of this piece because I also used a man-made object to merge the natural and unnatural (the dock).


 Double Sunset 


 All of this really makes me take a new look at the world of photography.  I'm really thinking about starting a series of photographs about a single theme, taken from a single location.  This is what Michael Kenna did, so I would like to try it as well.

 Next, with my own work, I hope to start taking sets of pictures that revolve around a single theme.  I would like to try taking some black and white photographs. I would like to try having the weather to revolve around my photographs, instead of my photographs revolving around the weather.


Thank you for the other

anchif's picture
Submitted by anchif on Fri, 2010-03-05 11:08.

Thank you for the other comment.  I do agree with the fact that my waterfall picture would be better in color.  You seem to know a lot about him and i seems like that you really enjoy his work. It's cool that you want to go in to black and white photos.  There is so much you can do with a black and white photo.

 Dear Jake: I liked your

Submitted by DanielleRa on Fri, 2010-03-05 15:14.

 Dear Jake:

I liked your post, "Michael Kenna and the Environment," because I also love Michael Kenna's photography and I agree with a lot of the things you say in the post.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: "One thing that I wonder about this person's work and life is how someone can take the perfect picture in nature? " I think this is interesting because I agree, nature is never the same so it seems hard for someone to take a perfect picture. Then again, because it's never the same there are many more 'perfect' moments to capture. 

Another sentence that I found interesting was: "How do you get your environment to do what you want it to?" This stood out for me because I don't think you can get your environment to do what you want it to,' I think it just happens, there is just a perfect moment and the photographer perfectly captures it in a photograph.

Your post reminds me of something that happened to me. One time I was on a dock in Cape Cod, much like the one in the first photograph 'Snow Covered Pier' and as I was standing on it I kept on thinking how I could possibly photograph it to make it very interesting, as Michael Kenna does above.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because I really enjoyed your post and found your ideas interesting.



Kenna is good-- when he's

Submitted by Dstahulak on Wed, 2010-03-10 14:07.

Kenna is good-- when he's not showing off; his photos in later years seem to come uncomfortably close to the threshold of glamour shots and the "blatently artistic"*. When Kenna plays with the fundamentals of his soft compositions he is someone to be admired, when the sky softens the sharp lines of  his highly contrasted subject matter he is something to be admired, when he grants divine grace to a museum facade with blown highlights and shadows he is not. Later compositions seem to feature less-- composition and more post processing.


*blatently artistic referring to the production of art to a particular asthetic popular among surrealists-- too artsy


Jake's teacher's thoughts about this post

susanettenheim's picture
Submitted by susanettenheim on Tue, 2011-07-26 21:49.

Learn more about this project and Jake's use of a guide to support his writing on Digital Is, "Jake Uses a Guide to Find his Voice."

I really love these pictures.

Submitted by Jackie Morgan1 on Fri, 2011-09-09 16:28.

I really love these pictures. Especially the sunset!

This shot is phenomenal! I

Submitted by Gabriela Elizabeth on Tue, 2012-09-18 16:28.

This shot is phenomenal! I love the contrast, and the focal points. My eye was drawn to many different aspects of it. The location was beautiful, and the dark contrast works great here.