Blog: The 3 Pioneers That Left A Footprint In Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is truly stunning—from capturing wide scenes of an entire valley, to capturing the tiny details in a building that adds life to a boring city picture. That said, when did landscape photography start? Was it something recent, or has it had a long history? Well, it is next to impossible to talk about the history of landscape photography without talking about its pioneers!

Here are the three pioneers that have left a footprint in the landscape-photography world:

William Henry Jackson

In the beginning, Jackson wasn't much of a photographer. While he served in the Union Army, he spent a lot of time painting pictures. Only later, in 1866, when Jackson moved to the American West, along with his brother Edward Jackson, that he started his love for photography. In fact, he started a photography business.

In 1869, Jackson started working for Union Pacific. His job? To snap landscape pictures of railroad routes for promotion. It was because of this fantastic work that he was eventually picked up by Ferdinand Hayden to be part of one of the Yellowstone river expeditions.

Today, William Henry Jackson, a painter, photographer, and explorer, is famous thanks to the picture he took of the American West. One of the most outstanding photos he ever took was called the "Mountain of the Holy Cross," which was in Colorado.

Carleton Watkins

Carleton Watkins is famous thanks to the pictures he took of the Yosemite Valley, which were huge pictures of great detail. The photos weren't easy to capture, either. He lugged around his behemoth of a camera that utilized 18 by 22-inch glass plates, as well as his tent and other essentials on mules as he trekked the area. This also resulted in him having to bring back around thirty of these plate negatives back for processing. Watkins was also hired by the California State Geological Survey to take photos. Part of a team, he took many pictures of the California area, all of which held different information about the region.

Fortunately, his efforts weren't in vain, as it was his pictures that kicked off the National Park movement in the United States. It was what turned Yosemite into the national park we know and love today.

Peter Henry Emerson

Peter Henry Emerson was a writer and photographer. He firmly believed that photography isn't about being technical or scientific, but rather artistic.

Thanks to the inspiration of French paintings, Emerson started his landscape photography album, the first one being published under the name "Life and Landscape of the Norfolk Broads." His best work was done in the East Anglian fenlands in 1895 and was entitled "Marsh Leaves."


Without the three pioneers we've talked about today, landscape photography might be a lot different from what we know of it today. Landscape photography might have never taken off, and we would've never understood the true beauty that lies in this planet of ours.

Thanks to these three, landscape photography has evolved into a genre not only popular in the photography world, but among non-photographers as well. Not to mention, with the consistent evolution of technology, it is good to know that landscape photography is just going to get better and better. One can only imagine what magic the pioneers could come up with if they had the tools we have today.

Want to learn more about landscape photography? Check out my website and learn a thing or two!