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Sunday, 20 January 2013

My Favorite Images of 2012

 I've never really done this before but, for fun and curiosity, I decided to take a look through the past year's worth of my photography efforts and pick out the ones that I feel are my best. Very often I find that the images in my portfolio that resonate the most with me are not the same that others would pick. With that in mind I chose the following as the images that continue to please me as I do a stock take and contemplate what I might go for in the coming year.

I'd be very interested in hearing from you as to whether or not you agree with my choices and especially if you think I missed a few that deserved to be in the list.

Airton Sunrise in Mist
 Expecting low-lying mist in the dales I headed to Malhamdale in the hopes of finding just this sort of scene. The wonderful pastel color was an unexpected bonus.



Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh is an oft photographed and iconic location. I paid homage for my own version in August last year and was very pleased with this one in particular.



Brimham Moor and Rainbow
Pure and simple serendipity on a morning visit to Brimham.



Brimham Moor Sunrise through Fog
I'm seeing a recurring theme in my apparent obsession with misty mornings :) This morning gave me just a hint of sun peeking through for a fleeting few moments before fogging over entirely for the rest of the morning.



Christmas Rush

I made this during our pre-Christmas trip to the Christmas markets in Bruges, Belgium. My enjoyment of this may have something to do with the problems solving and experimental aspects of photography that interest me so.



Malham Grass in Stream

The electric color of this grass waving in the slow moving waterway leading into Malham Tarn was something I simply had to try and capture.



Malham Tarn in Mist III
This view preceded the one above. I normally find Malham Tarn to be a difficult place to photograph as there is really very little topography. I had always predicted that the best images of this location would consist of a glassy tarn with some interesting sky features reflected. This morning was not quite what I had previsualized but ended up being far better.



Nidderdale Forest in Spring
I am always drawn the form of interesting tree branches. Somehow I find them more expressive in winter and spring appearing almost plaintive.



Studeny Potok
I spent a week in Slovakia this past October trekking aimlessly alongside the rivers and forest trails. Just my sort of peace.



Sommaroy in Winter
Waves lapping onto the shore near Sommaroy in Norway. Our main mission was to see the Northern Lights (we did!) but this was a special moment of twilight along the rocky coast.



Storm over Mahe with Sailboat
Perhaps my favorite and most relaxing holiday of all time. This view was literally 10 feet from the door of our little bungalow on La Digue and I was enthralled by these slow moving storm clouds above the little sailboat.



Sunflower II
OK, so this one is part of a project of mine that I call "Along my Driveway" but it made my favorites list for completely sentimental reasons. I love the look of the image but the story is so much better. My daughter Maddie kindly agreed to allow me to cut and photograph one of the three sunflowers that she grew in her garden this year. I think that was a wonderful sacrifice and I'm very happy to report that she enjoys the photos I made as much as I do. This one flower will live forever :)

Interested to hear your thoughts on my list of favorites and I wish you all the very best of life, love and light in the 2013!

























Friday, 17 February 2012

Photographic Extraction Using a Telephoto Lens

I guess I need to make a confession. Sometimes I am a photographic "liar". In this digital age I expect some people reading this will presume that I am admitting to altering/falsifying images through software manipulation. Well, maybe the "lies" to which I am confessing are better described as "selective truths" made possible by the creative capabilities afforded by a good telephoto lens. For me it has been a great boost to my creativity and has also helped me develop a far more diverse portfolio in the process.

I first learned to appreVal-d-Orcia-2-Extractionciate the potential of long focal lengths for landscape photography while enjoying an autumn holiday in Tuscany. October mornings in the Val D'Orcia are truly something very special featuring mist-shrouded rolling farmland and cypress-encircled villas. Morning after morning I went out to try and make images that could somehow capture the mystery and wonder I was experiencing. Armed with my trusty wide angle (17-40mm) lens I took up positions in the various fields between Pienza and San Quirico D'Orcia only to come away disappointed in the results. Somehow the wide angle view of the scene simply failed to convey the interest in the subjects to which I was responding. I thought back to the words of one of my instructors (William Neill) who told me to always stop and think about, and try to identify, the specific thing(s) in the scene before me that I find most interesting. His advice was, when responding to a beautiful landscape, to isolate those aspects that first attracted me and to make them the subjects of the images. My wide angle lens was failing because the rolling hills simply lost their prominence and the cypress-encircled villas were reduced to mere specks on the landscape. What's more the foregrounds, as wide angle lenses are meant to showcase, were mostly unattractive fields of dried mud. It became clear that isolating my subjects of interest in Tuscany meant that I needed to extend my view optically using a telephoto lens.

That moment was a revelation for me. The 70-300mm lens I owned at the time (I have since upgraded to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS) allowed me to reach out into the landscape to extract the specific elements that I found most aesthetically appealing. I was able to fill the frame with a silhouetted villa or isolate the intense sunrise colors cutting through the morning mist. I found the results to be striking and somewhat other-wordly. Focusing on one aspect of a scene, especially a brightly-colored scene, can imply that the entire landscape was bathed in that light. The selective truth in these cases is that the photographer has extracted a small portion of the landscape highlighting the bit that he/she found to be the most compelling. In that lies the art in photography I suppose.

Haast-Pass-II-ExtractionJoe McNally once said that a sure way to make unique images is to get your camera in a place where a camera has never been before. Joe's techniques might find him tethered to the top of the Empire State building but I think you can use a telephoto lens in much the same (if less adrenaline-filled) spirit. What's more, instead of concentrating soley on the grand view, the vista, you can showcase the intimate landscape such as a close up of water flowing around a single rock in a stream or a single branch of backlit leaves in autumn. I have often heard people comment in disbelief as to the "truthfulness" of some of these images in my portfolio. Often people enquire as to whether or not they had been created through Photoshop or other software techniques. They also often claim not to have witnessed such scenes before. The fact is that they belong to a type of imagery I call "extraction" (although I'm sure I've stolen that from someone else from my readings). They may well have seen such scenes but they've always been lost amidst the larger view. Telephoto lenses let you call attention to the detail in a landscape that some might not overtly notice.





If you're like most people, it can take some work to develop your vision in order to start seeing the possiblities for a telephoto lens. Quite often you may instinctively not leave yourself enough standoff between you and your chosen subject or you might not be looking quite far enough out to previsualize the scene as it will be rendered with a longer focal length. I have to admit that I owned my 70-300mm lens for about a year and a half and it was mostly unused before my revelation in Tuscany. Having had my eyes opened Lovely-Littondale-ExtractionI now carry a telephoto lens just about everywhere and it is easily used as much as my wide angle - sometimes more depending on the locale. I find it extremely useful creatively in the Yorkshire landscape where things are a bit more open and the terrain is not quite so severe in elevation. It is great for picking out wonderfully backlit scenes and even facilitates stitching for panoramas. My 70-200mm lens actually saved the day during my sunrise visit to Lake Matheson in New Zealand last summer. Having exercised bad judgment, I did not have a lens in my bag that morning to cover a focal length of around 50mm and that turned out to be precisely what I needed. As a workaround I attached my 70-200mm lens (at 70mm) and made several overlapping exposures with the camera in portrait orientation to capture the scene. Stitching was dead easy in post-processing. Without that lens in my bag I would have missed the opportunity entirely - and it will be a very long time until I return and maybe never.

Strid-Wood-Winter-ExtractionA telephoto lens (greater than 50mm) affords a narrower angle of view and seems to enlarge objects within the frame (e.g. the sun or moon or trees in a forest). You can also adjust your framing at will within the limits of your lenses focal range. It can be extremely effective for eliminating distracting elements from the image and helps you accentuate the aspects of a scene that you intend to highlight. Simplification can be much easier when using a telephoto lens that it is when using a wide angle. In the latter scenario you often have to just take what you can get and compromise. Although I cannot explain the science behind the effect, telephoto lenses are also often claimed to "compress" the space between elements in a scene. This can be especially useful to flatten the perspective of a scene like the forest images here. It can help you bring attention to colors and form in a more abstract than literal way.

Twilight-Sky-ExtractionThis article is really only meant as my observations as to the value of a telephoto lens in my own approach to landscape photography. It is a response to questions I have been asked by many friends and acquaintances who express surprise when they learn about my use of a telephoto lens for landscape work. I don't intend it as a recommendation that anyone else go out and buy one of these expensive lenses. My view on equipment today (and this is reotrospective sagesse people) is that you should only consider buying new equipment when you are unable to achieve a photographic goal with your present setup. If you start to find yourself in the position I was in in Tuscany then maybe a telephoto lens is something from which you'd benefit. If you haven't experienced that situation where you really needed a longer focal length then maybe you should borrow a lens from a friend and have a go before investing.







Here are a few more examples just for fun:

Nidderdale-Morning-Extraction

Strid-Wood-Winter-II-ExtractionA longer focal length allowed me to frame the mist-shrouded trees and sheep and to enlarge the rising sun in the composition giving it more prominence than it would have if I had used a wide-angle lens.









Here my telephoto lens allowed me to make a somewhat abstract image of the interesting patterns of snow covered branches in Strid Wood in Wharfedale.












This image was taken in a small rest area along the roadside near Hafslovatnet in Norway. I really liked the deep greens of the water and peak summer foliage and especially those two backlit trees in the middle of the river.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

What's in the Bag - My Equipment 2012

OK, The weather in Yorkshire has been crap for weeks and I haven't been out with the camera since late November. So let's keep this blog thing going by answering probably the most frequently asked questions I receive when it comes to photography - what sort of camera and equipment I use and how I got started learning photography.

I decided early on that I wanted to get good at photographing our vacations and, most importantly, I wanted full control so as to be able to make images in low light and blur light trails. I remember seeing a photo made by a family friend taken in front of the Colloseum in Rome. He had used a tripod and captured the beautifully lit facade with the lights of passing traffic elongated in into bright streaks of color in the foreground. This is what I wanted to be able to do and precisely my motivation for looking into the market for an SLR as my first "real" camera. I have to dismiss my previous attempts using those disposable numbers made famous by Kodak in the 90's :)

I did quite a bit of research in trying to understand what camera I should buy as an intro to photography. I decided early on that I wanted the facility of digital capture and workflow and that I considered film as slower and more difficult to learn. Digital was for me a way to learn the ins and outs of photography with some form of immediate feedback. In 2006 it was the Canon Rebel series that seemed to be the leaders in the entry level DSLR market so I broke the bank and purchased a shiny new EOS 350D about 4-5 months before Canon announced their next generation 400D. I really loved the capabilities of that new camera but it was a steep learning curve to try and grasp all the various functions that it offered. I was so confused by the many options that I actually left it home for our fist vacation to Italy as I didn't want to be faffing around with it too much or be embarrassed for not knowing how to use it. Fortunately, I discovered a very useful website called Better Photo that was to greatly facilitate my entry into serious (to me) photography. I signed up for one of their intro level courses on using the Canon 350D in the hopes of getting the very best from my recent expenditure. The instructor, Charlotte Lowrie, literally wrote the book on using the Canon Rebel series DSLRs so I was in good hands. She introduced me to every feature on my DSLR and even gave me great advice on other aspects of photography from using filters to the basics of post-production. I eventually took 4 courses with Better Photo covering post-processing and landscape composition with instructors Jennifer Wu, William Neill and Tony Sweet. I'm sure I could have eventually learned the subjects on my own through trial and error and through the many great books available today but those courses were a great way to really invest myself in learning and in helping me realize encouraging results in a greatly reduced time period. I still maintain a fairly obsessive library of photography books and DVDs too :)

The 350D was a great introductory camera that accompanied me everywhere. I even won my first photography contest using this DSLR when I placed first in the landscape category of the Digital Camera Magazine POTY 2007 having submitted an image of Jokusarlon Lagoon (right). I used my 350D for two years and, having started to develop more discerning file quality standards, I upgraded to the 12MP Canon 5D in late 2008. Coincidentally, my first encounter with a Canon 5D was during my Jokulsarlon trip when another tourist asked if I'd take a photo of him and his wife. I was was quite tempted to push them both into the lagoon and run off with the camera but decided to purchase my own :)

I had made some satisfying images using the 350D but I wanted better tonal gradations and a larger native file size and the full sensor 5D delivered wonderfully. I was still not quite ready to invest the sums being asked for a more professional Canon 1DS MKII or III and I had no real justification or need for the added resolution to 16 or 21MP. It would be another three years with my old friend the 5D before I upgraded again to the Canon 5D MKII in 2010. When the 21MP 5D MKII debuted in 2008 I really had no need of the added resolution and pretty muched scoffed at the need for live view or the whizzy new video feature. It was my decision to get into stock photography that eventually led me to upgrade to the MKII. As wonderful as the 5D was, the native file size meant that I had to enlarge image files to meet the (then) strict 50MB requirment of my stock library Alamy. Although the 5D files handled the interpolation very well I thought the 5D MKII would produce better results and reduce the amount of time I was spending in post-processing. It did (and continues to do) just that.

Although I have never found any interest in the video capabilities of my 5D MKII I have since become a complete convert to using the live view feature that I dismissed early on. It has been instrumental in achieving the best possible focus and especially so when used with my perspective controlling tilt-shift series lenses. So here's the grocery list of kit that takes up room in my camera bag (and a respectable amount of our study) and a bit of explanation for how/why I use any given item. It is important to note that this equipment has been compiled over the course of almost six years and then list will likely look very different an a few years time.

Lenses

My lens arsenal is designed to help me isolate subjects and to give them the emphasis I want in the image space by affording the ability to zoom in and really fill the frame. Sometimes filling the frame means simply using a telephoto lens to reach out and extract a brightly colored section of the landscape. Some of my lenses, like the TS-E "tilt-shift lenses, help me achieve maximum depth of field and facilitate making of multiple exposures for stitching. That will probably be the subject of another blog post. The macro lens and extenders are used for very close up and macro imagery. My current lens pool includes:


* Canon EF 17-40mm
* Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS
* Canon TS-E 24mm L
* Canon TS-E 90mm L
* Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro
* Canon EF 2X Converter
* Canon EF 2X Extension tube

Tripod & Support

Since 90% and more of my images are made in low light conditions I nearly always work using a tripod for stability. My current setup is:

* Manfrotto BN3021 Aluminum
* Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead
* Really Right Stuff L Bracket
* Really Right Stuff PC-1 clamp
* Really Right Stuff MPR-CL II Nodal Slide
* Adorama macro head (not pictured)

The photo on the left shows my normal wide angle and panorama setup including the 24mm tilt-shift lens. The L bracket allows me to change orientation on my camera from portrait to landscape without having to adjust my tripod head. The Really Right Stuff clamp and nodal slide afford the ability to make a series of exposures that can be perfectly stitched in post-processing software. The macro adjustment head keeps me sane when doing macro work by negating the need to fiddle around moving the tripod for small changes.






Other Useful Accessories

* Canon Battery grip
* Bubble level (at least two in the bag)
* Canon Remote Shutter Release
* Arctic Butterfly cleaning kit

These are all about function and ease of use. The battery grip allows me to operate with two batteries affording me longer time in between battery changes. It also allows me to change batteries without having to remove the camera from the tripod. The bubble level fits on my hotshoe and augments the several levels I have on the tripod head and nodal slide. Straight horizons are important to me and, although they can be fixed in post-processing, I prefer to get it right in-canmera so as not to have to crop out valuable image data later. The cleaning kit is what I use to clean my own sensor on a regular basis. Sensor dust is a given in the DSLR world and learning to do your own cleaning will pay dividends. There is nothing more annoying than having to clean up hundreds of sensor dust spots in post-processing!

Filters

I use filters when making 90% or more of my images. Since I tend to shoot in low light conditions I am often faced with challenges of balancing contrast in bright skies and dark foregrounds. Graduated neutral density filters (aka "ND grads") help me accomplish the exposures I need. The ND grad is a piece of glass or resin that is dark on the top half and lightens gradually toward the bottom where it is clear. You can place the darker section over the bright sky and even out the contrast with the darker foreground. In addition I use filters to control shutter speed in order to portray movement. For this I turn to a solid (as compared to graduated) variable ND filter. This basically blocks the amount of light entering the lens evenly across the frame and lets me slow the shutter speed. This gives me control over how blurred I want to moving subjects (water, clouds, kids, etc) to appear in my image. A circular polarizer is also a very useful filter in my bag. It also has the effect of slowing light coming into the lens and can be used like an ND filter. However, its main feature is to reduce reflections on wet rocks and foliage and has the added benefit of boosting color saturation (see image on right). I almost never use the polarizer with a wide angle lens when I include the sky in the image even though it can help enhance detail in clouds. Unfortunately, a polarizer will darken sections of the sky unevenly giving a look that I dislike. The newest addition to my filter arsenal is a "gold/blue polarizer". This type of bi-color polarizing filter changes the chromatic emphasis between two (in this case gold & blue) colors as the polarizer is rotated. Landscape photographers often use these to add some life to images when the light is less than stunning. I have yet to use this one but I think it will come in very handy. Another useful pieace of glass I carry is the Canon 500D close up filter. This allows me to get macro-quality results using a telephoto or even a wide angle lens on those occasions that I have left the macro lens at home or in the car. My whole filter collection includes:

* Lee ND grads (1,2 and 3-stop)
* Singh Ray Reverse ND grad (2 and 3-stop)
* Heliopan Circular Polarizer
* B&W Circular Polarizer
* Singh-Ray Vari ND (w/polarizer)
* Singh Ray Gold/Blue Polarizer
* Lee ND Standard (4-stop)
* Lee filter kit
* Canon 500D Close Up Lenses (58mm & 77mm)

Post-Processing Software

I try to keep my post-processing to a minimum as I simply don't enjoy spending time on the computer. I make every effort to plan a final image in the field and get as much accomplished with the in-camera exposure as possible. As mentioned above, I use filters regularly to control contrast but I will also bracket exposures when necessary in order to combine them on the computer later. If I can do it with a filter that'll be my first choice every time.

I also prefer to use multiple exposures to change my chosen aspect ratio rather than cropping. My digital SLR format is 3:2 natively but occasionally I prefer 5:4 or even a panorama. Rather than crop a single exposure and lose resolution, when possible, I prefer to make multiple exposures using a panorama head and combine them to achieve the desired format but also increasing resolution (see image to left). When it comes time to use software on an image file the following are the tools in my virtual darkroom. I use whichever tool(s) I need for the job as follows:

* Canon Digital Photo Pro (tweaking exposure, white balance, converting RAW files)
* Adobe Photoshop CS5 (base file development and contrast adjustments)
-Velvia Vision plugin from Fred Miranda (contrast and color adjustments)
-Neat Image Noise Reduction plugin (self explanatory)
-Akvis Enhancer plugin (contrast, tone and detail improvements)
-Photokit Sharpener plugin (finely tuned
sharpening for final output - web, prints)
* PTGui Pro (stitching panoramas - although every so often Photomerge works better depending on the subject)
* Helicon Focus (used for focus stacking when a single exposure is beyond the limits of a lens)
* Photomatix Pro (used for auto exposure fusion and very rarely HDR. I normally prefer doing this manually.)
* Photoacute (used for drastic resolution increases beyond a camera's capabilities)

Future

My philosophy these days is that you only "need" to consider an upgrade to your camera kit when the current set up is preventing you from accomplishing a photographic goal. Of course this is retrospective sagesse on my part as I made plenty of needless and downright dumb purchases during my first two years learning about this great hobby. My biggest gaff was to purchase screw-on graduated ND filters for my 350D even when the helpful camera store assistant advised me otherwise and suggested I get a set of Cokin grads. Somehow I had convinced myself that the screw on variants were better for someone learning the ropes and I didn't realize until several months later that they were pretty well useless.

A couple items I keep mulling over (probably in priority order) are a new Giottos GT3541XLS tripod (or similar), the Canon EF 100-400mm L and perhaps the Canon TS-E 45mm lens. I'd like the tripod to replace my aging Manfrotto beast but I want something tall enough that I'm not required to stoop. The 100-400mm lens would be very useful for intimate forest photography (and nature photography if I ever try it) and the 45mm tilt-shift lens would fill a focal length gap for me in my perspective control arsenal. Regardless, these are still firmly in the "thinking about it" column.

Probably the biggest pipe dream for me is the possibility of moving to large format. Although it does not meet the criteria as far as not being able to accomplish a photographic goal, I am well addicted to resolution and depth of field and large format quality in these areas is unsurpassed. My problem, and this is a topic for a future post, is that I am not interested in a film workflow. If digital large format were even remotely affordable I'd be jumping in with both feet. The Gigapan Epic Pro is starting to get my attention but I don't know enough about it right now to seriously consider a purchase. For now I just keep querying e-Bay for the latest sales of large format film gear and mulling over the possibility of adding some film to my workflow for specific types of images (intimate landscapes/forest scenes like the one above).

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Getting Started - Photography and Me

I've struggled with the idea of setting up a blog for awhile now and thought that the New Year might be as good a time as any to start offering up my thoughts on photography and its role in my life. Maybe the best way to get going is to try and put into words the reasons that I find photography so interesting and fulfilling - for whatever it might be worth. This might even lead to a few tangential blog entries later.

Anyone who knew me when I was growing up would not be surprised in the least if they were to learn that I was pursuing a career in (or making a serious hobby of) some sort of creative/artistic occupation. Since the age of 10 I was always the guy in class who seemed to have the knack for drawing and painting. I was the guy everyone turned to to do the backdrops for the class plays. I was the guy who was chosen to draw the images for the various bulletin board themes or any project requiring something to be drawn. I spent hours upon hours building and painting models in my family basement stopping only to answer the plaintive calls of my mother to come and eat. As I grew older I even started getting opportunities to make a bit of money from my talents through commissions for pen and ink house portraits, portraits of family and friends and even billboards. Somewhere in my teens I also developed some competence in music achieving first chair playing trumpet in the high school band (anyone remember Chuck Mangione?) Later there was even a brief, but thrilling, few years playing in a top-forty band travelling around and playing in venues throughout Michigan. I loved every minute of it but I'm just pleased that no photos of that mullet-coiffed, parachute pants-wearing period seem to have surfaced on the Internet yet. Suffice to say I can probably never run for public office ;)

Sometime in my early twenties life just seemed to (or perhaps I allowed it to) get in the way of those creative aspects of my life. The priorities turned to supporting family and pursuing fiscal security. I don't regret that part at all but I do regret that I wasn't able to find a way to maintain some level of creative expression throughout that development period. I imagine that alot of people might be able to relate to that.

Eventually, I found myself in the enviable position of having achieved reasonable stability in my life and in my career. About the time I reached the age of forty, I began to delve back into hobbies like genealogy, oenology and photography. It is the latter that has really come to play a hugely important role in my life and has become the primary means by which I have been able to fill the creative expression gap in my life.

Prior to 2005 I had zero interest in photography. My wife was the shutterbug and I remember numerous family trips during which I lamented her decision to have her bag of 24 rolls of film hand-scanned at the airport or my having to stand around during our tour of Ephesus while she thoroughly photographed the dramatic ruins. I actually remember saying to her once that she ought to 'just put the camera away and enjoy the experience'. Oh how the tides have turned! Sometime around 2005 I decided to purchase my own camera thinking that it might be something fun for us to do together.

The developing capabilities of good, entry-level digital cameras like the Canon 350D led me immediately into the digital realm. Digital flattened the learning curve drastically for me and allowed me to begin achieving the results I sought immediately. I have never really found much interest in the technical aspects of photography and get quite bored with photographer's fascination with kit. I do appreciate that other people find the technical aspects a very interesting component and that one has to develop a sound technical understanding to achieve the best results. Its just that, for me, the whole thing is much more a gut instinct approach and I learn the technical side to a level that allows me to get the job done. If I cannot achieve something creatively for a technical reason then I learn what I need to in order to meet the challenge. This sometimes, although rarely these days, means purchasing new kit or software. Most of my time these days is spent driving and walking the countryside looking for viewpoints that will offer good opportunities when the light is right.

Gaining satisfaction through photography, for me, is all tied to meeting the challenge of pre-visualization, problem-solving, and experiencing and capturing beautiful moments while out in the landscape. Using a camera to succeed in those areas leaves me with a great feeling of achievement and, simply put, elevates my spirit. I love reconnoitering the landscape around me looking for viewpoints and anticipating how they will look in different light and during different seasons or weather conditions. I love the problem-solving challenge of how best to compose scenes in two dimensions and what focal lengths might best do the job. I love the experimentation that I am able to achieve using digital cameras and the immediate feedback that they provide. Digital truly affords me the ability to develop and maintain creative momentum. Most importantly, I simply adore the opportunity to be out in the world and be witness to beautiful natural light on a quiet landscape. I think it is this last aspect that, time and again, proves to be the most rewarding part of photography for me. I'll save any in-depth discussion about what constitutes 'beautiful light' for another day and for now suffice to say that I know what inspires me.

Although I started this hobby as an idea for something my wife and I could do together I have since found that I am really quite a "landscape loner". Regrettably, I just never seem to achieve my best work when in the company of others. I am blessed with an incredibly supportive family that has tolerated countless hours by my side indulging me on holiday but it is not until I can put myself alone in the landscape that I feel that the creative wheels really start spinning. I have experienced this when out photographing with friends as well. I'm not claiming some pretentious Zen-like approach but rather that I can find interaction with others during the photographic experience a bit of a distraction. I seem to be in the minority in this regard but it is one of the things that has prevented me from going on one of the many great photographic workshops that are offered here in the UK. Every year I look and consider it but every year I decide to put the money toward a few individual weekend trips instead. I'm not a completely unsiciable person though and I do enjoy going out with a group now and again. I even coached a workshop myself this past summer. I'm just saying that my best work usually results from solitude.

Although I spent a great deal of emotional energy in my early years seeking approval through online galleries, whether or not the photographs convey my same emotions to others is an important but secondary concern for me. My photographs today all carry an implicit subtitle of 'this is what I found interesting today and how I chose to convey it in two-dimensions'. Like anyone I really enjoy when others appreciate my work but I am less inclined to change my approach today based on the views of others. I am always seeking to grow and learn but I find the most benefit these days through the work and writings of others that I can apply to my own approach. That said, I have met a few photographers through the years in whom I place my trust and their advice is always welcome and carefully considered. You may be one of them ;)

I don't know if this was worth writing or reading but it is a start. I was surprised at how quickly this came across and I think I can already see future threads upon which to expand. I'll call it a day here though and end by wishing you all the very best in life, love and light in the New Year.

Cheers!