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Photograph With Feeling

Dusk at the Creek, California Photograph by Steve GoslingMy previous Blog post talked about the need to have clarity around why we are taking a particular photograph. I stressed the importance of an image being underpinned by an idea, thought, concept or emotion. And it's the latter that I want to concentrate on in this post - the aspect of communicating emotions and feelings through photographs.

When I'm taking a landscape image (for it's nature and the landscape that usually generate a strong emotional response in me) I ask myself 'what am I feeling and how can I represent that in a visual way?'.

The photographs that I take that continue to resonate me with me long after I've pressed the shutter are the ones where I have succeeded in achieving that. They are the imagess that effectively recreate the emotions I was feeling when standing out in the landscape with my camera. And perhaps not suprisingly they are also the photographs that have most impact with the majority of those who view the final print. As British photographer Don McCullin has said, "photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at then you are never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures".

The obvious pre-requisite is that we have am emotional response to our subject. An apathetic 'it's OK' is not the basis for a powerful image. For me I can feel love or hate, either works - as long as I feel something about the subject or the scene before me then I stand a chance of producing an image that communicates that.

I use a variety of techniques to achieve my goal e.g. my choice of subject matter, the weather conditions I choose to shoot in, how I compose the image, taking long exposures, printing in black & white. However I believe that technique should be driven by the subject - to put technique first is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. These are all tools I use to achieve my end but I'm not obsessed with techniques or technical perfection over communicating mood & emotion, for these are my prime motivators. In the words of Gary Winogrand, "what use is having great depth of field if there is not adequate depth of feeling?".

 Talisker Dusk Isle of Skye Photograph by Steve Gosling

 I'll close by talking about this photograph, taken at Talisker Bay on the Isle of Skye. It had been a wet & windy week (not unusual for that part of the world) characterised by frequent showers and windblown clouds scudding across the sky. The landscape felt raw, primordial and bursting with energy.

I went to Talisker Bay at dusk and tried to photograph the landscape in a way that best communicated the sense of dynamism and restlessness that I felt there. I decided to use a Lee Filters ND filter and took a few exposures lasting several minutes (long exposure photography can be unpredicatable so a choice of images gives some options). Of the 3 or 4 photographs I took this one best captured what I was after.

If you would like to read a longer article on this subject I have written a piece for the Luminous Landscape website that can be found here.