Conceptual Photographers/Subject Matter for Proposal (Context)
The purpose of conceptualisation is to envisage, plan and create a series of images for an (academic)/photography assignment.
Following on from detailing a list of ten photographers who inspire my photography, I would like to add to that discussing the ten essentials required to be a successful landscape, full frame photographer. For inspiration, I have turned to David Noton who is a travel and landscape photographer who has travelled the world taking photographs with his full frame camera to a high professional standard. His work has an obvious editorial directive as he documents and shares his knowledge of photography from a global perspective. Like Joe Cornish, his photography techniques are practical and shared willingly and like Joe, he is objectively seeking to assess and improve on his own composition which he states is to all attempts and purposes to be”mission impossible”. Noton goes on to say that ”full frame photography is all about evolution and deploying the flexibility of the modern digital camera has opened up a whole New World of photographic opportunities.”
It is now possible to make pictures and react to situations that would not have been feasible in the film era. Deploying that flexibility and capability in different exotic locations is my ambition and David Noton’s reality. And the reason I want to do it is because it is fun and exhilarating. My love of landscapes and the natural world is something I find jaw droppingly good. To stand in front of a beautiful vista and to be privileged enough to take the image and to share this beauty with the rest of the world is the reason I want to be a photographer.
Ten Points of Interest: (things that drive me as a photographer)
Nothing quite explains a landscape as much as colour does. Colour has the chance to explain and add the exotic to life and I now realise that I need the shot in the arm (as Noton calls it) to avoid stagnation and to find peace within my photography through the experience of capture and through seeing the scene roll out before me. New and exciting destinations are my calling, it is as if the experience is there waiting just for me.
As Noton writes: ‘‘it would be easy to assume that life for a travel photographer is just one stunning vista after another” but it isnt and I have to be prepared for that and for the financial restraints I will have and the fact that I share my life with others. So, practically speaking I will need to have persistence, as if it isnt the weather messing things up then human factors can also scupper plans. A lot of pre conceptualisation has to be a landscape photographers first base, then location, light and the concept in the first place must all work in conjunction with each other for a shot to be right.
One dream I have as a photographer is to visit South Africa on Safari and to don the wildlife photographers hat and go on a game drive in search of the big 5. I am aware that in order to do this I will need to be at the height of my game (pardon the pun) but rather than emulate another wildlife photographer, I would try, as a landscape photographer to bring something different to my compositions, perhaps using shape, background and movement in my shots and include some reinforced patterns which would lend some terrific monochrome shots? I feel that if I dont do it, I will miss out on something unique (for me) and I just know that I will be amazed at the light available plus I need to get a longer lens!
5. Wide Open:
In the event of conceptualising or making a photograph rather than taking a photograph (something our lecturer loves to reiterate,) I realise that in order to achieve a lot of my aims I need to know what the objective is. It is true that I have become complacent with regards to what is currently around me on my own doorstep. I prefer the stimulation of new landscapes and therefore new experiences. Something I have realised is that now and again I need time to warm up, in other words take some rubbish photographs to find a niche and so in taking rubbish I find inspiration to take something half way decent… (and during the course of the degree and gaining appropriate knowledge I am doing so) – therefore I have decided to take a new approach – I am going to try using a 24mm lens (another future purchase I am afraid) – I currently have a 28mm and take some shots wide open with an aperture of f/1.4 – leaving the background wonderfully blurry, giving a sense of a space but without the distractions and since I am developing more of an interest in portrait photography, I will attempt to capture this by stopping down a few notches if the edges and corners of the frame appear a little dark. I will not attempt to recover this in Photoshop because I need to experience the difference in the new lens. The combination of landscape and portrait is something I think will work very well and give additional meaning to the portrait subject. The 28mm achieves this to a degree but I want to improve my practice further so I can learn to manage the image better.
If you have to suffer for your art, I am not succeeding very well because Andalucia this year was sublime and dawn and sunset photo shoots followed a dip in the pool and a blast in the jacuzzi (and yes admitedly sometimes with my camera)..
I was standing in front of swaying palm trees, a panaromic vista of an azure blue lake, undulating mountains and a sky that changed with rolling clouds from moment to moment. If inspiration is the mother of all invention and the lifeblood of all artists then an idea, a conceptualisation is the trigger that produces a great picture. And without an idea behind the picture the image can look very tired very quickly, so I try to live in the conceptual moment, which makes it hard for me to sleep though with lots of ideas constantly buzzing in my head. Luckily, inspiration and conceptualised thinking can be kickstarted, either by standing at the right moment as a landscape photographer and taking in the view or by packing your bags and visiting new places for the weekend or by simply thinking out new ways of making a photograph. I do get a lot of inspiration from artist; the greats like Van Gogh, Turner, Cezanne, Picasso. and other inspiring photographers of course the list goes on and on.. so, if I am ever in doubt, I look to the past to enable me to gain some creative inspiration for the future.
When you are a landscape photographer there will always be places that you will have a special relationship with. I have a few (we all do). Northumberland, Andalucia, Canada and New Zealand are those kind of special places for me.
The ability to previsualise how a landscape will look at different times of the day comes only with experience and knowledge of the area but the photographer needs to analyse the key elements and envisage how the light could illuminate the scene before, during and after dusk and at different times of year. I have a passion for monochrome too so, even if the composition is perfect in colour, I sometimes use monochrome to effect a mood or transition of the landscape scene.
My next directive, I have decided is to capture a snow lit scene if we are lucky enough to witness heavy snow falls this winter, I will endeavour to step beyond the comfort of my living room fire and brave the cold.
For a landscape photographer Canada and New Zealand are the promised land. My enthusiasm for both countries is tinged with nostalgia. I have travelled to Canada and New Zealand (as I was in a relationship with a globe trotting New Zealander!). Planned trips to these destinations take me back to roots that have been established through emotional ties to the past but my interest in photography links give me a sound grounding for the future as I love the landscape. It is love I have discovered that drives me. Not just love in terms of a relationship but love of a beautiful scene drives me to capture the image the best way I can. I also cannot resist photographing water and its reflections, so, you will find me photographing the landscape when water is a key factor of the composition.
There is much to be said for working in your own backyard. Its handy for one thing and I do have the good fortune to live in a beautifully diverse region of England, i.e. Yorkshire. It is the largest county collectively in the UK so I have plenty to go at in terms of being a landscape photographer. There is so much to offer the landscaper on the coast, in the cities and in the parks and industrial revolution backdrop, in the farmland around the Vale of York, of York itself and many more points of interest.
All landscape photographers are keen walkers? So should we just don our boots and head for the hills to photograph until the sunset, literally? If my partner and I want to head for the hills all well and good but we would share things together and although we both like walking, a week hiking with no phone coverage, no internet and no camera is not ideal for either of us. So what is the solution?
The solution is to take from each situation what we can and enjoy it. Yes, we can cover the basics and look forwards to enjoying some time together. Its a lifestyle choice and one we are looking forwards to increasingly. The landscape can and will wait – until we have the time to trek it. My technical needs for this assignment are: monopod, 28mm lens and 85mm lens, remote shutter control, camera, packed lunch or finding a pub along the way and of course for me, coffee.
The best trips and the best photography are always the most courageous, no doubt about it, writes Noton. So, one sure fire way to give your photography a boost is to boldly go where no wo(man) has gone before. so, dont think about it too much, just go somewhere epic and challenging. The Sacred Valley of the Incas is somewhere I would like to go to. But then there is Samui (my partner has been; I havent). Additionally there is the Great Wall of China – its a place to say hey look I have been there and heres the proof…’click’ job done. It will take time to organise these trips true, so, for the meantime I will concentrate on finishing my degree and by then I will be an expert photographer and able to give these fantastic destinations the praise they deserve.
I am continuing to develop my style as a Landscape Photographer and understanding more about how to control light through practising with Calumet light testing in the studio and on location at college. Studying how a portrait subject is lit in an artificial or night photography setting is helping me to understand how to make the best of low light/night time photography on location as a Landscape photographer. According to Freeman (2011: 35-51), ”What counts as low natural light is when it becomes difficult to guarantee sharp images with a normal lens and a low ISO sensitivity.” Therefore for the purpose of my no daylight brief, I will define low natural light as such and as a consequence no daylight need not necessarily mean the existence of daylight from the composition completely.
The technical observations will again refer to Freeman (2011: 32-33 and 30-31) for definition of my purpose so that I may establish what I mean when discussing what technical ability I have applied to my work as a photographer. I will therefore be shooting at all times in RAW, I will be making constant changes to white balance ensuring that the view is accurate in colour and hue. I will additionally use either a tripod or monopod and keep working with an ISO of 100 and will look to the camera settings on my Nikon to improve on the technique I have established reducing noise at a high ISO. Freeman also advices using a highlight clipping warning if a bright focal light is overexposed. I also use the noise reduction tool in Photoshop if I consider it to be necessary.
In completing and revisiting this exercise I have been able to reexamine my attitude towards concept and technical abilities. Overall the whole of this semesters work has been about improving on my technical ability with regards to light and learning how to control it through the camera to improve the quality of my compositions. My conceptual ideas are sound but if I cannot learn to put them in a coherent order that will make sense to others as well as myself, then my marks will suffer. I feel that because of this I need to make my connections more obvious and to have a balance of images to not only show my versatility as a photographer but additionally to narrate a story that adds more meaning to my photography.
What were my aims and have I achieved them?
My aims were to create a series of images that are nostalgic in their context and conceptual in their delivery. I have been able to reaffirm and revisit and reemphasise that the North of England is a beautiful place and that in revisiting my childhood roots I have been able to portray an essence of spiritual feeling which adds an additional depth of meaning to my photography.
What have I got from it?
My approach for conceptualisation for Studio Practice will endeavour to narrate my journey back to Northumberland demonstrating that the North of England is a beautiful place but that it is filled with childhood memories for me and so the images will resonate with a vibrancy that is both intimate, vibrant and nostalgic. It will ask questions of the seer by helping the person looking at the photographs to feel a connection to the photographer and so to their own childhood memories.
The images will become a collection of what it was like for me to revisit and relook at my past so that I can see my future. So, for me, it is a walk on the beach, a trip to a castle, it is growing up within the confines of a small community, attending Church, singing in the choir and being fascinated by stained glass windows. It is for me about family and about how I have learnt over time to be independent of that as my parents unfortunately are no longer with us. It is learning about the history of the place like St. Aidan (for example) and about all the little things my parents taught me. Moreover it is about who I am as a person and what I have become because of my past.
What is next?
My overall objective as a photographer in this proposal is for the seer to look at my conceptualised series of images and understand where I am coming from so that my story is told in depicting that the North of England is a beautiful place but through the process of examination each individual will find a resonance within their own childhood memories to reaffirm that there is beauty around us, one just has to look for it and that beauty for me, began and still exists in my place of birth.
If I can continue to portray an emotional connection in my photography I will have achieved my aims, therefore I need to keep practising and revisiting conceptual notions that are evocative and full of meaning because if I understand it from a depth that is difficult to visualise then I am in good standing to convey that to others.