Tag: Learning

31 May

Constraining yourself as the sun sets

admin / Blog / / 8 Comments

Before I end my enforced couple of weeks on the sofa and escape the mind melting experience that is daytime TV…thank the lord for the Giro and the French Open is all I can say…I thought I’d share a quick ramble about a mini-project that has been birthed, undertaken and wrapped up all within the space of the last week.

Sitting on your sofa, knowing that you can’t drive and can’t lift your camera and tripod let alone carry a camera bag can be a touch frustrating…well for me anyway.  After the first week of imprinting the shape of my backside onto the poor cushion beneath me, and once I’d finished combing the archives for something new to process or something old to reprocess, watched a pile of films and documentaries, caught up on some magazines I’d been holding back, re-read some photography books, decided upon all my LPOTY entries, and then deciding not to bother entering, burnt through a pile of cash doing irresponsible volumes of printing, sorted and ordered my OS Explorer collection and spent far, far too much time rambling on Twitter…I was undeniably frustrated and bored.  I needed to take some photos and exercise the muscle memory with camera in hand, I just felt the need to actually create something again…but what?  I was restricted. couldn’t drive, couldn’t lift anything, couldn’t go far, so what could I do?  The answer was literally staring me in the face…my back garden…time to break out the macro lens and dive Bellamylike into the undergwowf.

I went out for a stroll up the garden with the customary mug of tea to see what opportunities were in the offing only yards from my back door.  Plenty of flowers were in full bloom, shrubs and perennials were growing rapidly, insects were everywhere buzzing from flower to flower and stem to stem, the pond was full of water boatmen, pond skaters and newts, but I’m no Mark Horton, I’ll leave the incredible capture of all things buzzy, crawly & globby to him. Instead it was the ferns that initially caught my eye.  Their unfurling fronds chasing one another up out of the border…graceful, architectural and most fortuitously at just the right height for someone currently having trouble bending down very far.

I retreated back to the house, broke out the notebook and started planning…

First and foremost, I told myself this was an ideal opportunity to accept the constraints that had been placed on me….there was bog all I could do about it, so embrace it.  We all need some constraints now and again, they can help us really think about what we’re producing, and give us a bounding box within which we can explore freely, giving us some focus and freeing us from worrying about everything that lies beyond that boundary for a while. It can be hugely rewarding and refreshing.  Now I’m the first to admit that self imposing those constraints is not always easy, and the temptation to ignore them…’just for this one shot’…can be overwhelming, but this time I had no choice. *

So it was time to grasp the opportunity, work with it and set the boundaries of the project. OK, so what would that mean for me?  Well I decided I wanted to produce a series, and by that I mean a collection of images organised around a common theme, with a common look/feel/style that means they all hang together as a whole.  Did there need to be a unifying message behind the images?  In this case not necessarily, this was simply a challenge, no deeper meaning than that.  It wasn’t going to be my magnum opus, the beginning of a defining series that would take months or years to complete, this was simply something to keep me going until I could drive again. That meant I had a few days at best to complete it, so I set myself the task of 10 images that met the brief.

I broke out the Canon for the first time in months because of the simply gorgeous 100mm f2.8 L macro lens I could slap on the front of it for this project, and using that single lens was an added constraint that would help to unify any images I produced.  By the time I charged a battery for the camera and headed outside it was around 9.00pm and was getting dark, but on the plus side it was also still and calm, which given that I was shooting handheld as I couldn’t manoeuvre a tripod around was going to be a bonus. Even so, when I started shooting it soon became clear that DoF was going to be an issue, as even with the ISO cranked up I was inevitably shooting close to wide open just to get an acceptably unfuzzy shot. Still, I persevered for a while and considered it a warm up for some more time the following day.

I looked through those first images on the laptop and had managed to grab one image I was happy with. I liked the comparative simplicity of it, the shapes and forms within the frame and the heavily restricted pallet, restricted to GREEN that is.  So I decided to let that image, see below, set the style for the series. It also helped steer its theme and purpose, so instead of capturing fuzzy UCM macro flower images…badly…I instead wanted to explore more simplistic graphical compositions, using light and form within a predominantly dark and monochromatic frame.  It also meant I could embrace a shallow depth of field instead of being hindered by it, so wide open it was going to be.


Over the next couple of days I went back out, at the same time of the evening to ensure the same quality of light and slowly began to build a set of images. I ended up settling on only 3 or 4 plants in the garden, revisiting them daily and being grateful that overnight they had grown and changed to afford me a few more compositional options. I quickly passed my 10 image target, but kept going as I found myself enjoying this precious 20 minutes or so every evening trying to find new forms and shapes through the viewfinder…I was just playing again, and it felt good.

A few of the images from the series are included below, but the full series can be seen here.

AsTheSunSetsColour-3 AsTheSunSetsColour-4 AsTheSunSetsColour-9 AsTheSunSetsColour-11

So what did I get out of this?  Apart from enjoying the pure exploration of light, form, shape and space with only myself to please, surprisingly more than I initially thought I would.  Working with constraints is not, well, constraining…it’s freeing.  It gives you permission to focus, to ignore other distractions and be a bit more creative with your subject matter at hand. I definitely took images I wouldn’t necessarily have taken normally, learning quite a bit in the process, and not just about my own inability to handhold at slow shutter speeds!  It’s a reminder to look at your own back yard, quite literally in my case, and not just stampede across the country looking for glamorous locations.  I enjoyed working to a brief, even if it was one I’d set myself, and having the challenge of creating enough images in such a short space of time made sure I kept focus for those twenty minutes each evening.  It was also nice to know that like all good projects should, it had an end, once I’d met the ‘done’ criteria…it was done and dusted.

In short, I think I’ll be setting myself more short run mini projects like this to stay fresh and challenge myself.  I won’t just stick to the comfort zone either, I’ll try different genres and styles too, and I fully expect that hardly any of them will see the light of day as this one has, but that’s fine by me as long as they stretch my photography, keep me developing and give me an occasional creative recharge.

As I’ll soon be able to drive again, but still won’t be able to carry anything heavy, maybe the next series will be taken from lay-bys…who knows? Time to make a cup of tea and break out that notebook again…

*I couldn’t help myself though, and despite the initial brief I set myself stipulating colour, I just had to process some as B&W because I know they’d just work.  So as a result I now have two versions of the series. Some images are common to both, but some only work in one treatment, so here’s the black and white version too.


26 Mar

A photographer’s practise and what I think about ‘sketching’ and ‘arty bollocks’.

admin / Blog / / 1 Comment

So there are a couple of catalysts for this blog, a large part of it follows on as a result of several months of personal discovery culminating in a recent workshop, but partly it’s in reaction to some recent twitter discussions of topics as varied as ‘sketching’, ‘photographic snobbery’ and ‘arty bollocks’…more on those later, but first a bit of context about the last few months.

I started keeping a notebook a while back, specifically a photographic notebook.  I wanted to capture the occasional thoughts I was having about my own photography and explore a few ideas, themes and questions. Over time it’s turned into a jumbled gathering of thoughts, images, ideas, questions, blog ideas, angst, self loathing, project titles, quotes, principles, references and other bits and bobs.  This in and itself was and continues to be an insanely useful exercise, I can heartily recommend it to anyone, but imagine my joy as a highly convenient and timely opportunity arose to attend a workshop with Eddie Ephraums and Paul Wakefield based around the act of keeping a photographers notebook.  It was an opportunity too good to pass up so I duly booked onto it and simply carried on writing my own personal brand of drivel between the soft, black covers of my moleskine.

Now I’m not going to bleat on about personal discovery, or other such ‘arty bollocks’ here as the detail isn’t overly important in helping with what I’m trying to get across, and it may or may not arise in another blog depending on how I’m feeling. However, what I do want to share is something about that workshop, in particular what I took away from it, and hopefully draw some parallels to ‘sketching’ and ‘arty bollocks’ in particular…honestly stay with me on this one.

The main premise of the workshop was for the attendees to keep a notebook in a style they saw fit whilst trying to address two key questions set by Eddie & Paul, then bring it to the workshop, and discuss it with a bunch of like minded loons.  Now, a workshop with homework sounds like a bit of a commitment granted, but I was already invested in this notebook process so for me it wasn’t an issue, although as the workshop approached I will admit some mild trepidation about sharing some parts of it with complete strangers, and also some concern about answering the questions that had been set.

What became abundantly clear upon starting the workshop was that everyone there had a completely different approach and level of commitment to the whole notebook thing.  Some used a set of prints to cover a particular project, someone used an online journal, another an iPad, another a whole collection of different notepads for different projects or topics (note to self…potential to develop a significant revenue stream by opening a notepad store next to where he lives…sorry Jim), some had barely written anything at all, and I had simply used my moleskine as a day book as I have done for most of my professional life.

The thing is, every person in that room, including Paul and Eddie, had a different approach to keeping their notebook, and a different set of content they included in it, and as a result each notebook clearly represented something of the character of the person who authored it.  Critically though, as we were sharing those notebooks amongst the group, each and every approach had something you could take away and add to your own, a snippet or nugget or concept that you could use to enrich your own notebook ninja skills.

The group was also not made up entirely of landscape photographers, there were people who shot street, reportage, architectural or documentary as well as or instead of landscape.  There were people who were definitely artists, some who were literary authors, and some who were a mix of the two or none of the above.  It was a rich and diverse set of talents, thought processes, approaches, technical skill levels and backgrounds all brought together on the coast of Scotland, and all willing to chip in and voice their thoughts and add their input.

As the week went on, we explored a number of mini projects and exercises, and as a group we reviewed them and bounced ideas off one another.  Not everyone agreed all the time, but I’m sure everyone took something away from other members of the group, no matter how small or significant. Everyone listened, and everyone wanted to learn, not just from the venerable Wakefield and Ephraums, but from all members of the group…and here’s the important thing for me, at no point did anyone say that the way someone else did or approached something was wrong because it wasn’t how they did it, at no point did anyone criticise someone’s use of a word and say it was wrong or inappropriate because it wasn’t how they chose to use it, no one said someone else’s approach was invalid because it was different to theirs, and no one claimed their work was more worthy than anyone else’s and that’s simply because everyone was right.

There is no wrong way to describe the elements of your own photographic approach and practise, what works for you is right…for you, how you choose to shoot is right…for you, what drives you to make images is right…for you, the way you see the world is right…for you, the amount of meaning you choose to attribute to an image is right…for you.   This whole game is about what you want to do, and anything you choose to see, say, do or not do is entirely right and valid.

If you want to use the word sketch to describe a step in your own creative process, or as a label to attach to an image you’ve taken, then great, that’s something that means something to you and your own personal practise, if it doesn’t resonate with you then fine, so what, it doesn’t matter it’s not a part of your personal practise so why get upset about it?

Likewise when people complain about ‘photographic snobbery’ and ‘arty bollocks’ in landscape photography.  Having an image-making practise driven by other creative pursuits such as poetry, literature, painting or music doesn’t make it ‘arty bollocks’ by default, it simply means for that person, for that image or for their work in general they feel a connection or influence that is entirely valid…for them.  Similarly an image isn’t necessarily full of ‘arty bollocks’ by default if it’s complex or more difficult to access. Equally a staggering vista draped in breathtaking light isn’t necessarily devoid of ‘arty bollocks’, again it’s the photographer or artists choice.  A complex image of flatly lit trees and a sunset lit mountain vista are equally as worthy and valid as one another, they are just different and as a result different people will respond to them in different ways.  Ultimately if what you create meets the goals you have set yourself then you’ve succeeded…pat yourself on the back and crack on.

If you shoot landscapes because you like to represent the staggering view in front of you then good for you, if you choose to shoot the underside of suburban hedges with an obscure Peruvian film camera in an attempt to convey how a particular poem touched you when you read it then again, good for you, all power to your elbow. I’m not going to waste my own time and keyboard life by typing angrily from my own ivory tower telling you all that you’re wrong or that I don’t like the way you use a particular term, or software tool or ‘on trend’ technique…instead I’m going to look at what you do, listen to why you do it, and learn from that, and maybe even impact my own practises as a result.

As a result of that workshop, the feedback I gained from it, the insights others generously gave me, the journey travelled with the whole notebook keeping process, and thanks to a number of conversations with other photographers about direction and personal goals, I’m now more able to understand that I have my own set of influences, behaviours, preferences, goals, craft and creative processes that I combine together into my own photographic practise.  I also know that the various  elements of that practise will change and evolve over time. It gives me a framework from which I can understand my own work and learn from the practises of others.  If that sounds like ‘arty bollocks’ to you then I’m sorry, it’s really not intended to, it’s just something that feels right…for me…which means it’s right, and valid…for me.

I suggest having an open mind and a questioning attitude is not a bad place to start from, and we can all learn from all the other photographers in this bitchy, angst ridden community of ours…although you’re more than welcome to completely ignore all of this and keep carping….after all, that’s valid too, but forgive me if I choose not to play.

Hell I’ll even tolerate those of you who use the term ‘tog’…personally that’s a crime almost as heinous as using Comic Sans on your website…but that doesn’t make it wrong….except for the Comic Sans thing….that will always be wrong 😉

18 Jan

Where are all the mentors? An introverts quest for feedback

admin / Blog / / 8 Comments

Following an aborted personal review of 2015 where I was unable to find a consistent set of images I was happy with and generally left feeling disappointed at the quality of the images I’ve produced in the last 12 months, I spent some time looking out at the seemingly six millionth consecutive day of grey, dull wetness through the window, putting myself through the usual rollercoaster of introspection, self doubt & consideration of knitting as an alternative more practical, less stressful pastime, trying to find answers to questions I didn’t even know I was asking.  I know we all do this from time to time, and this definitely isn’t a phishing blog attempting to elicit several comments of “don’t doubt yourself” or “your stuff is OK”, but let’s be honest i’m not the only person to struggle through the last few months of unbearably crap and uninspiring weather we’ve endured.

Anyway, I was revisiting the Ffoton interview of Matt Botwood by Rob Hudson (if you haven’t listened to any of these podcasts sort your act out, seriously) and it led me to consider my own photographic process and purpose.  Two things resonated, firstly the lack of purpose in my image making, secondly the need for feedback.  The lack of purpose or intent is a whole other blog that I’ll tackle soon, but in the quest for a semblance of brevity and most importantly in an attempt to avoid boring those of you reading this introspective, self-indulgent waffle, the search for open and honest feedback is the subject of this particular blog…

Matt spoke in the interview about mentoring and the importance of honest feedback from a set of trusted peers, and this reminded me of something I read from David Duchemin a while back where he introduced the concept of the four voices we as photographers listen to.  They are the Critic, the Friend, the Mentor and the Sycophant.

To paraphrase David, the Critic is the one who wants to tell you how good they are whilst letting you know how flawed you are, the Sycophant is the well meaning person who shouts “love it” to anything they like the look of, both these sorts of people are generally uninvited to our world and unfortunately don’t bring much to it in our search for constructive feedback. The remaining two types are those we actively invite into our world. The first of these, the Friend, doesn’t necessarily understand the work, but knows us and likes what we do, they’re our cheerleaders and boy do we need them when we’re full of creative doubt and bereft of self-belief. The last one however is the most useful yet also the most elusive, they are the Mentor. The Mentor is the person you ask in to your world to give you the truth about your work, both the positive and the negative, and you invite their feedback because you trust them and their opinions.

So, here’s my problem…internet forums are full of critics, life is full of friends, social media is full of well meaning sycophants, the mentors are missing from my life.

Now if I was lucky enough to live in one of the many landscape hotbeds in the UK such as Yorkshire, Norfolk or even Nottingham I may have the opportunity to occasionally bump into some fellow photographers on a hillside, beach or maybe in a nice pub warming up with a pint by a log fire after a long afternoon in the field, and spend some time discussing one another’s work and swapping tips on the best spots to find that unicorn and rainbow combo we’ve been seeking that will ensure that next competition placing.

However the reality is that I’m a somewhat introverted chap living in Monmouthshire near the Welsh border, who treasures the limited amount of time he gets out in the landscape with the camera as a means of mentally and physically recharging from the mundanity of the day job.  Making images for me is a solitary pursuit, and without that solace I struggle to focus properly and create anything of any worth. The question of whether I ever do create anything of worth or not anyway is one of the reasons why I need a mentor 😉 #SelfDoubt #NotAPhishingBlog. Anyway, when you couple that with the fact that the likelihood of me bumping into anyone over a cosy log fire locally is, well zero, then it begs the question where do I find that feedback, where do I find someone who is willing to act as that sounding board?  And if I’m asking this question, who else is asking themselves the same thing out there?

We spend inordinate amounts of time chatting on social media, trying to compress meaningful conversations into 140 character snippits, and on occasions actually meet face to face at events like Meeting of Minds run by the OnLandscape team, Connected run by Rob Knight, or Masters of Vision organised by Pete Bridgwood, but whilst these are fantastic events and great opportunities to put faces to names (Twitter handles on foreheads should be compulsory at such events by the way), they are all too infrequent.

So the question I guess I’m posing, and more annoyingly for you the reader having come this far with me, not answering…sorry…is how does an introverted, time-limited, geographically challenged, landscape photographer find another time constrained, landscaping jedi master selflessly willing to spend some time being brutally honest in a constructive way? I’d like to think my work is ok, but it feels like it’s lacking direction and purpose…it’s purposeless…and its purposelessness is where I need to explore right now, and maybe having that feedback might make my images exhibit less purposelessnessless….sorry…I’ll stop the plagiarism of Rowan Atkinson and his Sir Marcus Browning M.P. sketch right now I promise.

At the end of the day we all need that honest feedback in order to progress and grow as a photographer, or do we?  Am I the only one looking for it? But assuming I’m not the only one, how do you get that feedback? And also, how as photographers can we make ourselves available to fill that role to help someone else around us who values our feedback? More beer and log-fireside discussions gets my vote as a starting point…

24 Jul

Disappointment, reflection and something more beautiful

Karl / Blog / / 16 Comments

Let’s cut to the chase, I didn’t make the shortlist for LPOTY this year, in fact I’ve never made the shortlist despite a few attempts over the last 5 years or so, and it smarts.  For those of you who aren’t fellow landscape photographers, LPOTY is the Landscape Photographer of the Year Competition, an annual celebration of superb landscape imagery from the UK, culminating, for those who are lucky enough, in a treasured piece of real estate in the annual book and a place in the exhibition in London. It truly is a great thing, conceived and orchestrated by the very man whose work inspired me to take this lark seriously in the first place Charlie Waite, and my god have I coveted my own little piece of real estate between those hallowed covers since its inception.

So getting home from a hard week at work yesterday evening, firing up the laptop and seeing fellow twitterati celebrating their receipt of the fabled email that indicates success at making the shortlist made me feel slightly sick, as I knew I hadn’t received such an email. I pressed the deliver button in my email client a few times in the vain hope that it would magically appear, but it didn’t, and I knew it wouldn’t.  Some congratulatory messages fired out and some consolatory ones received back, with some wise words in particular from Greg Whitton and Neil Mansfield, both of whose work I’d advise you to check out if you aren’t already familiar, before I retired from twitter for the evening and sat, with a whisky and my own thoughts as the Tour de France passed by in a blur on the tv.

Now this blog could very easily be a wallowing in self doubt, with much gnashing and wailing of teeth, but it isn’t going to be, is it going to be slightly cathartic? hell yes, that’s the whole point isn’t it?. So yes, I ran through the whole gamut of questioning last night, are my images actually a bit crap? Am I kidding myself with this whole landscape photography lark?  Should I take up painting, knitting or airfix model building instead? And the answer to all of those is a resounding no, except maybe for the taking up painting thing…I absolutely, definitely need to do that.  And there are some very good reasons for not moping but in fact to be hugely thankful to this photography game, for the last 18 months in particular.

So indulge me for a moment, hold my hand, cue the wibbly wobbly screen and whooshing sound effects as I take you back 18 months or so to the deck of a Calmac ferry crossing from Uig to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

I was on my way to a photography workshop, my very first one, with feelings of huge trepidation.  Up until that point I had always been someone who walked in the landscape and just taken photos as I strolled around the fells of the Lake District, occasionally getting an image I liked, but with serendipity playing a huge part and an impatient family waiting half a mile up the footpath for me to catch them up somewhat tempering the photographic isolation we all cherish. Anyway, here I was, on my way to Harris to meet up with a bunch of fellow landscape photographers on an Aspect 2i workshop, run by Paul Gallagher and Michael Pilkington. I stood on the deck of the ferry, full of self doubt and riddled with imposter syndrome (a running theme), imagining a workshop full of landscape masters looking at me like I’d just rocked up with a disposable film camera to a  paparazzi scrum. In fact it was a fabulous week spent in the company of some great people all keen to learn from Paul and Michael, and experience all that the Hebrides has to offer.  That trip was the first affirmation that I was OK at this, and heralded the beginning of photography moving from an occasional hobby to a fully blown obsession. Thank you to Paul, Michael and those people I can now call friends who were on that workshop.

After that workshop I allowed myself a couple of grandiose aspirations, I wanted to get an image into my favourite magazine Outdoor Photography, I wanted an exhibition (cliche I know) and I wanted that little spot in the LPOTY book.  So how did I do? Well I submitted some images to OP and Steve graciously published them (I still have at least 3 copies of that edition it means that much), I haven’t got close to an exhibition and haven’t tried yet, and well, we all know about the LPOTY fail again.  But what exactly have I achieved in the last 18 months? I’ve been published in my favourite magazine, I made the shortlist for the inaugural SLPOTY competition, not the dead tree version but the ebook (close but no cigar), I have prints of my work hanging in other peoples living rooms for the first time and an article in the forthcoming September’s issue of Outdoor Photography.  I’ve been to Scotland twice, the Arctic Circle and the Lofoten Islands, I’ve seen the northern lights and ice on a beach.  I’ve stood waist deep in the waters of Lofoten, Harris, Wester Ross, Pembrokeshire, Glamorgan, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, and waist deep in the barley and wheat fields of the Cotswolds, not to mention time spent in my own patch of Monmouthshire and nearby Brecon Beacons. Hell I’ve been surrounded by more beautiful landscapes in 18 months than many people see in their lifetime, and all of the above alone is reason enough to stick with it keep making images.

But its more than that, it’s the people I’ve met and engaged with, from the landscape idols of Michael Kenna, David Ward & Joe Cornish to everyone at the OnLandscape conference last year.  I’ve made some great friends on Facebook and Twitter, both virtual and in person, and I’m hoping to convert even more of those virtual friendships to real ones at the Masters of Vision Exhibition this evening. Most importantly I wouldn’t have had the fortune to be talking to those of you who have taken a few minutes out of your day to read the ramblings of a slightly rotund welshman who is obsessed with capturing moments of beauty in the landscape, and to each and every one of you I say thank you.

Yes I will take stock, but that will lead to better work, more focus, more honesty and more integrity in the images I make, but I will keep making them, and I will keep making them for me because I need to.  I’ve never shot an image with a competition in mind and I don’t think I ever will as that’s not why I stand in cold water or howling winds, I do it because I love the landscape and love being in it.  So if you’re a fellow LPOTY failer, chin up and crack on, buy the book and admire the images but remember why you too make images and hold that lightly and value it above all else.

So thank you to the landscape photography fraternity, thank you to everyone I’ve met along the way and to those of you who listen to my occasional ramblings and take the time to look at my work.  I’m at the beginning of a journey that will last for the rest of my life, and I’ve already seen Hans Strand playing the Swedish national anthem on a beer flute, I can’t wait to see where this goes from here!

Thanks for sticking with me.

21 Sep

Problem solving

Karl / Blog / / 6 Comments

Here’s an image from Hartland Quay the other day, and I thought for this one I’d share my thought processes pre shutter press, as in this case the creation of the image required a number of technical compromises and decisions to be balanced to achieve the outcome I wanted.

Hartland Quay Vanishing Point B&W

Compositionally I was attracted to the barcode effect of the rocks in the centre of the frame, and wanted to run them across the frame to create a sense of movement.  That meant I could either shoot right to left, with the beach running off into the distance or instead left to right and use the larger fin of rock on the right to hold the eye and guide it back towards the vanishing point through the bands of rock.  I needed to frame carefully to include the tiny piece of rock in the top left of the frame in order to hold the eye at that point and stop it wandering out of the frame at the bright spot on the horizon.  I was already considering a 5×4 crop, as the 3×2 image in the viewfinder was simply too long for my liking.

So I finished positioning the key elements in the frame where I wanted them, getting the balance of sky and foreshore right, and aligning the entry and exit points for the fins of rock in their most pleasing position.

So having set the composition, it was time to deal with the technical considerations that now raised their head.

I chose to leave the polariser off allowing the highlights and reflections on the wet sand to act as a contrast to the dark bands of limestone running off into the sea.  The colours were very subdued and slightly washed out due to the angle of the sun, so the decision was made to create a black and white image from the outset, allowing me to exploit the wide tonal contrasts visible in the scene.

Filtration was tricky not only due to the extremes of the tonal range, but also because of the three dimensional nature of the rock formations within the frame, the large fin to the right punctuating the skyline necessitating an inevitable compromise when placing the filter.  Placing it simply across the horizon would have meant a lot of tricky post-processing to retrieve the dark shadows of the large rock fin.  So I chose to angle the grad, laying it in a line just at the tips of the rocks travelling up towards the right across the top of the large fin.  The bright highlights on the sea and in the sky above were also toned down a touch by doing so, and it minimised the darkening effect on the rocks to the right nicely.

A similar compromise was required when placing the focal plane into the image using the tilt and shift lens.  Again if I’d simply laid the focal plane down onto the rocks running into the sea, the top of the large rock on the right would have been soft.  So again the compromise was made choosing to lay the focal plane between the immediate foreground and around a third to a half of the way up the large rock to the right, then stopping the lens down to f16 and exploiting the cone shape of acceptable focus given.  A bit of fine tuning using live view to check sharpness and I was ready to press the shutter…

Not a killer image by any stretch of the imagination, but a compositional and technical challenge that I thought worthy of a bit of explanation to share my thought processes.

We should use the tools at our fingertips, to solve the challenges we face, when building the image we want to create, after all that is all they are, tools.  They should help us realise the vision, not define it.  For me, making that jump from taking an image to consciously creating an image was life-changing and took my photography to the next level.

15 Aug

Every cloud…

Karl / Blog / / 0 Comments

So, this is my first quick blog on my new website, allow me to briefly explain why…

Well, a few evenings ago I thought I’d update the wordpress theme I used to power this website to the latest version.   Whilst the website I originally built with that theme was OK and looked really good, it didn’t really fit the usual wordpress standards for galleries and stuff, making it a bit of a pain to maintain.  Thankfully the developer recently released a new version of the theme making a lot of these changes, and whilst I knew updating to the new version would effectively mean an extensive rebuild I pressed ahead, settling in on the sofa with a cup of tea to hand, ready to take on the task of upgrading.

However, just before I dived in, the realisation that I was facing a rebuild made me consider exploring a different theme, one which would allow me to integrate some commerce features that were missing from my original theme.  So after bit of exploring, I identified some suitable candidates, downloaded a couple and decided to see what they looked like.

Applying the first theme of choice caused chaos for some unknown reason, leaving me unable to access the WordPress dashboard and facing a reinstall.  “No problem, I’ll just restore a backup of the old site and go back to that tomorrow” I thought, so imagine what went through my mind…and exploded from my mouth…when I realised I hadn’t backed it up.

After calming down a bit and resigning myself to an unexpected TOTAL rebuild of my website, I concluded that this was in fact an opportunity, and one I could seize with both hands, to re-evaluate my original site, it’s content and structure and make the changes I knew I really needed to make.

So in short, a couple of days later and here we are, a new theme, some new content, some new features yet to come, and a lesson well learned.  BACK IT UP!!