|Hello and welcome to my site!
I'm a landcape photographer based in Northern Ireland. As well as photographing locally I like travelling, especially to places with no telephone wires or aeroplane vapour trails - even better if there's no tarmac on the roads. Happily there are still some such wonderful places tucked away in quiet corners.
Outback Australia is my favourite destination - nowhere else on earth have I experienced such stunning unspoiled scenery, and enjoyed living so close to nature. I'm hooked on its boundless open spaces and the sense of freedom that instills; its diverse landscapes, unique wildlife, and timeless tranquility - it's an awesome place. I spent a year exploring there in 1997/8... just before I became more interested in photography.
Besides Outback Australia I also enjoy the Greek Isles, USA, Scotland, New Zealand and the South Pacific islands. New destinations that intrigue me include Greenland, Canada and the mountain ranges of Antarctica.
What is Landscape Photography?
For me it's all about impressions and mood - a sense of place at a rare moment.
A successful landscape image should be both evocative and seductive, drawing the viewer into the scene. Nobody is moved by an average view of an average scene that anybody can see on almost any day, so the art of landscape photography usually involves capturing places at special moments of lighting or drama or other rare circumstance: a moving sunrise or sunset, a rare winter cloak of snow, a crashing wave, a burst of sunlight spearing through the clouds to light the sea during a rainstorm - some scene suffused with mood and atmosphere. Situations like this are quite rare, and so I believe are good landscape photographs. What drives landscape photographers to quest for such moments and locations is probably exactly the same thing as goldfever, and it's equally addictive.
A vital part of the process of making a landscape photograph doesn’t even involve a camera - it is all about seeing and visualising, and getting a feel for the location. The camera comes right at the end and merely records your interpretation. Many of my photos are composed without a camera anywhere near: sometimes a camera is just too much of a distraction and it’s too easy to get duped into taking before seeing. Some are conceived distant from the location as I revisit the scene in memory and imagine how I might paint it if all the ingredients could be arranged ideally. I envy painters a bit for this reason - they are unbound by reality and can pretty much paint whatever they want, wherever they want. Photography requires much more dedication and patience and can mean years of revisiting to get a scene just as you'd like.
Deciding on a scene to photograph usually means that the photographer has already reacted to a pleasing arrangement of shapes and colours and light, or at least recognised some potential. Creating a photograph involves trying to sensitively interpret the impressions of place, and translate all these sensations from a dynamic 3-dimensional world to distil them into a 2-dimensional single static image, sufficiently evocative, you hope, to convey the mood and nature of place convincingly.
Before the camera comes the walking, and a time of reflection in which you are getting a feel for the place. You take in the overall scene, the tiny details, the environment or setting, the key ingredients, the wildlife, the light, people and lifestyle, and how everything interacts. You take your eyes on a tour, looking high and low from varying viewpoints, figuring what appeals in the scene, what elements are important, what time of day would provide the best quality and angle of lighting, which season of the year would suit most - and finally, which perspective conveys all these things most sympathetically.
It’s only at this late stage that you begin to think about camera and lenses and exposure - a wide angle to communicate a sense of space and serenity, or exaggerate perspective or relative importance of small details that might otherwise be lost in a big view; a telephoto to compress perspective or draw the viewer closer in to the world of your subject for a sense of intimacy, eliminating distracting details of little importance; exposing for highlights or shadows depending on what mood you want to convey.
Rolling all this together you might for example select a telephoto lens to capture an intimate view of a range of mountains at sunset - the long lens compressing perspective. You expose for the highlights (perhaps a sky just after sunset) so that the mountains are rendered in silhouette. This will eliminate unimportant details of vegetation that full daylight would force on the eye - all you want is a suggestion of mountains so you simplify the scene to one of colours and shapes and mood.
If you are successful the photograph should seduce the viewer; should make
them pause and look deeply, drawing them into the scene to linger and contemplate
for a little while...
The Dikti Mountains, Crete
Gear is of no special interest to me beyond finding cameras & lenses capable of capturing enough sharp detail to give photos a reasonable level of convincing realism. Photo equipment is just a distraction most of the time, stealing your attention away from the business of composing and recording a scene. Between the artistic business of framing some part of an attractive scene and the final photo comes the scientific or mechanical process of capturing the image on film (or sensor). All sorts of things come into play - the quality, contrast, detail-resolution, colour-neutrality, distortion characteristics of the lenses, sturdiness of the tripod, vibrations of the camera's shutter mechanism, characteristics and limitations of the recording medium (film or sensor) to accurately portray the colours and shades of a scene, condensation, film flatness, perspective control, and many other bothersome technical things the photographer is forced to contend with. All these processes and intermediate elements can only dilute the purity of the original scene as it was viewed through the human eye. I am of course occasionally excited about equipment but it's really just a celebration of finding something with a relatively superior ability to dilute the image minimally - which is quite a rare find!
I prefer film for its purity and organic realism and I shoot various formats from 6x7cm to 5x4 inch on Fuji Velvia 50 (and sometimes Provia 100F for contrasty scenes where its wider exposure latitude lets me retain more shadow detail when that's important). I prefer Velvia because it renders the colours of nature most pleasingly, and I shoot the larger formats because they let me print big, as I often feel is necessary to convincingly portray a realistic sense of scale in a big scene, or a sense of intimacy in smaller ones. I also shoot digital, for convenience if not ultimate quality.
I want to embrace digital but I have a bit of a love-hate affair with it. Its convenience, flexability, low running costs and wide exposure latitudes seduce me, it's great for wildlife photography, maybe for small book photography; but when it comes to my favourite subect of landscapes, and printing 'em big - well, large expanses of water too often look strangely unrealistic, and there's just not enough fine detail and I can't get the big, beautifully detailed, smooth-toned prints that film gives me - I think digital still has some way to go.
Even in film photography the limitations of digital technology can be a little frustrating. I really like low light scenes because just as snow on a landscape simplifies daylight scenes to a more painterly impression, so deep shadows likewise eliminate unwanted detail after sunset, simplifiying the scene to the key elements. But digital scanning (to post photos on the Internet) is still very limited and even the most expensive scans fail to extract the subtle shadow details from low light shots. A lot of time can be spent (and ultimately wasted) messing around with photo manipulation software in an attempt to make the scan look like the slide on my lightbox. By the time I get the contrast right the colours are overcooked and the shadow details are gone, when I get most of the shadow detail back the blacks are gray and the colours washed out, etc, etc. Often I just can't get the scans to match the slides and so they don't get on to the website. I mostly prefer how traditionally printed enlargements look...but then you have inconsistency from print to print, dust on film, and greater expense. Some day I hope digital matches all the things I like about film but that day is at least a few years off yet.
Anyways, enough of my fanning the breeze. I hope you enjoy browsing the site,
and I hope it gets your travel bug itching!