Time for a ramble. I don’t really know where this will go. Let’s start and see where I end up.
I haven’t written anything on my blog for a while. As usual I can blame work. Since September it has been pretty much non-stop. I had a few days of photography here and there which were actually very productive, but most weekends were either spent working, or catching up with stuff I would normally do when not working. Some things never change.
This has also meant almost no time out making images. What makes it worse is that I still regularly browse image sharing sites each day, and seeing people post amazing photos whilst I am on the train to the office gets very frustrating.
One upside to all this is that my work means I have enough money to go on holiday to spectacular places. After a particularly gruelling project the end was in sight, which was waiting to be rewarded with a trip to the Lofoten Islands in Norway with two friends, as well as some time in Sweden and Finland. I’d visited Lofoten last year and couldn’t wait to go back.
To cut a long story short, although I enjoyed the holiday and got to do some very cool things like dog sledding and riding snowmobiles, photographically for me it was a washout. The weather was generally awful. It started with 3-4 days of solid rain storms, making photography very challenging. When the weather eventually cleared the rain had ruined the landscape. After going through my images, in retrospect I think I have one photo I like of some trees from Finland (below), and a whole lot of uninspiring guff.
In the past two years Lofoten seems to have gone from relatively quiet to being every photographer’s back garden. Browse 500px on any given day and you will see at least one photo from there in the top 10, and probably 10-15 in the top 100. It’s hard to get something different there now. Another compounding factor is that, unless you have spectacular weather and light, someone will have a very similar shot in ideal light conditions.
Although unsuccessful in photographic terms, the holiday has made me think a lot about my photography and what I want to achieve with it.
Up until recently I don’t think I have developed a certain style or direction. With many photographers who I follow you know whose image you’re looking at without needing to see the name. Whilst I am happy with some of my shots, I find increasingly that the photos that inspire me are simple, local (to the photographer) and contain no discerning landmarks. They could have been taken in the Peak District or Nepal for all I care. I think I have started moving in this direction with my recent photos from some local woods and from a very frosty morning near Cambridge. None of these photos contain stunning sunsets, iconic rocks or mountains or once in a lifetime light. However they are the images I am most happy with and are more likely to end up on my wall. If you can provoke an emotion from the viewer with this kind of image where you’ve worked to create something from nothing, to me this is more desirable than any shot of a famous viewpoint, even in epic light.
With these photos I didn’t show up a location having seen 30 shots of blazing skies over the same place taken in the previous week. It left me with no guidelines, no frame of reference and no expectations, just creative freedom and a camera. The sunrise/sunset shots of places like Lofoten are instant impact, but are also quickly becoming disposable carbon copies. They will score well on image sharing websites as clickbait but ultimately what do they give either the photographer or the viewer? A quick photo rush? Maybe they are the Mars bars of the photo world. Ultimately if you eat too many Mars bars you may become insensitive to insulin and get diabetes…if you get what I mean.
With this in mind I headed out today to a beach near my father’s house. There’s nothing amazing there to shoot. No crazy rock formations or piers and so on. Just sand, rocks and water. The weather was pretty grim. Grey rainy skies, pretty bloody windy too. The aim was to make a simple image that I was happy with and see where this thinking takes me in future. Below is one that I am quite happy with at the moment. Maybe this will be a continuing direction for my photography that will let me get out more with the camera. It’s not really weather dependent so I don’t need crazy coloured skies or mist hanging in valleys. Ultimately if I get more time to take photos that can only be a good thing.
Will I go back to Lofoten? Maybe.
Will I head off to some other area of natural wonder later this year? Probably.
Will I be that bothered if I don’t get pink and purple skies and glorious side lighting on a complicated foreground object? Let’s see.