As a photographer I am mindful that to create compelling images I need to be proficient with my camera. I need to know what all the buttons do and more importantly where they are all positioned so that when I am in a time pressured situation I can use them get the shot that I am after. I need to know how to balance my shutter speed, aperture and ISO to give me the optimum exposure and I need to have some creative ideas that will allow me to experiment with different compositions. But as well as all this I believe that to create meaningful images I need to have a good knowledge of the landscape that I am photographing.
Now you might stay that Google earth can provide me with this knowledge, and perhaps it can on a superficial basis. It can show me the lie of the land, the geological features. It can display the shape of the coastline , the way a river traverses the landscape or the boundary of my local forest and all that is a good start. But it won’t show me what plants I might find in a location or when they will flower. It won’t show me what rocks I might find at the edge of the sea or what colour they are. These little details are the things we connect with when we are out in the landscape and they are the things that make our images personal to us.
My love of photography began when I was 10 when I was given a small and really basic Kodak camera for my birthday. It was a small black box which took square photographs. It was pretty much a point and shoot device and there was really no technical skill required but I loved this camera and it went everywhere with me, on days out, weekends away, and on trips abroad when I was lucky enough to go.
I began to see the world through a lens. The camera gave me an excuse to get outside and explore my local area and visit all the places that I came to love. It also helped me connect more deeply with those places. Photography helped me observe the landscape in a more intimate and detailed way and through all my observations it helped me accrue knowledge and increase my connection with the natural world. Without that camera and my early introduction to photography I don’t think I would have been as connected and in love with natural world as I am today.
A strong connection with nature lies at the heart of a healthy life and a healthy planet.
This is a quote from Prof. Miles Richardson who runs a blog called finding nature findingnature.org.uk This idea is how I see my photography. The simple act of taking a picture requires observation and a willingness to look beyond an initial glance.
By looking hard and seeing all the different natural elements that surround me I am developing a connection with the place I am photographing. This in turn fosters a care for that environment because I feel I know it and understand it.
In return the feeling of total absorption I get when taking pictures is hugely beneficial to my mental well being – all my worries disappear when I am behind the lens and the very act of taking an image becomes a mindful experience.
For me this can be summed up perfectly in this quote from The Mindful Eye – writings on photography and photographers by Henri Cartier Bresson.
In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder.
So with all this in mind I have decided to run a new series of half day group workshops with a slightly different approach which is all about getting to know the landscape and developing a connection with the ‘place’ we are photographing.
During the course of each workshop I will set 4 challenges which I hope will make you think more deeply about the area you are photographing and will give you some ideas to carry forward to your next photographic outing. The challenges will focus on observation, looking for specific elements or interactions between elements. We will be focusing on detail and close up studies, observing and using our camera to become familiar with different elements of the natural world. We will look at using our senses and focus on our feelings about a place and how these affect our image making and we will also look at landscape stories and their role in our image making.
In essence these new workshops are about why we choose to photograph something rather than how. We have such a beautiful and diverse set of landscapes here in Suffolk and I believe we should all get to know them a little better. And what better way to do that than through photography?
To introduce my new ‘Connections’ workshops I am running a photo walk with 10 free places, available on a first come first served basis. The walk will take place at Hollesley Marshes – a landscape I know really well and one which is not a traditional ‘go to’ landscape location. The idea is to see what you can make of a landscape with no well known ‘iconic’ views. If you would like to come along please follow the link to the walk and I look forward to seeing you there.
Below you will find a selection of images which were all taken at Hollesley Marshes and which now form part of my first photography book Grounded.