Greetings everyone, and welcome to my blog. I regularly post images on Facebook and Twitter, usually accompanied by a little explanatory text. But those venues are best suited to brief notes and new work. By contrast, I will use this blog to discuss my photography at more length - exploring my changing attitude to image making, and the place it occupies in my life.
Doubtless there will be some discussion of kit and technique - it is hard to escape these - but I am hoping that the content will cover broader, and more philosophical aspects of the photographic art. I hope you enjoy reading my posts, and welcome any feedback you would like to offer - be it reaction to the views put forward, or suggestions for future topics.
In the meantime, many thanks for making it this far. I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say, even if you may not always agree with it..!
'MOORSVIEW' - Photographing the North York Moors & Coast
As the rain swept in across the North York Moors the other evening, and I took shelter in the lee of Skelton Tower, the thought struck me that nobody knew where I was. I was alone, except for my dog, in a reasonably remote location, with no phone signal, and at least a mile from my car. I had also changed my mind about where to go after I had dropped my wife off at her Salsa class, and she was under the impression I was heading somewhere quite different.
Twilight at Skelton TowerSkelton Tower is the remains of a Victorian hunting lodge that stands above Newtondale, on the North York Moors. It is a great vantage point for watching the trains on the North York Moors Railway heading North to Whitby or South to Pickering. This shot shows the Tower just after sundown, on a day when squally showers rattled across the Moors - lenidng a 'milky' quality to the dying light.
‘Twilight at Skelton Tower’ - by John Clifton
I was in absolutely no danger, but it reminded me of a chat I had recently with Richard Burdon, of RJB Photographic. The conversation went along the lines of: ‘it’s what we do isn’t it…head out, often on our own, into remote places and often at the beginning and end of the day…if anything happened to you there would be little hope of anyone coming to help..’
Now don’t get me wrong, I was not concerned, in fact I absolutely loved being out alone in the fast fading twilight. And the leaden clouds rushing in filled me with hope that I would get that ‘special light’ that seems to happen after rain. But I also realised that, not for the first time, I had just broken a fundamental rule of hill safety - tell someone where you are going..!
Thoughts like this have fed into the creation of ‘MOORSVIEW' - a one day seminar on landscape photography with the following aims:
MOORSVIEW has been put together in partnership with Neil Armstrong - of Trailblazer Outdoors, in Pickering. Neil is a long standing member of Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team (SRMRT) - who will be providing the safety sessions on the day. SRMRT will also be the beneficiary of funds raised by the event - as part of it’s 50th Anniversary Appeal.
Who is involved with MOORSVIEW..?
I am very grateful to a host of local people and businesses who are helping to organise MOORSVIEW. Some sessions will cover hill safety for landscape photographers, as well as the choice, use and maintenance of relevant outdoor gear. But the core of the day will be a series of inspirational talks by some fantastic local landscape photographers:
'May Beck' by David WardFor me, reflected or “borrowed” light is the stuff of magic. Here, a sunlit, autumnal silver birch graces the surface of the stream with a glorious golden glow (alliteration always acceptable!)
'May Beck' - by David Ward
David Ward is one of Britain's foremost landscape photographers. His eye for shape and form is without equal and produces work that is startling in its clarity and intensity. David also writes about the philosophical side of photography, and leads workshops for Light & Land, and Into the Light - often with his long time friend and collaborator Joe Cornish.
David says: “It’s very hard to define one’s own style but people have told me that my photographs are distinctive for their graphic simplicity and technical quality. I am particularly drawn to making abstract, intimate landscape images and my work is informed and inspired by many of the great American landscape photographers of the last century.”
‘David Ward’s camera looks deep into the landscape; revealing texture, detail, rhythm and subtleties that most of us miss.’ - Joe Cornish
‘In the world of landscape photography there are many practitioners but precious few masters. David Ward’s compositions are artful and compelling.’ - Keith Wilson, Former Editor of Outdoor Photography
'Riccaldale Birches' - by Lizzie Shepherd
Lizzie is a professional photographer specialising in landscape, nature and travel photography. As well as taking beautiful images, she offers small group workshops and one-to-one tuition on photographing the North York Moors and Coast.
Lizzie says: “I am fortunate to live in one of the most amazing parts of the country and love nothing more than getting out into the Yorkshire countryside. We have some spectacular scenery in the Dales, on the Moors and on the Yorkshire coast, as well as in some of the lesser known areas in between. As I get to know these areas better and better, I find myself increasingly drawn to capturing the hidden landscape.
Beauty and intrigue surrounds us and I hope that, as well as showcasing some of our classic views, my photographs reveal a little bit of the less obvious, hidden scenes - things that people might otherwise just walk by.”
Lizzie’s work is currently on display in the Joe Cornish Gallery in Northallerton, and she also participated in the North Yorkshire Open Studios programme for 2015. She is a regular contributor to Outdoor Photography, TGO magazine, On Landscape and Landscape Photography Magazine.
'Moorjocks' - by Richard Burdon
Husband and wife team Richard and Janet are based in Pickering, but are drawn to wild remote places like the North York Moors and the rugged Yorkshire coastline. Both are past finalists in the Landscape Photographer of the Year and also the Scottish Nature Photography Awards, and their work is regularly featured in exhibitions in the Ryedale area and beyond.
Their presentation at MOORSVIEW will tackle the thorny issue of establishing an individual ‘identity’ or ‘style’ in landscape photography. Beginning with colour, Richard will discuss how their exploration of minimalist monochrome work - particularly in winter - has been inspirational, and led to a certain ‘brand identity’ for RJB Photographic. Janet will also be speaking about her journey into Infra-red photography - from initial beginnings using infra-red film, through using adaptors on an un-modified digital camera, and on to the present day using a modified DSLR .
Richard and Janet’s work is available direct from their RJB Photographic website, is currently on display at Belmont Studios, in Wrelton, and is also stocked by many local galleries. They also offer small group workshops, photowalks, and one-to-one tuition.
'First Light, Farndale' - by Dave Mead
Dave is a farmer in the beautiful valley of Farndale in the North York Moors National Park. Photography has been his main hobby for the past 15 years or so, starting with an Olympus 'point & press' digital camera before progressing through various models of Canon SLR to the 5D Mark III.
In recent years Dave has been lucky enough to travel to both the Arctic and the Antarctic with his camera, but his main inspiration remains the immediate area around where he lives - and that will be the focus of his presentation. Dave says: “My idea of happiness is to be sat on the moor above Farndale, camera at the ready, waiting for that elusive evening light to pour forth upon the scene in front of me. Managing to capture that scene, to do justice to it in an image that I have made, is a buzz that takes some beating”.
'Saltwick Sunrise' - by Karl HoltbyThe alarm was set for 4:30am, but due to the coastal wind buffeting my tent all night I'd hardly slept a wink. Waking up at 4am I decided I may as well make the short journey from Robin Hood's Bay, to Saltwick bay and set up in good time. Bleary eyed I walked down the steep path to the beach, the fresh smell of seaweed helping to awake the senses. Walking over slippery rocks, with bladderwrack popping under foot I set up and waited for the sun
'Saltwick Sunrise' - by Karl Holtby
‘Rosedale Show Day’ - by John Clifton
I have taken photographs of all sorts of things since I was a child, but my landscape work largely emerges from my passion for walking. In fact it is rare that I go out just to take photographs. Rather I tend to happen upon a great view or an interesting detail when out exploring the ups and downs of the North York Moors National Park.
I tend to be drawn to the dramatic in my photography - think big skies, dramatic weather, and sweeping vistas with distant horizons. I am sure this reflects my arts and literary background - my viewpoint being coloured by the likes of Constable and Turner, the Brontës, Ted Hughes, Simon Armitage, even Thomas Hardy and Shakespeare.
Despite this taste for the grand, I am also fascinated by the details of nature. The intricacy of a seed head, the transformative power of hoar frost, the elegiac beauty of a decaying tree - things that are sometimes overlooked, but are leant significance through photography. Of late my interest in experimental techniques has also been revived - using abstract and impressionistic images in an attempt to capture the emotional or psychological effects of a particular place.
In addition to my PC Photographic website and Facebook page, you can find my work on display at Pickering Gallery, Pickering Tourist Information Centre, Dalby Forest Shop, and The Helmsley Brewing Company. In the past I have had prints accepted for the Joe Cornish Gallery's Summer Open Exhibition, and the ‘Your Place’ Exhibition celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the North York Moors National Park.
How do I book a ticket for MOORSVIEW..?
MOORSVIEW will take place on Saturday 31st October, at The Kirk Theatre, Pickering. Day tickets will cost £60 - including refreshments, and a buffet lunch provided by The Black Swan, Pickering. Book your place now by following this link to the Events Section of the SRMRT website: http://www.srmrt.org.uk/events/moorsview/
In addition to the speakers highlighted above, there will be a display of outdoor gear by Trailblazer Outdoors - featuring Paramo Directional Clothing in particular. All ticket holders will also be entered for a prize draw, to take place at the end of the day. Prizes are still being pledged, but already include a framed landscape print by one of the speakers, a half-day of 1 to 1 photographic training from another, and a range of valuable outdoor gear.
Watch this space for further details about MOORSVIEW. It is shaping up to be an inspirational, and above all 'useful' event, dovetailing the artistic with the practical aspects of landscape photography. We hope that it will also raise awareness of the photographic opportunities offered by the North York Moors and Coast, whilst hi-lighting the need for adequate preparation before heading out into the wilds..!
MOORSVIEW is being staged by PC Photographic and Trailblazer Outdoors, in association with Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team, The North York Moors National Park Authority, Paramo Clothing, On Landscape, Pickering Gallery, The Black Swan Pickering, and the Joe Cornish Gallery in Northallerton.
Shaking the Tree...
I have to say that of late I have slipped into what I would call ‘a bit of a creative slump’. I blame an obsession with my tilt/shift lens - the fiddly adjustments for focusing can really take the spontaneity out of your work..! Add to this a lot of printing, mounting, and framing for exhibition and sale, and photography can start to feel more like a job rather than a creative outlet.
So in the hope of kicking some new life into my work, I headed out to Dalby Forest the other day with the aim of doing something rather different. I took the dog, and my Nikon D700 with the 80-200 F2.8D on the front, and NO tripod. I had the loose idea of doing some Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) experiments, and maybe to play with in camera multiple exposure.
I have had repeated forays into these areas ever since the days of film. In particular I have experimented with slowing the shutter speed right down and making sweeping moves with the camera.
A Forest #1
If you are shooting trees this can be effective if you sweep in a roughly vertical plane - in line with the trunks. You end up with an impressionistic kind of ‘universal forest’ image. Depending how much movement you use, and how slow the shutter speed is, these can become quite abstract. With darker subjects this can produce some eerie and even disturbing images. I would say those shown here have something of the menace of a fairytale about them, or perhaps Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
A Forest #3
Of course these single sweep images can then be combined as layers in Photoshop to produce even more abstracted composites. Blend modes can be used to adjust the overall image produced, and the opacity of the differing layers can be adjusted to allow one or other to show through and be dominant in the final image.
For example, the image below is a composite of several ‘sweep’ images, overlaid onto a sharp image of Autumn leaves on an ornamental cherry tree.
Autumn Flame #1
Freeing yourself from the ‘lightroom’…
However, the images above were self-consciously planned, or evolved through rounds of post processing. What I wanted this time was something more immediate and ‘free-form’. In particular, I took the advice of Doug Chinnery, in his excellent tutorials for On Landscape, and decided to try out the in camera multiple exposure function.
Again this is a technique which has been around ever since the days of film - whereby several exposures would be made on to one frame, by disengaging the camera’s film advance mechanism. However, with the advent of digital you get immediate feedback on whether your experiment is working or not, allowing you to refine the movements made during or between exposures.
Ribbons of Spring
In camera image blending...
Another advantage with the digital version of the technique is that you can set the camera to adjust each successive frame for ‘gain’ - so that the composite produced is correctly exposed overall. With certain Canon cameras you can even use differing blend modes to define how the exposures combine with one another - creating lighter and darker moods with more or less saturation in the final image.
With my now venerable Nikon D700, you are limited to a choice of how many frames to include in your multiple exposure sequence, and whether automatic gain adjustment is on or off. In a Nikon SLR you will find the options somewhat buried amongst the shooting menus - although I have also added multiple exposure to my ‘user menu’ so that I can access it more quickly.
Persistence pays off...
Checking the back of the camera I deleted most of the rubbish as I went along - and there was a lot..! But, as predicted by Doug, every now and again something interesting emerged to spark the visual imagination. And once I got this spark, I focused in on these subjects, experimenting further with a variety of different shutter speeds and movements - both in line with and in opposition to the dominant forms of the subject.
Contrast and Saturation are your friends...
For this set of images at least, I found that high contrast and/or strong colour were two of the keys to success. By its very nature, any movement of the camera tends to attenuate the colours and tones in an image. If you are starting with something that has a wider range of tonal values, the final blend is less likely to look like a washed out smear of colour or tone.
In addition, unless you are aiming for completely abstract colour studies, I would suggest keeping the shutter speed in the 1/60-1/15 second range. That way the image will retain some structural elements. I found that three shot sequences worked best for me, but this may vary from subject to subject. I wanted to retain some level of recognisability in the images, albeit that the subjects are taken to a degree of abstraction.
Into the Trees
Impressionism meets Expressionism...
The images, from this shoot at least, all seem to share a certain 'painterly' quality - reminiscent perhaps of the impressionist movement in painting. And the immediacy of the technique certainly chimes in with their desire to capture the fleeting moment, in the outdoors and as it happens. However, I also find the images quite evocative and emotive - with the abstraction and 'disturbance' of the visual experience leaning more towards expressionist art, and allowing space for the viewer to bring their own feelings to bear. The observant will note that I have titled the images - perhaps in an effort to give people something to 'hang onto' in interpreting them.
But is it art..?
I'll leave that for you to judge. I certainly think that the technique can produce beautiful and evocative images - although some will feel that it owes less to the technique of the photographer than the use of a camera in a visual game of 'lucky dip'. I am certainly not going to stop taking sharply focused, carefully composed, 'classical' landscape images of grand vistas. However, it does hi-light that there are many more ways of capturing the 'quiet beauty' of the world around us than slavishly following the 'rule of thirds'.
Personally I found it liberating to capture images that demanded little or no post processing - other than cropping and a few teaks to tone and vibrance - and that were produced in one visit, with modest equipment. I will certainly be doing more of this, partly as a way of letting some fresh air into the sometimes restrictive discipline we call landscape photography.
All comments and feedback on the images above are, as always, very welcome. Note that this is the first blog post I have done, so any thoughts on its format and functionality would also be welcome. Thanks for reading..!
If you have found all this interesting and want to explore the techniques further, I would suggest heading straight over to the On Landscape You Tube Channel to watch Doug Chinnery's three video tutorials on 'Creative Landscape Photography'. You can find them at: https://www.yotube.com/watch?v=yKoLINBLUwA
Some one else who has, through extensive experimentation, really turned these approaches into an art form is Valda Bailey. I would recommend al to visit her website to see some really beautiful work. You can find her at: http://www.valdabailey.co.uk