Expanse – March 2016
Now that 2017 is underway, I thought I should take a moment to share some thoughts about the previous year. In years past, I’ve done a “Top 10” post with images from the year. This year has been a bit different though with a change of formats (digital to film). Early in 2016, I was sending off film immediately after shooting the roll to ensure I was actually exposing the images properly. Once I was comfortable with my camera, I began to take a different approach to shooting and processing.
In 2015, I took over 30,000 photos on my DSLR. In 2016, I made roughly 650 images on film. This drastic difference in quantity is a direct result of my new approach to photography and something I’ve had to learn over the past year. With social media and digital photography, it’s all too easy to shoot, edit, share in the same day (hour!). Much of my work is landscape based and it may seem obvious but the bottom line is I was there and the viewer of the image was not. It is all too easy as a photographer to let my recent or immediate experience take too much weight in selecting my best work, aka keepers.
Watercolor Skies – March 2016
This is an important point I try to keep in mind when shooting and looking for images. I often ask myself if the viewer will be able to see what I’m seeing without actually being here? One distinction with this is that I’m not trying to share my experience of being in a place. I’ve mentioned it before but I don’t believe a camera is the way for me to accomplish this, if that was in fact my goal. If I include my experience in the image though, it may still be communicated visually while allowing the viewer their own interpretation of the image.
This all sounds good to me in theory, but does it actually work? I have not seen many of the images I made this year yet. By allowing time to pass, much of my immediate memory of the experience has worn off and yet the image remains the same. Looking at the image after time has passed will hopefully allow my initial excitement to wear off and not influence my selections of images to share. Shooting on film forces this process to slow down more so than with digital but it can be applied to digital photography as well. Give it a try with your own images. Look back on images you shot 6 months ago, or a year ago, and see if they still communicate your intentions as they did the day you took the photo.
Space & Time – March 2016
Another point along the lines of being more selective of images happens while out in the field shooting. Its a process I call “editing with your eyes” and can drastically cut down on post processing time along with yielding better images. This is a challenging method to learn and is something I’m continuing to learn on a daily basis. You hear it all the time that you’re supposed to adjust your perspective, move around, explore the different angles, observe the changes in light, etc. You can do all of this without taking a photo though. Hold your camera to your eye as you look around and evaluate a scene. Pause to examine the corners, the edges, the negative space and the subject within the frame. Does it feel right? If not, why? Maybe lowering your perspective will remove more foreground and give your subject more prominence or a slight shift to the left will clean up a corner of the image. You don’t need to click the shutter to do any of this. I’ll elaborate on this concept further in a separate blog post with some sample images.
Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing many images that were shot on film with consideration of my newly learned approach to landscape photography. All images here were made with a DSLR in 2016. Something to keep in mind that may or may not be obvious in these images is that none of these show what the place looked like in person. My only hope is that they show something beyond what it looked like.
Thanks for reading,
Everything the Light Touches – March 2016
I think landscape photography is too often focused on locations, especially on social media. The qualities of landscape photography get replaced by simply showing a new location and it begins to take the form of travel photography. The photographer shows up once, takes a photo of the conditions when they were there and leaves. In my mind, this is not landscape photography. It’s entirely possible to get lucky with a great display of light when visiting a location, but that only shows what it was like on that day and likely fails to capture the essence of a landscape or location. Of course, it’s not possible to visit distant locations on a regular basis to know the subtleties but over time and repeated visits, once can become more familiar with a location.
The other option is to not consider landscape photography as photographing a distant landscape that you rarely visit. I bet most who are reading this have a place close to them to photograph. It doesn’t need to be a grand landscape, it can be a local park, river, field, etc. Visiting these places on a regular basis and noting the changes of seasons, how it looks in different weather, different times of day or when it’s dry or wet is a great place to start. By seeing the same place in varying conditions, you’re able to distinguish the ordinary from extraordinary. You’ll begin to understand the nuances of the place and you can use this to create better photographs.
Applying these same ideas to a landscape you don’t visit as often is challenging but can be rewarding as a landscape photographer. You may visit a more distant location once or even a few times a year and with DSLR’s, you can easily make many images. I just challenge you to consider if these images are documenting what a landscape looked like when you were there or do they show some of the magic of the place? It may mean you get ONE image from a week vacation to the Grand Canyon. By being highly selective of your images and visiting locations repeatedly the photographs will begin to go beyond what a place looks like. Maybe, just maybe, the photographs can convey what it feels like.
I’ve shared 2 images of clouds to represent these thoughts. The locations of these clouds are completely irrelevant to the image. As with landscape photography, locations are often irrelevant to the image. Whether or not you agree with this, give this a try with your images sometime. Remove the location information from your image and see if the qualities of the photograph communicate that sense of place. I’ll discuss using clouds in a landscape photograph in a separate post, stay tuned:)
Thanks for reading,
Close your bodily eye, that you may see your picture first with the eye of the spirit.
Then bring to light what you have seen in the darkness,
that its effect may work back, from without to within.
~ Caspar David Friedrich ~
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.
~ Carl Gustav Jung ~