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You might look at my work and think it is ‘just a photograph’ and you’d be right. However I create images with a lot of love and attention. It’s not a quick snap, more an insight into how I was seeing the world at that moment in time.
“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary” Pablo Picasso.
Creating stunning landscape and travel images is what I do. True it might sound glamorous – after all I get to visit some stunning locations, and that’s the bit I love. The bit that’s not so glamorous is driving to a location in the early hours (in the summer that means a 3a.m. start) setting up and waiting for the light.
Nothing beats the light at sunrise, it is my favorite – I love what surrounds it too, the stillness, the calm, the quiet the fact that no one else is about. It’s also a gamble, you never quite know what you are going to get. It is a very special time of the day, and when you are rewarded with a magical dawn then it makes it all worthwhile. The first light has a wonderful quality, a certain softness that can quickly change with the weather conditions.
I also like the symbolism of a new day – a fresh start. It’s quite a spiritual time of the day. At dawn the sun rises over a cold earth and into an atmosphere that has been cleansed of haze and pollution during the night so the visibility can be incredible. In certain weather conditions there is a chance of mist too.
I enjoy visiting new locations, I enjoy the thrill of finding a new location, but equally I like to visit old favorites and try and better my previous best. Typically I’ll check out all the postcards of the area, and visit the Tourist Information and gather their leaflets so that I have an idea of what others have taken before me. It’s also a benchmark for me – I want to produce something different to what has already been done and anyway I would struggle to copy another photographer’s style, plus the chances of the same lighting conditions occurring again or me standing in exactly the same place as them is highly unlikely. I’ll also visit a local library and check out their local area books for more ideas and use the web for research too.
Once I have some location ideas, I mark them all onto a map, work out a rough itenary and start driving. I tend to favor locations that include water – don’t ask me why, I am just naturally drawn to include that element. On location I walk – check the place out, and make notes on whether I thinks it’s an afternoon or morning place. Maybe take some record shots. Undoubtedly in driving around I found more places that appeal to my artistic vision, and those get added to the list. I’ll then make several visits usually returning over a number of years trying to capture the location at it’s defining moment, which is when I get a funny feeling in my stomach.
If I hit a location and the light is looking good I will stay and take a variety of shots – some wide angle, others more detailed. I have been known to get completely carried away – lose track of time and only realise 6 hours have passed when I start to feel a bit peckish.
I will typically look for shots that suit my compositional style – so I like to have foreground detail, I like to use physical things in the landscape to draw the viewers eye into the picture, and will often shoot from quite a low angle to introduce a different perspective to an image. I like the unusual too – I look for patterns, for symmetry and for a rhythmic structure and above all simplicity – in other words a clutter free composition. Once I have an image I’m happy with, I’ll push it a bit further to see if I can improve by moving around or changing lenses. I also break my own rules a fair bit too, especially if I ‘see’ something that I think works, but that’s what rules are for.
The whole process can take some time, especially as I like the light to be adding texture and form to the scene, and sadly I haven’t worked out how you get the clouds to move into position yet.
I often end up working with quite long time exposures, because I like to use a small aperture, and the odd filter. Although I use digital camera’s (in addition to a film camera) and tweak the results using Photoshop, artistically I still want to create the final image in camera on location. Part of the fun is in waiting for the light to be at it’s best, and recording that and the changes too. Creating a montage of images is not my idea of fun at all. Plus I would have missed some great shots, as it’s often during this waiting period that I spot new picture opportunities. One location can yield many different pictures, especially if you return at different times of the year.
In theory landscape photography should be simple – after all it is just sitting there, but what makes it my first love is how a scene can change depending on the time of year, day and weather conditions. The moods that this can evoke are ever changing, and therein lies the challenge – to successfully communicate what you are experiencing with all your senses into a pleasing image.
I favor including some kind of water in my images – water can either introduce calmness or energy to an image depending on how it is presented to the viewer. Waves crashing over rocks introduce power, energy and movement, whilst a still lake is somewhat more tranquil. Water has many qualities and moods, it is unpredictable and exploitable! Personally I love coastal areas the best for these reasons and for the range of images that you can find.