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Lesson Plan

A Fresh Perspective on Landscape Photography

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OVERVIEW
In this lesson, students will observe the creative process of photographer Murray Fredericks as he captures images of the desolate landscape of Lake Eyre in Australia. They will evaluate Frederick's final images of Lake Eyre and then compare and contrast them to other landscape photographs.

The lesson features clips from the film SALT, an intimate video diary of Murray Fredericks as he photographed Lake Eyre in Australia. For more information on Murray Fredericks and Lake Eyre, see the Resources section of this lesson plan.

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OBJECTIVES
Students will:

  • Develop a definition of the word "landscape."
  • Provide examples and non-examples that support their definition.
  • Describe the creative process of photographer Murray Fredericks as he captures images of Lake Eyre in Australia.
  • Analyze and evaluate Fredericks' final photographs of Lake Eyre.
  • Compare and contrast Fredericks' images to other landscape photographs they have brought to class.

GRADE LEVELS: 6-12

SUBJECT AREAS: Art, Photography, Media

MATERIALS

  • Internet access and equipment to show the class online video clips and resources
  • Handout: Creative Process Profile (PDF file)

ESTIMATED TIME NEEDED: One 50-minute class period, plus some homework time

FILM CLIPS

Clip 1: "What I Want to Accomplish" (length 1:46)
The clip begins at 4:22 with a shot of bicycle handlebars and the spoken words "I care to get a move on today . . ." It ends at 6:08 when Murray Fredericks says, "It's following the sun around the salt."

Clip 2: "Connecting with Landscapes" (length 1:06)
The clip begins at 9:41 with the words "One thing that fascinates me . . ." It ends at 10:47 with an overhead shot of the photographer on a vast field of white salt.

Clip 3: "The Appeal of Lake Eyre" (length 1:10)
The clip begins at 12:46 with the photographer setting up his gear. It ends at 13:56 when he says, "I'm fascinated with the crossover point."

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ACTIVITY

  1. For homework the night before this lesson, have each student identify and bring in a "landscape photograph."
  2. Begin the lesson by writing the word "landscape" up on the board and asking students to define the term. Once the class has a working definition, have students show examples (from their homework) or describe items that fit their definition and those that do not. A city skyline? A scene with trees and mountains? A crowded sidewalk or busy intersection? A shot of crashing waves? Allow the class to revise its definition, if desired, as the students consider more examples.
  3. Tell students that photographer Murray Fredericks wanted to break with traditional landscape photography and capture images of a setting that is vast and empty. He believed that most landscape photographs capture and convey specific places. He wanted to see what would happen if he pointed his camera into pure space, with the idea that he could move beyond place to a more primal essence.

    Explain that over a seven-year period Fredericks made a series of 14 camping trips to Lake Eyre (pronounced "air") in Australia. Show the location of Lake Eyre on Google Earth or a map. Lake Eyre is a giant salt evaporation basin below sea level, and on the rare occasions when it fills, it becomes the largest lake in Australia.
  4. Distribute the Creative Process Profile handout and ask students to take notes while you show them a series of three short video clips that consist of footage from Fredericks' camping trips to Lake Eyre.
  5. Show the class some of the final photographs of Lake Eyre. Discuss: What do you think of or feel when you look at the photographs of Lake Eyre? What words would you use to describe the images? What title would you give each image? What elements (salt field, horizon line, sky, clouds, stars) make up each photograph? How do these elements differ from image to image? How does the position of the horizon line change what is emphasized in each image? How would the image change if the position were higher or lower? How does the position of the sun change the images (color, contrast)? Do you like the photographs? Why or why not?
  6. Ask each student to produce a Venn diagram that compares and contrasts one of Fredericks' photographs of Lake Eyre with the landscape image he or she brought to class.


ASSESSMENT SUGGESTIONS Students can be assessed on:

  • Bringing in a landscape photograph.
  • Completion of the Creative Process Profile handout.
  • Participation in class discussion.
  • Thoughtful responses on the Venn diagram.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Connect visual arts to music. Ask the students to suggest songs or musical compositions that inspire feelings similar to what they feel when viewing Fredericks' photographs of Lake Eyre. Play these musical suggestions as the class looks at the photographs and compares and contrasts the selections. Discuss whether any piece of music changes the way they feel about the photographs when they look at them.

  • Develop an eye for interesting details in local landscapes. Ask students to take walks every day for a week to explore and become more familiar with their immediate surroundings. Have students document their walks using cameras, collections of objects found along the way, journals or sketchbooks. During this time period, encourage development of students' observational skills by assigning them vivid descriptions of landscapes by writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter to read. When the students have finished their series of walks, have them create poems or works of art that capture their observations. Discuss how their artworks convey the connections between themselves and the landscapes they observed.

  • Conduct an in-depth study of the rule of thirds. Explain this principle of photography and use Fredericks' images from Lake Eyre to help students focus on the horizon point as an element of composition. How does Fredericks obey or break the rule of thirds? What effects do his choices about composition have on the images? How was the rule of thirds used or disregarded in the landscape images brought in by students? Have students provide an analysis of these questions in writing.


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RELATED RESOURCES

SALT. "About Lake Eyre."
The SALT documentary's website provides details on the lake's geography, location and size. A link to the lake on Google Maps is provided, and you can use it to show the lake's location in Australia and how the lake looks from space.

Nuovo Contemporary Art. "Basic Strategies in Reading Photographs."
This excellent resource uses photographic works to illustrate basic vocabulary used to describe photographs, their visual elements and their composition.

Murray Fredericks.
Fredericks' official website provides additional examples of his photography.

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STANDARDS

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning).

Arts and Communication
Standard 2: Knows and applies appropriate criteria to arts and communication products.

Standard 3: Uses critical and creative thinking in various arts and communication settings.

Standard 4: Understands ways in which the human experience is transmitted and reflected in the arts and communication.

Language Arts
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.

Visual Arts
Standard 1: Understands and applies media, techniques and processes related to the visual arts.

Standard 3: Knows a range of subject matter, symbols and potential ideas in the visual arts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cari Ladd, M.Ed., is an educational writer with a background in secondary education and media development. Previously, she served as PBS Interactive's director of education, overseeing the development of curricular resources tied to PBS programs, the PBS TeacherSource website (now PBS Teachers) and online teacher professional development services. She has also taught in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

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