In some ways, layers define the landscape at large. When a landscape consists of layers stretching out to the distant horizon, the details become abstracted, and we can imagine ourselves lost in the perspective of the infinite.
I was reminded of my quest for the layered landscape with a recent print purchase inquiry regarding my Landscape of Blue Layers, shown above. I made this image on a road trip in the autumn of 2017 from above Westgard Pass, in the White Mountains on the California-Nevada border.
2017 was, I think, the first year of the really bad autumnal fires in California, leading to smoke and haze throughout the eastern Sierra. I used this otherwise horrible condition to create the atmospheric Poem of the Road, and later in the same trip several other layered landscapes, Down in the Valley and Red Dragon Sunset. Both images are shown below. Also on this trip, there was some cool night photography (and a broken lens), but that is a different story.
Looking at my Landscape of Blue Layers as a possible print, I began to wonder what other images there might be in my unprocessed files from this trip. I pulled up the autumn of 2017 on my production computer pretty easily. My search was for layered landscape images, of which three are shown below. As you can see, this was a pretty productive trip.
So layers in a landscape photo are not layers in Photoshop. These images are created in the camera, and I did very little to them in post-production besides cleaning up a few flaws and heightening contrast a bit. The trick to photographing layers in the landscape is mostly being in the right place, at the right time, with one’s camera already on the tripod.