Tony Worobiec: The Intimate Landscape (Part 1)
Posted: 09 Apr 2020
Tony Worobiec is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and one of our Fotospeed photographers. He has won awards for photography both in the UK and internationally and has authored 16 books. In this blog post, Tony discusses the intimate landscape, and how during these trying times, there is still plenty to shoot.
Landscape is unquestionably the most popular photographic genre. Firstly, because it is so accessible, but equally important, it is a means of allowing us to communicate with nature. We live busy lives, so having a period to indulge the joys of nature is not only good for our health, but also our psyche. As many of us are now grounded because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you will feel that the opportunity to take photographs has all but disappeared, but that is only if you view landscape as the "grand scenario".
When shooting landscapes, the temptation is always to point the camera towards the horizon, but there is also merit in taking photographs which completely exclude the sky. If we develop this idea a little further, we should be able to find worthwhile images down at our feet, or possibly in small nooks and crannies that are not normally considered rich pickings for photography.
We are currently told to take just one walk a day, but this genre of photography can be done in your own back garden. When you are out, look carefully at seemingly inconsequential elements such as small clusters of flowers, formations of rocks, or marks in the sand and you will discover detail that can serve as a microcosm for the whole. Look for exciting colour combinations, rich textures or patterns, as these can provide the basis for the photograph. This can prove to be a deeply satisfying, almost contemplative approach to photography, as it requires you to work slowly.
Once you find an area of interest, move unhurriedly, almost metre by metre, checking out potentially worthy bits of detail. Soon you will be enthralled in a world of miniature. You don't necessarily need to own a macro lens; it is surprising just how close you can get with a standard zoom.
Photographing the intimate landscape encourages individuality. Often, the images you produce lack scale, but that merely adds to their interest. They will sometimes appear to lack depth, so having an appreciation of the graphic arts will help you spot potential subject matters. The essential thing is to be guided by your own judgment and aim to reduce the composition down to the simplest visual elements. Our eyes are incredibly discriminating, and we are constantly seeing elements within the landscape we find visually exciting, but because they don't conform to the usual norms of landscape photography, it is easy to convince ourselves that they are not worth pursuing. Self-doubt really is the enemy. The aim of these blogs is to guide you through various photographic situations which you might otherwise ignore, and to show you that these miniature locations are worth exploring.
An aspect of this genre of photography that some find discouraging is that they cannot see a clear-cut design. Whilst they marvel at the cluster of the leaves on the ground, or the marks in the sand left by the receding tide, there is no obvious feature to place on the thirds, and so there isn't a definitive focal point they feel is worth photographing. The answer is a simple one: opt for a square format! The square is such a disciplined shape, that you can just about throw anything into it and visually it seems to work.
In fact if your composition is to tightly structured, it just looks wrong when presented as a square. I repeat, you don't always need to have an obvious focal point, and by using the square format, you are able to expand your opportunity for shooting interesting and personal landscapes.
By embracing new ways of looking at the landscape, such as abstract photography, minimalism, or by assessing the potential of a given location on the merits of the constituent visual elements, your confidence in your own abilities is greatly increased. May I just add that Fotospeed offers a wonderful range of square format papers; their Platinum Etching is a personal favourite. What better way to celebrate your achievements?
So, in these troubled times of COVID-19, take your permitted walks, but walk slowly with your camera in hand and see what you can discover. If you are restricted just to your garden, look with purpose and you will be amazed at what can be achieved, even there.
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