BY OLYMPUS AMBASSADOR STEVE GOSLING
In my previous blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2) I wrote about my project where I have committed myself to taking a photograph a day for 12 months. This is the third instalment in the series.
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.
There has been a sense of achievement having got to my third month of shooting images for this project. On the positive side it has got me out with my camera everyday and forced me to think carefully about why I am taking an image.
When I set out on this project, I said I wouldn’t fall into the trap of taking random images just for the sake of making a photograph – there had to be an underlying purpose to getting my camera out, framing the shot and firing the shutter. However, I would be lying if I said that I haven’t been tempted by the lure of the easy shot (I am only human after all!). And there have been occasions when I have regretted making the self-imposed constraint of only shooting black and white photos – the sirens call of colour has become louder as the project has progressed. Undoubtedly, allowing myself to produce colour images would have increased the range of potential subject matter but this project was never meant to be easy. ‘No pain, no gain’ as the saying goes so, thus far, I have resisted going over to the dark side. Overall, I am still enjoying the challenge and am pleased with the images I am producing. I have certainly noticed a more upbeat edge to the photos I have been taking of late. I am sure that this must be a result of a more positive perspective on the world (Spring moving to the early days of Summer, longer daylight hours, getting the Covid vaccine, fewer restrictions on life etc).
This photograph was taken early in April. It had been a lovely day with long spells of sunshine and I had been working hard in the garden. But as the evening drew in, the sky darkened and we experienced a brief but heavy flurry of snow. Winter making its last presence felt. It was very atmospheric but with only a short time available before the sun went down, I knew my photographic options were limited and I would have to work fast. One of the things this project has confirmed is to make the most of photo opportunities when they present themselves – second chances don’t happen very often. I am lucky that this is the view from our bedroom window (something I never take for granted) so I grabbed my camera, opened the window fully to use it as a shield to keep the snow off the front of the lens and took a few frames. I like the simple, minimalist nature of the composition and the fact that the falling snow can be so clearly seen.
Living close to a river provides me with lots of photographic potential. Near to where I live the banks are lined by old and twisted trees that I love to photograph (see ‘Day 49 A Winters Evening’ in my last blog post). If the river is still, there are some great reflection shots to be had, when the whole world gets turned on its head.
As I stood looking at the reflections one day I pondered how this distortion of reality felt like a good analogy for the last 18 months.
This photo was taken a few days later just a couple of hundred yards downstream.
Walking over the bridge crossing the river one evening I noticed the first signs of Spring as the setting sun back lit the newly emerging leaves on the trees. It was an uplifting scene that reminded me that no matter what is going on in the world nature refreshes and replenishes. A valuable and poignant reminder of why I got into landscape photography and how rejuvenating the experience can be.
I thought of a quote from American photographer, John Shaw (from his book “Focus on Nature”):
Fields adjoin our garden and in the summer months cows graze in them, frequently coming right up to the fence (and occasionally devouring our plants, much to my wife’s annoyance). In the Spring they seemed to be very attracted to our bird feeder, frequently eating all the seeds before the birds had a chance to get a look in and even seeming to get some strange pleasure from licking the outside of the container. It was a surreal and quite amusing sight to see them arrive early each morning for their breakfast.
One day I managed to get this photo, catching one of the offenders in the act. I sent the photo to a friend (who is a keen bird spotter) and asked him what type of bird this huge black and white creature on our feeder was. As quick as a flash he replied, ‘An E-Moo’ (which was impressive for a man who doesn’t usually get out of bed before the streets are well aired!).
It’s not the greatest photo in the world I appreciate but it’s one that makes me smile each time I look at it. A valuable reminder that not every photo has to be a work of art to have significance – sometimes the casual snapshot is underestimated.
In a similar spirit, this photo was taken on a morning dog walk past the local farm. I had strolled past this barn many times and not taken much notice of the smiley face spray painted on the barn door. But for some reason, on this particular day, the positivity it conveyed resonated with me and reflected my mood. It smiled at me and I smiled back.
Both this photo and the previous one made me realise how much I had missed the light-hearted moments in life in recent months. And without photography, and the need to take photos for this project, they may have been instants of life that would not have fully registered with me (so ‘missed’ in another sense). Moments that would have received no more than a fleeting glance or a passing thought in the context of a busy day. It made me wonder how many other small vignettes in life had passed me by over the years.
Walking in the local fields one evening I spotted this cloud forming overhead. Wow! I felt like I was in a sci-fi film and I started to look for the spaceships descending from the sky. It was another reminder of the amazing beauty that nature provides if only we take the time to go out, look, see and appreciate it.
It wasn’t a difficult photo to take – I’d walked less than 15 minutes from home. And my photographic input was really limited to deciding on the composition and keeping an eye on the histogram to make sure I kept all the details and textures in the cloud.
But should the value of a photo be determined by the amount of effort invested in it’s taking? I don’t think so – the viewer judges the final image and they don’t care whether we have walked for 3 hours to get to a location, stood out in the freezing cold for ages or it’s our mothers favourite image. They either like it or they don’t.
One of the most famous landscape photos ever taken (Ansel Adams’ Moonrise Over Hernandez) involved him investing no more effort than climbing onto the roof of his station wagon but that certainly doesn’t take anything away from the impact of the image.