Monday, 13 February 2012

Hacked off

It was a bad day at 'the office' this morning, so when I was free in mid afternoon I took myself out for a couple of hours to chill. The upside was that I finally decided to call it a day on chasing wildlife around with a long lens. To do it well it takes the same level of commitment, and a similar level of patience and determination, as is required to catch big fish. That sort of investment I'll save for the fishes.

What I realised is that I'm an opportunistic photographer. I like to go about observing the world and making pictures of little bits of it that I find interesting. No matter what they are. I also realised that I am getting a handle on seeing landscape pictures. This is not easy in the flat world I live in, and it means not making pictures that follow most of the tropes of landscape photography. So boring landscapes is what I have to make do with.

Today I was aided by an elevated viewpoint walking along a flood-bank. Although I had taken a DSLR and long lens to look for birdies I also had the X10 round my neck. It makes a reasonable job of landscapes. There is detail, but it's not as smooth or crisp as a larger camera would produce. Good enough for the web and A4 prints though. Straight out of the camera the RAW files look rather bland. However the information is there.

I think I'm still tending to go overboard on the processing. I am also wondering where the 'truth' lies in pictures that are manipulated like this. Does it matter so long as the information was there to start with? If I was painting the picture I'd surely try to paint how it felt to experience a place rather than get involved in a futile chase for strict verisimilitude.

One thing I will not be doing, ever, is removing pylons and suchlike from my landscape pictures. They are part of our world, so should be left in the frame. In fact, I often deliberately chose views which include man made 'intrusions' into the natural world. You can call it a cultural commentary or something if you like. It's just the way I see things. Even the marks made by a tractor working a field can become part of the subject matter and composition.

The picture above was tricky to process. I haven't made the best of it. I'm thinking now that's because it would have benefited from the use of a polarising filter. Not to mention different light.

I can understand why people photograph landscapes. There is always a willing subject. It requires no interaction with other people. However, it mostly seems to be about making pretty pictures. For me it's more about the spirit of place and man's manipulation of the world than an idealised, nostalgic, romanticised vision. Unfortunately I can see how, to really get to grips with this, it could require the same depth of commitment that wildlife photography does. It could also require a similar investment in equipment. Although it may not need wildly expensive telephoto lenses, I am not convinced that even a high resolution DSLR is suitable and think that to do it true justice it would require a view camera and a set of lenses. Then again that kind of smacks of a romanticised nostalgia for a way of working!

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