Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The light is not enough

It's all too easy to get carried away by the sudden arrival of sunshine. The world is brighter and more colourful. The photographs I take look more like the ones by other people I look at and wonder why theirs look so much nicer than mine usually do, and so much more like the ones which people seem to aspire to making. In short the light and colour is seductive, becoming the sole focus of the pictures with composition and meaning pushed into the background.

Great light, harmonious colours, shallow depth of focus. what's not to like? It being just another picture of a backlit leaf is what. There had to be some better pictures to be made using the light and the fresh leaves. Trying to find them was far from easy. A backlit leaf against a dark ground shows up best. A group of leaves is more interesting than a single leaf, but harder to find in interesting shapes which can form compositions - not to mention the problem groups cause with deciding on where the focus ought to lie.

Of all my feeble efforts the one below, for all the lack of focus, made the most pleasing arrangement. The silhouetted twigs crossing the frame giving a sense of movement.

One problem I always have when trying to 'work' a subject is that I get bored. I can only spend so long looking at something trying to frame it well before my mind either wanders or freezes. All too often I review the shots and find the first one had the best composition, and almost as frequently has some technical flaw which ruins it. The next frame will be technically perfect but annoyingly not quite right as a picture.

All axioms can be contradicted. The next picture was not the first in the sequence. The first three frames were made in landscape orientation before I realised that turning the camera on its side made for a greater sense of receding space. Then I varied the aperture to alter the depth of focus. For once I got the best technical features to coincide with the best aesthetics and was reasonably pleased with the result.

This image has grown out of a way of using (or more truthfully finding) frontal light on subjects through which can be seen a shaded background. By controlling the amount of detail revealed in the shade a sense of space is created. If the frontal light is slightly angled from one side then the form of the foreground is enhanced. Since coming to understand this I now consciously seek it out in my attempts to make pictures which have a more amorphous or fluid composition to them. If they work as I hope then the viewer's eye should wander all over the picture, shifting focus at times, without leaving the picture bounds.

While these pictures are about their subjects, about light and colour, I'm trying to make them be about a sense of place and countryside. Very much work in progress, which, while challenging in its way, still leaves me wondering if I'm not trying to make photographs of something that should be explored in paint. The landscape paintings of Graham Sutherland and Ivon Hitchens keep flashing into my mind's eye when looking at these subjects wondering how to photograph them.

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