Over the past year this news column has more than occasionally touched on the subjects of what makes a good photograph, and how we learn to become better photographers.
We can learn a lot by looking at, thinking about, and trying to copy aspects of, the work of other really good photographers. Those of us who are not ‘natural artists’ probably need help in how to look at others’ photographs in order to work out what they did and why.
A way to make progress is to receive, and think about, good criticism of our own photographs from someone who knows photography. Our camera club competitions are supposed to offer that opportunity. In this vein, I found this recent blog post by Wellington photographer Peti Morgan very interesting. It’s very well worth a read.
As 25th December gets nearer, lots of photographers I know start dropping hints about bits of gear or kit that would really make them better photographers, not to mention much nicer people!
My lovely wife bought us for Xmas, a fantastic photography book.* It is called Spirit of the South and features the landscape photographs made in the South Island by Andris Apse. The beautifully laid out book is divided into a few sections, each introduced by some text written by an invited guest — one of whom is former All Black, Anton Oliver.
Andris Apse is one of New Zealand’s best landscape photographers (if not THE best) and the photographs are simply stunning. As a wanna-be landscaper I alternate between being inspired by these magnificent photographs, and being depressed because I know there’s not a single image in my collection that comes anywhere near these. On the optimistic side, I’ve already gleaned a few things that Apse does that we could all copy: low angled light, and perseverance! Here are a couple of gems from his introduction:
Sometimes I have been lucky and stumbled on to a good photograph, but looking back on them now I find them to be superficial. It is like a fleeting glimpse of a handsome face that might be good-looking but there is no feeling past that superficial first impression, whereas if you get to know someone, study their moods, look at their features in different lighting and plan a portrait, the result is much more satisfying.
… At times I walk (in Fiordland National Park) for a week and do not even get the camera out, but when I discover what I think is the perfect viewpoint, it is then a matter of waiting for my previsualised weather conditions. Sometimes I visit that spot ten times in anticipation, only to be disappointed. On the rare occasion when all the elements fall into place, there is nothing more exhilarating.
If you like landscape photography, leave a hint about this book. It is a great Xmas present!
By the way, who wants to come with me to Kupe’s Sail down near Ngawi? There’s a fantastic photograph waiting to be made when the sea is running nicely and the evening sun is just at the right angle. We’ll probably have to go back and back again and again and again, until we strike it just right!
For those of us hoping that that piece of gear under the Xmas tree will make all the difference, Andris Apse has this to say:
I believe that a good photographer will produce quality images regardless of the camera system. It has been proved time and time again that it is the creative eye that produces outstanding results, not the camera.
In the words of the famous Armenian-Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh: ‘Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.’
I hope everyone is planning a good break and will have a great Xmas. There are lots of photos to be made. Don’t forget ‘Feathers’ for the first meeting of 2015.
* Xmas came early here, along with a brand new grandson in London. How about that?