The subject of viewfinders passed by in last night's blog and in the comments. I think I will write a little about those. In short, I think viewfinders are for beginners ( I guess I will need to post a baby animal tomorrow, I know some of you will be offended) here's why.
A viewfinders purpose is to cut a finite and absolute window out of nature before you, so you can transfer that onto your canvas. For people just learning to paint landscapes, that is a handy tool. The amount of complexity outdoors is simplified somewhat and they can copy whatever is bounded by the little L shaped pieces of cardboard. What could be wrong with that, Stape? Dirk Van Assaerts was known to have used one as early as the 17th century!
Well, the problem is this....... Cropping may be composition, but it is not design. Simply cutting a window out of nature and copying that, is the lowest form of composition as it doesn't include deliberate arrangement of the shapes and elements of a painting. The literal and exact representation of nature before you is a "must have" skill for the landscape painter. But it is not the highest form of art. It is journalism, not poetry. Fine landscape painters design their paintings. They arrange the elements and shapes within that picture into an artistic presentation. The artist who literally copies nature before him is going to have his lunch eaten by the artist who can design a picture, rather than having it imposed on him by the happenstance arrangement of the shapes as they naturally occur before them. A camera can crop, it takes human decision making to arrange, and an artist to arrange beautifully.
Again, as a learning tool a viewfinder is fine and beginning landscapists need a way to "get a hold" of the landscape, and bounding it with a viewfinder aids in the mechanical transcription of the scene onto the canvas. I think, however, that after the aspiring painter learns to deal with that, it is time to be rid of the viewfinder, and begin forging arrangements from natures offerings rather than numbly transcribing a selected piece of nature.