Behind The Lens
Photography is a very personal vocation. We are all seeking similar objectives, but the direction of travel that we choose to take and the results that we achieve as a consequence can be very different. Any assessment of whether we have succeeded or failed in achieving those objectives is always subjective and can be defined either by the perceived standards of others or those we decide to set ourselves.
My interest in the landscape and of its photography has always been from the perspective of a mountaineer, climber and walker. Photography developed of out a desire to capture on record some of the remarkable places that I have been fortunate enough to visit. With advancing years it has been necessary to tailor some of those photographic objectives to match my ability to carry heavy and complex equipment onto the mountains, but my fascination with mountain form and mountain light remains undiminished.
In common with so much in society, photographic fashions and trends change. Influenced in recent years by the development of ever more sophisticated digital cameras and complex and powerful computer software, we have now reached the point where many landscape photographers, in the preparation of the finished image, will carry out more work in the studio post capture than at the location itself.
There has also been a recent trend towards what I would regard as an excessive use of corrective and creative filters. I concede that there are lighting conditions in which corrective filters can be useful and perhaps justified. But I would argue that the excessive use of, and reliance on, creative filters to achieve an objective is a simple admission of either a failure to make the best use of one's camera and lens capabilities or an unwillingness or inablilty to judge when the appropriate conditions are favourable out in the field.
I hold firmly the belief that this has all led to the appearance on the market of an avalanche of material which quite simply is contrived, over-manipulated, over-saturated and over-sharpened. I find this kind of imagery totally alien to my personal vision of the landscape and I am resolved to continue to produce images which are a simple and an honest representation of the natural world.
Much of my career was spent working with film cameras and without all the digital aids that are available today. Until the arrival of the digital camera the unique skill of the accomplished landscape photographer lay in his ability to correctly compose an image and assess exposure on location; there was no going back, nor was there any means of altering an image once it had been taken and found wanting after the processed film was returned from the laboratory.
However, on balance and in spite of the issues and concerns that I have just expressed, I have welcomed and embraced whole heartedly the arrival of the digital era for the many benefits and opportunities that it offers. It must also be said that the image quality now achievable with today's professional cameras and lenses far exceeds that which was once available with film even if it was digitised on the most powerful and high performing drum scanners.
Equally, if not more important than the landscape photographer's choice of equipment and workflow, is the ability to identify the best location, camera angle, composition and lighting for the chosen shot. When I am working in Britain, and when given the opportunity, I will always favour and seek out an elevated mountain viewpoint rather than a roadside or valley alternative. I prefer to shoot at dawn and dusk when the light is usually most colourful and directional, but this is not always possible and there are occasions when a compromise must be made. That said, except in winter when the sun is always low in the sky, I rarely shoot in the middle of the day.
In the Himalaya one does not always have the same luxury and one needs to be able to judge what best can be achieved given the circumstances and conditions that prevail; on a moving expedition there is simply no time to wait for the perfect light nor to seek out alternative compositions. This is when a photographer's experience, skill and intuitive feeling for what works and what does not play a vital role in the process of achieving the perfect image.
In this section of my website I have taken you 'Behind the Lens' on a selection recent shoots at different locations. Because digital is now the medium of choice for the majority of photographers, all the selected material has been captured in this way. The digital camera also provides an accurate record of the settings used in the form of metadata and this information has been provided for each image along with the equipment used and a precise Ordnance Survey map reference.