Favourite images of 2011: No.1

The great thing about the still image is that it transports you back to the time and place you shot it. I try to discipline myself not to let that experience influence my objectivity when evaluating images, but in reality it’s damned difficult.

This was a moody broody evening on top of Sumburgh Head on Shetland and if truth be told there was an air of disappointment within our tour group as the cliff tops were almost bereft of puffins. Where there’s mood and brood however, there are pictures and as the sun peeped through the billowing clouds I could see gliding fulmars silhouetted against the golden sea. I like this type of picture and I like this particular picture because it was a something from nothing situation. Despite my pleas I’m not sure too many of our group shot it. Perhaps they didn’t like it – which is one of the other great things about photography!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look back at 2011. The images I chose are not my best necessarily but represent a personal emotion, a memory. That for me is what photography is all about.

Have a great 2012 shooting new memories!

Creative therapy

It was a long, hot day with too much driving and too many meeting deadlines. At the end of it, I was not just tired, but weary. And I still had to muster some mental energy to take some pictures. Arriving on the coast, the prospects looked OK – not brilliant but OK. I half-heartedly checked out a few viewpoints but nothing really set me alight if I’m honest. But I was on site and a job needed doing.

As the sounds and smells of the sea permeated my disenchanted mood, I started to lighten up. After 20 minutes of standing alone on a windswept headland, I felt more alive than I had done all day.  And as the sun dipped towards the horizon, painting the mudflats in  delicate pastel shades, the troubles of the day were long forgotten. Throw in a 10-stop ND filter to soften the image and I was verging on euphoria.

Creativity in the outdoors: the most effective tonic for life. Without charge.

Acceptable manipulation.

This is one that rolls on and on. And on. What is an acceptable degree of image manipulation? Well just to clarify, I’m not entirely sure.

Just this week I’ve been included in a circular e-mail about the ‘manipulation’ scandal and how one photographer in particular, is ‘duping’ both editors and readers of a well known Dutch magazine, and is gaining an ‘unfair’ commercial advantage. I’ve also been running a workshop during which one guest showed a number of images that he’d produced using the controversial ‘HDR’ technique. Whilst undoubtedly striking, some of them had an ‘unreal’ appearance. So what is a step too far?

Well that depends on context. If you view nature photography as a means of biological recording, then accuracy in content and aesthetics are paramount. If however, your perspective is more creative, then the criteria is much broader and arguably, anything goes.

Perhaps the important word here is integrity. Rather than dwelling on what’s right or wrong, perhaps we should resist trying to mislead our audience, be up front with how our images are produced and let consumer taste run its course.

For the record, the image below of the Summer Isles at sunset has had the following treatment:

1. A 10 stop ND filter to slow shutter speed and blur water.

2. A reduction in colour temperature.

3. A slight deepening of the blacks to increase definition.

Is it ‘straight’? Probably not. Is it ‘acceptable’?