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BY OLYMPUS AMBASSADOR STEVE GOSLING

In my last post I wrote about a project where I have committed myself to taking a photograph a day for 12 months. I set out the background to the project and how I have chosen to implement it. This post is the second in a series where I will share my journey with you – the challenges I have encountered and the insights revealed to me along the way.

It’s very much a personal journey but by sharing my experiences I hope it will be helpful to others – either those of you contemplating a similar project or more generally in learning by proxy from my trials and tribulations, my choices and my mistakes.

Similarly to my last post, I will share some of the images taken, this time in the second month of the project and will describe what I did, why and how. My intention is to illustrate the thought, idea, concept or emotion behind each photograph and how I translated that into the final image. I hope that by sharing my working practices in this way, that too will be of interest to others.

Month Two

One of my objectives when starting my ‘Another Day’ project was to revitalise my enthusiasm, to reignite my passion for going out to look for photographs. In that sense alone the project has been a success. Being forced to find a new image everyday has got my photographic brain back into gear and encouraged me to look for photographs wherever I am and whatever I am doing.

The consequence of that has been that I have started to see the everyday in a new light. For example, I am now more aware of how the light moves around my house during the day, casting shadow patterns on the walls; I have learnt to appreciate the small signs of the changing seasons; and discovered interest in rust & decay in locations close to home – objects I would have previously walked past, left unobserved.

I have frequently been reminded of two quotes from photographer, Saul Leiter:

“A photographer’s gift to the viewer is sometimes beauty in the overlooked ordinary.”

Saul Leiter

“It is not where it is or what it is that matters but how you see it.”

Saul Leiter

Throughout the project, I have had to work outside of my comfort zone to photograph a variety of subject matters, adopting different styles and approaches as well as re-familiarising myself with techniques not used for some time. And I have discovered, as the saying goes, that change is as good as a rest. For this variety has led me to rediscover my creative mojo.

I have also had to adapt my way of working. As a landscape photographer my approach is usually thought through, pre-visualising the image I am after, tripod based and utilising a slower methodical approach to picture taking. In contrast, with this project, I have learnt to be more reactive to subject and situations, more spontaneous and experimental.

In short, it has been good for me (so far!).

The Photographs

Day 43: New Beginnings

This photograph was taken in the middle of March and shows the emerging buds on a tree located close to home. In the context of more optimistic news about Covid (i.e. the roll out of the vaccination programme in the UK) I thought it was an encouraging sign – of new beginnings, renewed hope and increasing opportunities. I saw the branches and the fresh growth as a metaphor for a more general sense of positivity.

It took some time to find a composition that worked for me as I wanted a clean, uncluttered background and a simple graphic design to the image. Eventually I managed to isolate the two branches against the pale sky. My aim was to produce a high contrast, light image to accentuate the positivity of the mood I was trying to convey (dark and gloomy would not have worked!). When processing the RAW file I used a combination of Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro to achieve a look similar to a Japanese pen & ink drawing.

This photograph is a melding of two different ideas I have been exploring in recent years. Firstly, the negative impacts of man on the natural environment, frequently exploiting the landscape for profit or greed or just taking it for granted and using it as a dumping ground for our discarded waste. Secondly, how when nature is left unmanaged it reclaims spaces, it heals and rejuvenates.

These two abandoned vehicles have, I discovered, been dumped in this field for over 10 years. They are decaying, rusting and slowly disintegrating. At the same time nature is moving in, taking over, consuming the vehicles in a sea of brambles, nettles and branches.

Photographically I used my 14–150mm II zoom at the telephoto end (around 100mm) to compress perspective, which accentuates the feeling of nature devouring the vehicles and to eliminate any distractions, thereby concentrating attention on the inter-relationship between those two elements.

I love to photograph trees at any time of the year but there is something about the patterns & shapes of branches in their stark nakedness that particularly appeals. On this evening I was out for a walk as the sun was rapidly sinking towards the horizon. The filigree of silhouetted branches was drawing me, so I wandered backwards and forwards until I found the interesting shapes you see in the photo.

The sun was shining directly into the lens creating flare. I did consider waiting until it was covered by the dark clouds beginning to form in the sky, but I really wanted to include the sun in the shot. I moved around to reduce the full intensity of its glare by partially concealing it behind two of the larger branches. Flare is still apparent, but I think it adds to the mood of the image and that is always a more important consideration to me than technical perfection. 

In an interview in ‘B&W Photography’ magazine (October 2016) photographer Alex Schneideman said:

“There is nothing so dull, so exclusive, so cold as apparent perfection.”

Alex Schneideman

I have photographed this weir many times as it is quite close to where I live (see ‘Transient’ in my last blog post). On this occasion, following a heavy rainfall, the river was thundering over it and the noise was deafening. I wanted to capture that sense of energy and movement. Additionally, I was attracted to the different shapes and textures in the water as it fell over the steps of the weir – moving from relatively calm and tranquil on the extreme right to the raging torrent you see in the top left.

I experimented with different exposures and framing options eventually deciding on the image you see here.

In a school sports field close to my home there is a rusty shed used by the groundsman for storing equipment. It is a small, unassuming structure that is probably ignored by all of the dog walkers who pass by on a daily basis (me included usually). But, as I said in my introduction to this post, working on the ‘Another Day’ project has forced me to be more acutely observant of potential subject matter.

Moving in close I filled the frame with interesting shapes and textures. It is a photograph that I would normally have considered as a colour shot but for this project I have set myself the constraint of only producing monochrome images. This required me to play and experiment in post processing to bring out the features & qualities that attracted me to the subject in the first place. And, in trying out new techniques I have learnt a thing or two that I will use again in the future.

This photo was taken in April, as the Hawthorn hedges came into flower. I was walking my dog beside the River Nidd on a lovely sunny & warm Spring evening, surrounded by a beautiful landscape and listening to the bird song that filled the air. It was one of those joyous occasions when it felt good to be alive.

I was feeling very relaxed and upbeat as I searched for an image that conveyed that mood. In terms of technique:

  • I took my time to find a group of flowers in good condition, accessible with my 14-150mm II lens and with no distractions in the background. I have found through experience that the time spent at this stage of the process reduces disappointments when the image is viewed large on my computer screen;
  • I selected an ISO of 640 (to keep the shutter speed at a minimum of 1/250) combined with an aperture of f8 (at 150mm focal length) to create a shallow depth of field. This threw the background out of focus to become an unobtrusive blend of tones that help to give the image an impression of three dimensionality.
  • Waiting for the light breeze to subside, I focused on the buds at the end of the branch.

Technical note: All of the photographs in this article were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and M.Zuiko Digital ED 14–150mm F4–5.6 II

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