It's just "Click Click"...

Photography is easy, right? It's just "click click", or so I'm told...

I have two wonderful nieces aged 10 (Rebecca) and 6 (Chloe). I recently took them out to the woods for a picnic on a warm Sunday afternoon. The 10 year old is very bright and curious and she was asking me about my photography. I'd just been away for a few days preparing a workshop and so I was telling her about what that involves and why people come away for a few days with a photographer to improve their skills and enjoy a nice location. I could see the cogs whirring away inside her mind at high speed as the slightly quizzical look on her face sharpened...

click.jpg

"I don't really get it" she said, "taking a picture is easy, its just click click, right?!" - These are the words of a 10 year old who's just got their first mobile phone! After an initial hesitation about opening this particular can of worms my obvious answer was that yes, the action of taking the picture is easy, it's just the click of a button. However, there can be pictures that are more interesting or less interesting - I was trying to avoid good and bad, and don't get me started on calling them images not pictures!

As she has some musical prowess I gave the example that playing a note on the piano is easy, you just press it, but playing a piece of music is a bit more complicated. I was making progress in winning her over on this so then we got into what makes a photograph more interesting. Anyone with kids can imagine this was just the start of being pulled into the conversational rabbit hole where the questions come at you from often very unexpected angles of thought!

The 'Golden Spiral' - The proverbial rabbit hole of compositional hypotheses!

The 'Golden Spiral' - The proverbial rabbit hole of compositional hypotheses!

After 10-15 mins or so of me trying my best to distil my thoughts on composition, light, form, nuance, subtlety and the work of the great masters she rather diplomatically took pity on me and said "yes, I suppose some pictures are more interesting than others - I took a great picture on my mobile phone of Chloe wearing rabbit ears and it's amazing!"...Rebecca 1-0 Sam

So, next time you're agonising over a composition, just stick some rabbit ears somewhere in the scene, go click click and you'll be sorted :)

Pan Fried or Slow Roasted?

Forgive the slightly off the wall title of this blog, but I want to just mull over an observation about the different speeds at which photographers process and share their images. I wonder if you fall into the pan fried or slow-roasted variety?

After sharing both my Dolomiti Winter series across my various social media pages from April-June I got a couple of messages and comments about how they weren't quite 'in season'! It was all light hearted jest and perfectly fair to say but it reminded me how many of us operate at different speeds not just in the field, but with relevance to this blog, in our post processing, curation and publishing of images. 

Image from DOLOMITI II Collection

Pan Fried

On the one hand I see images processed and posted from photographers within minutes or hours of shooting. The weekly competitions run by various companies and social groups on Twitter/FB etc no doubt encourage this quick turnaround but I know plenty of photographers at all levels who actually prefer to work this way.

My good friend and colleague Paul Sanders generally prefers this 'quick release', and it's not just about the processing and sharing but it reflects how he shoots generally. The focus is very much on him reacting and responding to the landscape around him emotionally, as such he wants the edits to be as fresh as possible to really capture the spirit of the moment. There are exceptions where he's worked on longer series of work but that has tended to be a rarer approach for him.

Paul posted this at the time with the following text: "Just because something or someone looks ruined it doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful"

I was with Paul at the time of this image and know he released it later that day. It got me thinking about this topic generally and realising that it's perfectly ok for each photographer to have their own approach - you have to work in the way that best suits you, as long as you can explain why it best suits you ;)

There can be commercial requirements to share images in a timely manner, for example you may be leading a workshop during that week and as such it's relevant to put something out at the time. However, it's commonly not about that and Paul is by no means the only highly respected professional who works in this way. It creates a sense of raw energy, spontaneity and truth in images for the viewer and for the artist. It doesn't mean you can't go back and re-assess images for later prints or books etc but it does perhaps free your mind of carrying around what I'm going to call 'image baggage'.

Slow Roasted

I must admit I'm firmly a slow roasted kind of guy. The Dolimiti Winter series were shot over a 3 year period and I decided to wait until they were curated into a couple of sets before letting any of them 'out' into the big wide world. I'm currently working on a series that has been 12 months in the making and this is both good and bad. I lie awake at night thinking of how the series may be curated, mulling over images and the meanings, and I'll go through ups and downs of really liking the work and other days wanting to delete it all! It can also make producing other work difficult because you have that aforementioned 'image baggage' getting in the way.

The argument is that if you tend to think more in collections or projects then this slow roasting is perhaps a better idea for many. It does sometimes mean that many images never see the light of day publicly though because they become non-starters, but I'll be covering that in another blog coming soon :)

Image from upcoming new work

Image from upcoming new work

In Summary

A mental distance from the image created by time away from it can perhaps let you have a more critical eye on the composition and processing. I like others often do this over two or three passes over the work. The time away may also let you shake off some of the personal background that was associated with making the image...if indeed you want to! Perhaps some photographers don't want to loose that immediate connection that helps them process it in the most truthful way to their freshly experienced moment.

There is no right or wrong, only different approaches that suit different personalities. I'd be interested to hear from you in the comments below if you're one way or the other, or perhaps a bit of both and why. 

There can sometimes be commercial reasons for me to speed up my 'digesting time' - If a client is waiting for an image, or set of images there can be deadlines but in my personal work I try as much as possible to give the work space to breathe, time for me to re-check processing and pull it all together slowly. I'll often print images and leave them around my home office for a few weeks for me to let them seep in. 

The short answer is that however the proverbial image is 'cooked', the main thing is that it tastes great and the chef enjoyed 'cooking' it...the method and journey to the diner is of secondary importance.

Aspect Ratios - Overview

In this blog I use one image and demonstrate its interpretation through a variety of aspect ratios. You can even place your vote on which you prefer at the bottom of the blog! 

At a later date I'm going to write a more detailed blog on each aspect ratio with various examples...

I was recently out leading a workshop with my friend and colleague Paul Sanders on the Dorset coast. We had a lovely group of clients with us who'd got in touch originally through 'The Togcast Podcast' that we host and we ended up running a small weekend event for them (ps If you'd like to do this as well please do get in touch). As ever it was a mix of helping to inspire people with different locations, varying conditions and also talking them through different ways to approach a scene based on our experiences. 

On this occasion we spent some time discussing different aspect ratios. It was quite interesting that although some of the clients had tried different aspect ratios in the post-processing stage, usually it was actually more about cropping to remove distracting elements than setting an aspect ratio specifically. None of them had really used their in-camera live view aspect ratios when out in the field with a view to interpreting and composing a scene differently at the point of capture. I would reflect that 99% of my landscape shooting is not done at 3:2. I've found this is just what suits me and each to their own (all the usual caveats etc) but I think there are various reasons why I've gone this way:

  • I have used a couple of film cameras for a number of years that offer a 1:1 view through the glass, part of me is simply used to 'seeing' in that way
  • Undoubtedly I've been influenced by some of the photographers whose work I have admired (and still do!) over the years
  • With my compulsive search for order in compositions I've found certain aspect ratios lend themselves more easily to balance (for my eye)
  • I strongly believe that there are certain visual elements and shapes that are commonly more suited to different aspect ratios
  • It's a creative and effective way to accentuate certain themes within a scene

The Scene & Motivation

It was a muted day on the Jurassic Coast and there were lovely pastel colours in the sky and the clouds were blending into the horizon nicely. Looking out to sea there was a sense of just drifting out to infinity and so my initial inspirations were to create an ordered, tonally muted, simple composition to complement the peaceful view we were experiencing and to highlight the interesting (and fairly delicate) textures in the cloud and use the loan boat as a source of scale.

The image is neither here nor there for me but I did think it made for a good example...

1:1 Aspect Ratio (As Shot)

Commonly I walk round with my camera set to 1:1 and use it in Live View mode. It has become my 'go-to' and that brings it's own dangers. It's easy to become reliant on something and use it as a safety blanket, this can lead to your images becoming repetitive and also it can limit (or at least stifle) your creative eye. However, on this occasion I was quite sure that a 1:1 square would complement the scene nicely. When shooting in a very minimalist style the square aspect ratio can be a good option as it's equally balanced shape brings a natural sense of order. Also the story in this image is not a front to back, or left to right narrative - more on this later in the other aspect ratios! In the square you can leave a good amount of space and it can work well with straight horizontal or vertical lines such as the horizon here.

I find that a rough 80/20 rule can work well for horizon placement in a square if it's an image that has a simple horizon and not much else. This can work both ways; you may have a more interesting foreground that you wish to highlight and a flat sky in which case you can push that horizon way up on a square without it feeling cramped like it would in 3:2 or many other aspect ratios.

5:4 Aspect Ratio 

I really love 5:4 in many situations (although perhaps not here). If you're a square fan generally then you'll find that 5:4 is a great addition to your arsenal. It is generally much better at coping with scenes where a more vertical story needs to be told. For example if you have an element that people are used to seeing in an up/down state visually: high waterfalls, trees, certain buildings, people etc. It can also be a better way of letting the eye 'travel' through an image if you're using a foreground element to guide the viewer into the scene, think about a path into a woodland or a rock into a seascape etc. The slightly more vertical shape of 5:4 vs 1:1 is often more complementary to those scenarios. It comes down to how you want the viewer to travel through the image.

In this situation for me it doesn't add anything to the square. We're just seeing more sky and it's making the boat seem too tiny (it's probably too tiny in all of these but that's all the more reason not to exacerbate things!). 

One minor annoyance is that Canon don't offer this aspect ratio in their live view options, the closest is 4:3 so if you're looking to use 5:4 start with 4:3 and either get used to knowing how much it will crop to at 5:4 or just embrace 4:3, it's pretty nice as well ;)

16:9 Aspect Ratio 

This is one of my more commonly used aspect ratios. If we refer back to my comment about the directional narrative of a scene then I would say that 16:9 often works really well for scenes where there is a left to right flow (or perhaps right to left - thats a blog for another day!). For example a distant set of peaks with fluctuating heights where the story is about the line of peaks not the foreground. Or perhaps a longer lens compression of a rolling countryside scene. Anything where you want to show lines, flow, rhythm from a left to right point of view. Obviously because this aspect ratio is very short and wide it doesn't tend to be great if you're wanting to lead the viewer in from the bottom of the scene as discussed in the 5:4 section.

It can also work well with minimalist scenes if you're trying to show a wide expanse, think of some of the great cinematic uses of 16:9 as a format at the movies. I particularly enjoyed a scene in the latest James Bond film 'Spectre' where they had a train snaking in left to right across the scene, or think of the classic American mid-west shots of the impressive rock stacks and the sense of grandeur and open space it brings.

In our example scene on the Jurassic Coast above I would say this 16:9 is an option, it does add a certain obvious width which can create a feeling of space and expanse but perhaps due to the simplicity of the elements I actually prefer our next option if we were looking to go wide...

16:7 Aspect Ratio 

If you're going to go wide, go really wide ;) Sometimes (just sometimes) the 16:7 is a great option. Obviously it has a very panoramic feel and the same suggestions apply about it suiting left to right compositions. Often it can feel a little too compressed though if you have any jagged peaks or elements too close to the top and bottom. In fact this is true of 16:9 as well, I find that leaving a little room top and bottom is beneficial to let the scene breathe, otherwise it will feel crammed in. If there is a fair amount going on in a scene I usually find 16:9 works better but it's worth experimenting with yourself. Use the 16:9 in live view and cover over the top and bottom to see if the scene can take stretching even further. Bear in mind that 16:7 images when shared on the web (especially via social media) can loose impact because they just feel small. They're best shown large, and/or printed large.

In this scene I actually prefer the 16:7 to 16:9, perhaps because it's so simple and when we think of a horizon it is of course naturally a horizontal element, as such giving it an aspect ratio that enhances that element tends to work. It adds to the sense of scale of the boat being out at sea alone, more than the vertical aspect ratios which just gave us more sky, which whilst you could argue that also gives scale, it's worth remembering it's a boat not a plane! It belongs on the water and as such that is the element we perhaps need to highlight more with this elongated horizontal aspect ratio.

3:2 Aspect Ratio 

I'll be completely honest and say that putting the image into 3:2 was the reason for this blog being created. Imagine the horror, shock and surprise when I found I actually quite liked it! There is a good balance between sky, sea, the use of the boat, a sense of space and expanse. 

It reminded me that we can all too easily fall into our 'routine' when out shooting. Using the same ideas, techniques and visual strategies can be comfortable for us but commonly it can limit our creativity. This applies to people who only ever shoot in 3:2 and it applies to others like myself who have maybe found another safety blanket.

In Summary

This blog is not about which aspect ratio is best for you, for any one scene or indeed necessarily even for this scene. I wanted to try and give some pointers about when you could consider using certain aspect ratios to enhance your compositions. Be it to introduce more flow from bottom to top, or left to right. Perhaps you want to really simplify and emphasise graphic lines and shape, whatever the scene the point is to consider WHY you're attracted to it and HOW you can use your composition to accentuate and highlight the spirit and flow of the image. It's far more beneficial to use these aspect ratios at the point of capture than to apply them after the fact.

ps - I was going to go into the use of that boat and show you some with boat and without boat, but that's another blog for another day! In the meantime just cover it with your thumb and see what you think!

Your Choice

Which aspect ratio do you prefer for this image?
1:1
5:4
16:9
16:7
3:2
Created with PollMaker

New Home, New Locations...

As some of you know I recently re-located down to Dorset because of my partners work. We're living between Bournemouth and Poole so there's plenty of opportunities for me to find some new shooting locations...

As you can imagine it's jam packed with holiday makers on this coast line during July/August but I've managed to find a few quiet spots on recent early evening sojourns. Usually by 7pm the tourists have retired to the pubs and restaurants for recuperation and aftersun cream at which point this intrepid explorer heads to the quieter spots, up the hills and down by the bays.

A couple of weeks ago I managed a couple of nights out in a row, firstly to the 'ranges' near Lulworth. Here there are some great cliff top walks that are only open at certain times, it's important not to stray too far from the path as this area is owned by the military and in the 'off-season' is an active shooting range!

Out to Sea

I arrived actually hoping to get a high vantage point to catch some late evening sun raking across the fields, however after a fairly short sharp ascent up the cliff I was more intrigued by these amazing cloud formations out to sea. The scene seemed perfect for Black & White and the trick then is to contrast the highlights and shadows to give depth and presence to the scene. Using a polariser on the lens helps darken the sky but also importantly it helps separate the clouds from the background which brings out that contrast you need. There were little pockets of sunlight on the sea which added to the drama.

Like many times the actual scene I was hoping to capture, of sun raking across the fields, never materialised as the sun wasn't 'playing ball' and there was a little stubborn cloud cover stopping it directing the last evening light in the location I was hoping for. However as I packed away and started to walk back down the cliff path towards the car (and a well deserved Twix) there was one final burst of fiery orange summer sun, so, quick as a flash (photography pun intended - get it?!) I swiveled my bag off my back and attached a long lens to fire off a couple of shots at some of the summer grasses, nearly shooting straight into the sun. This direct light causes a block of colour and sun flare which coupled with the large aperture and resulting shallow depth of field helped produce this image below.

Summer Sun

This image is 'straight out the camera' i.e. no editing, no added colour, no preservatives (!). Using this technique of shooting (nearly) into the sun and due to the late hour and the depth of orange naturally present it's possible to let the light do the work. Satisfied and in need of some sustenance I trooped off back to the car.

The next evening I headed to Kimmeridge Bay, a slightly unassuming and 'off the beaten track' small bay on the Isle of Purbeck (near Swanage). It's quite well known among photographers due to the natural rock/clay 'shelves' that are present just off the shoreline. Depending on the tide you can actually walk out (carefully, they are v.slippy!) onto these shelves and although most people set up on the main rock formation (just near the entry) I find it more peaceful and more compositionally pleasing to head to a far shelf looking back along the beach. There was some nice light as I arrived so it was a fairly quick set-up and then a case of trying to perfect the composition to make full use of the rocks and their various angles and textures. Finding the right aspect ratio is equally important as some scenes suit portrait, some landscape, either way the overall balance of the composition should dictate that.

It's quite easy to be overwhelmed by the geographical magnificence of this place and just end up pointing the camera at everything. I find looking for angles and shapes in the rocks that will lead the eye or just balance the overall composition is very important, no doubt with more visits here I may find more pleasing angles. There was a rather heavy sky which you can accentuate with a graduated filter, this was especially pleasing as the strip of sun light that was present was further accentuated. I'd been to Kimmeridge before in very flat grey conditions so was more than a little bit chuffed to be treated to this display.

The third image below was taken soon after arriving and as such there was a lighter feel to the scene, whereas the first two images shown below were taken later when the ambient light had faded and there was just the strip of sunlight on the horizon...

Kimmeridge Bay #1

Kimmeridge Bay #2

Kimmeridge Bay #3

2016 - Catch Up part.1

This blog is really for the benefit of my email subscribers, I realised that in the midst of busying myself photographically with a myriad of projects I'd rather neglected to keep up my regular newsletters. What with posting to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & the website it's easy to become fragmented in the image sharing process, so this post acts as a 'recap' of sorts for the first few months of 2016...

Specifcially in this part.1 I'll be sharing some images from the a trip to the Lake District in late March. I was around the Buttermere, Crumnock Water, Wast Water areas and yet again got relatively lucky with the weather; i.e. It didn't just rain for 48hrs!

After a long day at the Photography Show at the NEC in Birmingham (working on a top secret project, coming soon!) I journeyed up to the Lakes and arrived around 10pm. Having checked the weather forecast and being realistic about my fatigue I treated myself to just a 7am wake up, had a particularly bad omelette for breakfast and was off out to Crumnock Water at a sensible hour.

Despite it being a pleasant Sunday am it was still very quiet, there were some nice reflections on the lake, often unavailable later in the day as the surface is far less placid as the day goes on. I also found some interesting compositions with the trees by the lakeside, in particular I like the golden collection sandwiched between the two banks of green pines either side. It's these contrasts and shapes that have been drawing my eye more recently over the wider vista.

After a morning of lake circumnavigation I decided to head up...and UP I went! Although I did take the slightly easier option up the Honsiter Pass (by car) it was only because I knew I needed something left in the legs for the following walk up to the summit of Haystacks. The Weather was closing in a little by this point and you can see in the image above (of the darkening sky and imposing peaks) that there were even the last touches of Winter on these higher peaks. With the camera staying in the bag a little more this walk was about enjoying the scenery, getting some fresh air in the lungs and some scouting for a future visit...however, you can't beat the odd phone selfie!

What a poser...above Buttermere

What a poser...above Buttermere

With just 2 days in the Lakes, and 1 of those ticked off I made the slightly long and looping drive from Buttermere around the Northern end of the Lakes and back down the Western side to Wastwater, it's only a few miles as the crow flies but there are no roads across this central area due to the mountains, which is good! Staying in an enjoyable little pub my arm was twisted to take part in the pub quiz that was taking part...on my own, in a team of 1. Fearing a ritual humiliation by coming last I was pleasantly surprised to find that I scored above various teams of two and four, I'd like to say it was my good schooling but perhaps the competition had just been drinking more than me that night!

The next morning and dizzy from my general knowledge exertions I pushed myself to get out early to Wast Water, just a couple of miles away, so at 5.30am I crept from the pub and jumped in the car. I'd never been to Wast Water and crikey have I been missing out. It's such a great place that is still seemingly very quiet, especially at this time of year, and really is classic 'Lakeland'. It was quite a grey day so compositions were more 'enclosed', perhaps with a view to capturing the spirit, colours and feel of this amazing area.

After a little bit of time at the lakeside I set off on foot on what can only be described as a slightly sturdy 6-7 hours of walking - I covered around 13 miles with an elevation gain and descent of 2,500ft...with the camera and two lenses, however I did have the good sense to leave my tripod in the car!

The images above, with the exception of the sheep shot, are from the Mosedale area which is a very dramatic 'bowl' of a view just on the walk out of Wast Water and between Red Pike and Kirk Fell, with the peak of Pillar up ahead. I spotted the two walkers heading on and couldn't resist the chance to use them to show the sense of scale...it's as engulfing a view as you can get in the albeit relatively tame peaks of England.

Having had some time to reflect on these images, and indeed print some of them to A3 size on quality paper it's actually the abstract image of the scree that is arguably my favourite of the above. The texture and colour represents everything about those scraggy, rock strewn mountainsides that I love about the Lakes.

Carrying on up and over the back of Kirk Fell I descended with Ennerdale on my left and actually I ended up going a little off piste at this point. Having come down the back of Kirk Fell (and walked off the map I had with me) there was a slightly alarming moment where I realised my only sensible routes back were (a) the way I came or (b) straight up a rather steep looking gap between Kirk Fell and Great Gable. Trusting my compass I decided for option (b)...it looked more direct and I hate backtracking my steps.

The route...

Option (b) was steep!!! And, I was tiring at this point, low on water, no food left etc. It wasn't exactly a stranded in the Himalayas situation but suffice to say I left the camera in the bag for 90 mins or so whilst I trudged my way up to Beck Head and the reassuring view back down to Wasdale before the cloud really dropped in.

The last image of the day, and in fact the trip was just before that brutal final ascent, looking back into the uninhabited Ennerdale valley, with clouds coming and some sunlight gracing the rocky ground. This image printed large looks great (if I say so myself!) and in my hour of mini-desperation I'm happy I took 2 mins to stop, compose, shoot and enjoy this remote part of the Lakes, before the drive back to reality and the call of work & traffic of the South.

Development & Inspiration...(conscious or not)

I recently read a question put forward on Twitter by UK photographer Greg Whitton, he asked: "How important has Twitter been in your development as a photographer?"...the responses were varied with some stating it was a good source of inspiration, a good place to network and be exposed to others work, whilst some questioned how Twitter or social media could play any part in development or that it was perhaps too much of a 'thumbs up' atmosphere with not enough critical analysis.

I can see all points and for each photographer they are valid in their own right, for me the key word was development. It's at this point I'd like to play the 'music card', some of you know that's my other life outside of photography and I can't help drawing a parallel here that I believe is relevant. For many, Jazz as we know it is a melting pot of historical developments that were honed in the jazz clubs of the USA in the 1920's, 30's, 40's and beyond. Throughout this time period players grew the genre through exploration of new boundaries, however when deconstructed these were firmly based on, and influenced by, their peer groups, mentors and musical heroes of the day. Their 'Twitter' was much more hands-on and was hours and hours playing together in smoky nightclubs for little or no money; bouncing off each other, learning from each other, soaking in other peoples sounds, ideas and motifs and re-imagining them with their own twist. Sometimes consciously and no doubt sub-consciously as well, in the same way a baby learns to speak or learns the tone of language, you cannot help but take on influences from your surroundings (personal and online), it's human nature.

Take the great footballers of Pele, Messi, Maradona etc...none of them learned to play and develop in silo, it was through interaction with other players, their peers or heroes. Watching someone turn this way or that, using a trick and finding a different way to integrate that into their football vocabulary. Is Twitter perhaps a modern day breeding ground of inspiration? Or better still should it be regarded as a gateway to creative exposure? Perhaps, albeit littered with it's own foibles in the same way any public group dynamic will create.

I've made the comparison before that in music there are only a finite series of notes (12), in theory this sets a limit on the possibilities, but think about what a wide variety of music there has been through the ages, from Jazz to Death Metal and everything in between...all based on those 12 notes. However it's certain to say that to the educated ear patterns and inspirations can be seen across genres, this is not bad, but purely natural.

So what happens in music or photography when someone uses a very similar 'phrase' or structure of 'notes', or plays different ones in a very similar way to another? I feel like I bumped into this sub-consciously and then very consciously just a few days ago...

The above image was taken locally (Bucks) and I'm going to come straight out and say this is a definite case of Twitter influence. It was through Twitter that I first came across the work of Finn Hopson, who is well known for a wide range of work and for many he's best known for his 'South Downs Collection' and within that his 'Fieldwork' series. I've subsequently seen Finns work in Outdoor Photography magazine and no doubt other literature, he has a very impressive and enjoyable portfolio of work that I would recommend you check out.

Part of me was nervous to even make a connection or indeed write this blog, because it's important to state that in no way did I set out to re-create or copy Finns work, nor do I feel it is of a similar stature. Not only would it be futile to imitate the work of anyone else, as a copy is always a poor 2nd place (think of seeing a cover band vs the original!), but in fact one aspect of photography that strikes fear into me above all is feeling like my images could ever look directly similar to others. In fact this often makes me shy away from commonly known locations.

For instance just 1/4 mile away from this location there were probably 15-20 photographers in a 200 sq.metre area looking for bluebell shots. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with that (and I've seen some lovely shots by the way) I personally would rather be somewhere alone, as photography is very much an escape and desire to be at peace and preferably be in solitude in the great outdoors (this may not be an original concept but it's very true for many of us). But what is interesting is that given similar ingredients: low light, undulating agricultural land, presumably a similar time of year to some of his shots (due to the crop progression status), grass colouration etc and with some sub-conscious influence in my brain it is inevitable that a comparison might be drawn by some, our 'tune' may sound similar yet be different in many ways.

Even saying there may be a comparison could be seen as being rather lofty of me, but my point is simply that through seeing Finns work it must have had some effect on how I 'saw' this scene and why I even put myself in this position. My belief is that this happens more often than we know when composing or creating images, it's impossible to know how picture X,Y,Z has affected your response to a scene 3-6 months later. 

 

Off the back of this morning, where I made 2-3 images I enjoyed, I've decided to try and put together a small body of work about this area. Doing these small projects is not a new idea but again I've seen various specific project-based bodies of work from other photographers on Twitter (and of course other places) that I have enjoyed.

This project will push me to think about how best to represent the area, be it wider shots, more intimate, more editorial perhaps in manner to show it is both an attraction to locals as a beautiful place for a walk but also it is a working agricultural landscape as well.

Surely these next steps, grown from a small sub-conscious seed influenced by some work I was exposed to, will help my development as a photographer in some way...

On a final note (ahem-another musical pun!), I think development is a word too often associated with those that may be deemed to need improvement. However, I've been lucky enough to meet and speak with many top musicians around the world (I mean the real ones who play instruments, not the wannabees on X-Factor) and commonly they all believe they are still developing and it's not unknown for top players in world renowned orchestras to still have the odd 'lesson' with their peers to help develop some new way of playing, interpreting the music or similar. Perhaps for musicians their gateway to this creative inspiration is listening to music, new or old, so perhaps YouTube, Digital Radio, iTunes etc. Whereas our visual based area of interest does lend itself to Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Photography Magazines & Books and so on.

In summary (well done if you've made it this far) in my opinion it's paramount to allow influences to seep into our minds and not be afraid to acknowledge it. I see elements from various photographers in the three images here, but at the end of the day they are my own interpretations of the land I saw in front of me. However, I'm not worried about admitting that my final 'tune' will inevitably use similar 'notes' to others, as long as it's true to my goals and convictions then at least I'm happy to play it.

Lake District - Days 2 & 3

To Buttermere & Beyond...

DAY 2: It was with a moderate sense of jubilation mixed with guilt (how did I deserve such heavenly light?!) that I had headed back to base from my first day in the Lakes around Ullswater. Suitably fed and watered I drifted off to an early sleep with the recollections of the day in my mind and the strains of the ascents and descents in my legs. 

It's amazing how a 5.30am alarm shatters the sense of peace and tranquility of a deep sleep! As I rose my mind was already running through the route for the morning, as I chewed on the muesli my mind was crafting possible visual scenarios and how I would react to them, this may or may not assist me 'in the field' but it's a good way to get the brain working at the extreme ends of the day.  

I was heading to Buttermere, a place I'd never visited but had seen countless images of. This always worries me a little as the spectre of repetition looms large over the un-adventurous, so with that in mind I was hoping for something a little different from the conditions and from myself. After a twisty and steep ascent through the Honister Pass the road descends "into a stunning valley strewn with large boulders"...or at least that's what the guide book says. I couldn't see further than 20 feet thanks to the extremely dense fog that had camped across the Lakes that morning. 

View away from Buttermere towards the Honister Pass

After parking and paying I made the short walk towards the South Eastern tip of the lake. From here there is a lovely view of the wooded southern shoreline, so lovely that about 50 million people appear to have taken pictures of it! Today though there was little chance of a stereotypical shot of the fells behind catching the morning sun as there was no morning sun to be seen in the fog. That said, afer a short walk up the shoreline there were 10-15 mins where the peaks were temporarily exposed and I managed to make a couple of quick images, happy with the more peaceful representation of this often grandiose scene. 

Buttermere

Buttermere

Soon after the fog descended again and I headed north up the shoreline, generally I was alone bar the odd sheep and keen walker, after all it was 7.30am on a Sunday morning in November. The sweeping shoreline offers some lovely shapes and I spent some time wrestling with the image below. Ideally I would have allowed a little more space above and to the left side to give both the peak and curve of the shore more space to breathe, however I was travelling light with just 1 lens and this was the compromise I had to make. I still appreciate the peace of the scene and the resulting A3 print I've made of this image has come out very nicely. 

Buttermere 'Redux'

I continued on north around the eastern shoreline, by this time I'd bumped into a couple of fellow photographers heading the other way, presumably to the classic wooded shoreline shot, I wondered how long they'd wait for that dense bank of fog to clear before giving up.  

The dense fog showed no signs of moving, this actually suited me fine and allowed me to make a couple of simple images using the shoreline and the reeds and trees that grace it. 

Buttermere Shoreline

Buttermere Shoreline

Finally I reached the Northern end of the lake and headed up into the Woodland beyond. There was still some lovely Autumnal colour here and I spent a good amount of time just wandering and exploring, a day and a half into this 3 day break and I was really starting to feel at peace with the area.

DAY 3: Again the tinny buzz and ring of my phone woke me at silly o'clock. Today I was heading off to The Langdales and more specifcially Blea Tarn was the first port of call. 

Arriving in good time for sunrise I was slightly miffed to see about 6 other photographers had beaten me to it. Instead of arriving alone and in solitude like the day before, the car park at Blea Tarn resembled a busy Tesco Express with just a bit more mud and a few more blearly eyes. Part of me wanted to just get back into the car and go somewhere else, I prefer to work alone, after all there's the usual polite "good morning" chit-chat routine to get through which we probably all want to avoid but still politely engage in. 

Blea Tarn 

That said I was happy with the brief burst of illuminating light that we all enjoyed for 20 minutes or so. I took some time to try and look around the scene, avoiding the obvious can be challenging in these circumstances, after all sometimes there's nothing wrong with the obvious. However I soon found I wanted some more peace and quiet and headed off away from Blea Tarn and headed up Side Pike, which is indeed short yet sharp in terms of ascent.

Blea Tarn

It's at times like this I'd love to carry less gear, on a number of occassions I looked ruefully at my heavy tripod and wanted to just throw it off the crag, that said I probably lacked the strength and my Northern 'tightness' lacked the spirit to throw all that money away! On arrival at the summit I turned to see a beautiful view back over towards Blea Tarn and I spent a wonderful 45 mins watching the fog come slowly rolling into the valley until finally the view was lost, and so was I, into a bank of dense fog. I packed up my bag, loaded myself up like the Lakeland Donkey that I'd become and headed onwards and upwards into the gloom...and it felt fantastic!

The best way to start the day...