The 'Art' of Photography

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My approach to photography was first defined by an inspiring Art teacher who wanted to bring my painting to life. As an accomplished landscape artist, Anthony Bowerman showed me the importance of the sky and light in a picture. How it established mood by adding drama, perspective, focus, reflection and emotion. On taking me to the Tate Gallery, to show me the work of Turner and Constable, he underlined his point and opened up the world of Art to me.

When I entered the 6th Form, he gave me the keys to the photographic department and let me loose with an Olympus OM1 SLR. I spent two happy years attempting to capture atmospheric skies in black and white, learning the importance of composition and exposure settings while experimenting with filters and 35mm developing techniques. This began to reveal to me that photography is indeed an art.

Today, this ingrained artist’s perspective is my main influence. In composing a shot, I take inspiration from the ‘theatre’ of the scene and try to capture this visual emotion in my final image. I love to roam on beaches, clamber over rocks, wade through rivers and walk for miles across a mountainside, trying to capture positive, uplifting pictures that extol the stunning beauty in our natural world. Technical skills play their part, yet positioning and patience combined with luck and foresight to predict when the influencing elements are going to come together at that one, single, crucial moment are vital ingredients. Waiting around on a icy beach as the horizon grudgingly lightens, or clinging to wave-pounded rocks are pre-requisites of my approach. You have to put in the time and push yourself to get those special images.

My land and seascapes almost always depict scenes that rarely include human interest. By this I mean featuring people or signs of human presence. Occasionally, like in the instance of ‘Angel of Godrevy’ (in Seascapes Sunrises & Sunsets gallery), an image is made by such inclusion, as the female surfer remains detached to let the viewer share the sunset she is witnessing. Yet, in the main, I like to project the solitude and remoteness of a scene and pass on this intimate, individual experience to the viewer.

As for post-production, the debate surrounding digital image enhancement is of little interest to me. For, having commissioned top photographers and colour laboratories, the traditionalist’s disapproving position forgets that colour, exposure, contrast, sharpness and highlights were always manipulated when developing and retouching film images. It was just that this capability remained out of reach and therefore out of sight to those without a commercial budget. Today, a computer is the digital photographer's darkroom and software packages like Photoshop simply provide the tools to do the same thing colour labs do. It is for him or her to decide just how far this should go. For me, I will clean up images, recover highlights, reduce chromatic aberration, remove unwanted ‘uglys’ (such as power-lines), enhance vibrance and colour if needed (by a maximum of 15%) and use layers to accentuate textures, mood and final sharpening.