Widening Your Artistic Perspective
When I started writing this column six years ago, my original brief was to ‘inform’ and ‘inspire’. This is my 80th piece and sharing my musings in ‘One Month, One Picture’ has been an absolute delight; my passion for writing is superseded by the utter joy of photographing all those wonderful places, and meeting so many incredible creative photographers on my journey. One of the choices I made early on, was to deliberately avoid any stylistic tendency. The readership would soon tire of seeing similar images every month; so to ensure variety I have made a conscious effort to photograph in different places and in different styles. But one thing I never anticipated was the huge benefit such forced variety would bring to my own photography.
A common angst for landscape photographers is that we yearn to discover our own style. Our landscape heroes have spent years practicing, each painstakingly discovering their individual visual language; as they hone their craft, they create increasingly distinctive imagery, they have a recognisable style. It seems sensible that if we want to be like them, we should try to find our own style; but in reality, when we are ready, our style will find us. Even the most accomplished photographers have a secret understanding that however stylised one becomes, experimentation fuels creativity.
There are various ways of widening our artistic perspective: we can visit the locations featured in our favourite photographs and try to emulate or better them compositionally, we can spend time photographing with others, either on bespoke photography workshops or if we are lucky enough to have talented photographer friends, on a privately arranged shoot. So it was that I visited Fistral Beach one stormy afternoon to shoot with sea-scape supremo David Baker. I wanted to enrich my own coastal experience and understand how he captures the spirit of the sea so dramatically.
Choice of viewpoint was critical: low down, to obscure the horizon and at a distance from the shore to compress perspective and create pronounced layering of the waves using a long focal length of 370mm. Some experimentation revealed an optimum shutter-speed of 1/4 second to render the waves most perfectly, and two neutral density filters were required to enable such a long exposure. The sky was captured separately using a much shorter focal length of 105mm to create a more expansive cloudscape with cloud formations fortuitously mirroring the shapes of the wave crests; then the two images were blended in post-processing.