Have not posted my favorite subject, landscapes, in a while:
This is difficult to write in a few brief words - which seems the preference here. I'll do both a short and a long version, because in fact this can't be done in a few words with any justice to photography. The short version, for those who want to move on quickly, is: a beautiful photograph of "nature plasticized." It's pretty and makes nice prints! It caught my eye for a moment, then I moved on.
The longer version has to explain "plasticized" in relation to photography. This would be the critique part. I've seen a lot of pictures of Devil Mountain. Almost as many as Half Dome. A very good photographer and dear friend once told me this story. They were driving through Yosemite and at the moment where the road turns just so, he said to all those in his car full of fellow photographers, "Ok, we're getting near Half Dome, put your cameras away." I assume that doesn't need explanation.
The difference between the graphic arts and photography might be summarized as this:
Where photographs tell truth, graphic designs explain the ideal. Look at how postage stamps are done. They have highly skilled engravers make an image of say, Jefferson or Elvis. They don't show a bottle of pills next to Elvis, right? They outline and fill in the ideal Elvis. What would generate more interest: An edition of original engravings of Elvis, or an edition of backstage photographs? That doesn't mean one is better than another, it simply explains the difference.
In this photograph, we see the idealized mountain, even down the exact required ingredients: cloud, tree, mountain, sky, check, check. And each item appears to have been scrubbed down to its bare outline, removed, cleaned, polished, repainted and set back into its proper place and adjusted for perfect alignment. And somewhere along the way, the nature of mountains and the feeling of trees got scrubbed away. There's none of nature's imperfections or weird deviations in here. Errant branches don't even seem to exist any more in this Super World of Super Clean Plastic (like an animator's world).
The question I always ask is what is this telling me about Devil Mountain? Ok, it's tall, it's reddish and so on. Is that what I want to know? Is that very interesting? For me not too much. It is a very pretty image in the way some photographic fashion models are very pretty. But their made-up face doesn't say much about them, does it? Aren't they looking as empty as they possibly can? I don't even get a sense of the space in which this mountain exists. It is framed so tightly - maybe to even remove more of the imperfections around it? I don't know.
So, for all of it, this picture is much more like a graphics arts creation. Find the shape, put it here, find the right color to fill in, make it bright and shiny. And on this very superficial level (really I mean "surface level") the picture is beautiful and well done, and I know it takes a lot of skill to do it. I don't think however that it takes any advantage of the powers of photography.
NOTE: This might be too harsh sounding without enough praise for the technical work here (which is superb). However, I happen to know in this case that the photographer is extremely experienced, and not a beginner for whom this would be very inappropriate. In other words, he's a big boy and doesn't want hand holding.