The wider view

Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.

Thus said American photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984). I think it nicely encapsulates the feeling that may of us get when we get home and look at this images of that stunning landscape and find ourselves underwhelmed. The image on our computer screen simply does not match up to the memory of seeing the view on location.

© Dave Whenham
Three Shires Head (2009)

Three Shire Heads is the point on Axe Edge Moor where Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire meet and I visited there in 2009 on a black and white photography workshop.

My memory of the day is vivid. I had a great time enjoying an unexpected one-to-one workshop with Dave Butcher in great weather with lovely light and a very stimulating series of locations. But when I look at the images from that day I am totally underwhelmed; they simply don’t have the impact I remember from the day. Winogrand is right I think because of the essentially single dimension of the recorded image. We are left with just sight but the senses of smell, touch, hearing and even the emotional response from the unique blend of the senses all contributed to the moment when we actually made the exposure.

A classic example is probably the grand vista. Stood atop a hill on a beautiful day we can find our breath taken away by the beauty of what we are seeing. Snap! But two days later we are often left looking at a rather bland scene on our computer screen with all the interest appearing as tiny details in the distance. To make it a successful image it needs something extra which comes from the use of light, the arrangements of elements in the frame, the chosen point of view. Or to put it another way the photographers skills and input.

© Dave Whenham
Isle of Skye

For me this knowledge is useful as I always try to ensure that there is something in the foreground to provide depth to the image. In the image above what took my eye was the distant, snow-tipped mountains which stretched across the horizon in a grand wide vista. So, I stood and admired the wider scene but then chose a focal length to create a tighter composition and a point of view to arrange the elements such that they lead the eye through the image and create depth.


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