The Empty Landscape

portencross pier with lichens

portencross pier with lichens

Like most people I enjoy looking at interesting portraits as well as images of people interacting with each other and with the world around them. We are social animals and endlessly fascinated by each other. Consequently most people don’t find images of empty landscapes compelling. I sometimes wonder, having made an image, “Is there enough here to justify this composition?”.

I was having just such an angst on Portencross Pier the other night. The sun had gone down and the light was just stunningly blue and clear. I was standing there looking at the angle the concrete pier made relative to the horizon. Imagining a line from my feet to the distant horizon and the complementary angles that would be formed where those line meet. I imagined the construction worker many years ago marking out the lines on the concrete when he was going to cut the slots to allow the water to drain through the pier. Carefully cutting with his still saw to achieve those straight black lines. I enjoyed the complimentary colours of the blue sea and those yellow lichens and then it dawned on me that the lichens grew in a zone along the edge of the pier but no further . Why? What was different about the habitat in that zone? No idea and still can’t work it out.

There is an uneasy feeling in these empty, long-exposure images where man-made structures protrude into the natural environment. A sense that the landscape, even the man-made landscape does not need us any more. We are the ephemeral element here whereas the landscape is relentless and unyielding. It is full of interest if we look for it. There is beauty in the geometry and the maths, the natural and the constructed if we look for it. Without the distraction of people the empty scene started to tell its own story.

Camerwork: Canon 5D mk3, 63 seconds as f/11, ISO100. 3 stop hard grad on the sky and 3 stop ND over entire frame.

St Monans Breakwater

Image

St Monans Breakwater

Good day out on the east coast with Niall and Joe. This great looking breakwater hides behind the harbour wall at St Monans. The stormy weather and tidal surge created some nice water movement and moody sky.
Camera work: Canon 5Dmk3, ISO50, 1/4sec @f/16. 17-40L lens at 21mm. 3stop ND grad on sky and further 3 stop ND grad over entire frame. Lens cloth working furiously to clean the sea spray off the front.

Balance and Weight

portencross sunset small cloud

Portencross Sunset with Small Cloud

Technical: canon 5D3, 17-40 lens at 20mm, ISO100, 2″@f/16. Lee filters on the sky.

Conditions: slight breeze at sunset with a gentle swell on the water.

I can’t make up my mind about the balance of this image. There is a diagonal that goes up to the small cloud and seems to balance with the small rock lower left. It’s bottom heavy. Perhaps a square aspect ratio but then those nice lines in the rock are lost.

Trophy Hunting

the hermitage in autumn

the hermitage in autumn

Technical: Canon 5DMk3, 17-40 lens at 22mm, 25 seconds at f/16, ISO 100. Polarising filter and a 2 stop NG soft grad.

Conditions: Mid afternoon. Slight breeze with hazy cloud cover.

If you are looking for some clear advice on landscape technique I would recommend the ebooks of Darwin Wiggett. He has one in particular called “Trophy Hunting” in which he discusses the pros and cons of making images at well known and sometimes over-used locations. This is a day when I must confess to setting out to “bag” a certain shot. My 10 year old son and I had a budget of 4 hours to make the 2 hour round trip and make the shot. Darwin talks about finding a new angle, a new way to imagine the scene. I didn’t do that. I did what every one else does because there was such a pull on my preconception neurons that I was dragged into a creativity black hole. I could not imagine it any other way. So I took the shot just as my son fell into a large pool of water and hence did not notice I had stuffed up the focus. Oops. Guess we will be coming back here some day for some more trophy hunting.

One picture can be many images.

Storm clouds over Taransay

Storm clouds over Taransay

Technical: Canon 5D3, 17-40 lens at 27mm, 2.5 seconds @f/16, ISO 100. 3stop hard grad ND filter on the sky. RAW file processed in Lightroom and PS CS6.

Conditions: Late evening with the sun obscured behind storm clouds. Strong swell and moderate wind.

I was initially attracted by the star-like pattern created in the sand as the waves washed in and out. I was very focused on that and was cursing the clouds that had covered the warm evening sunlight and left the scene “dull”. On reviewing the picture after 4 months I see a completely different image. The main character of the show is that dark brooding storm cloud and the sense of imminent change that it brings to scene.

Took this image on Bruce Percy‘s excellent workshop.