More Effort = Better Photo?
Last year I wrote a piece on the Phase One blog page where I talked about the 3 P's of landscape photography and posted a photograph taken at Lochan na h'Achlaise in Scotland (see my previous blog to read about the 3 P's and see the photograph in question). Someone commented that the 3rd 'P' should have been for 'parking' because the photograph I'd posted had been taken close to where I had parked my car and that the location had been much photographed before. The implication was that the photograph I'd posted had no value as a true landscape image because of these two factors.I don't normally respond to negative comments (not due to arrogance but because I believe everyone has the right to their own opinion and getting engaged in a negative dialogue helps no one). But I did respond to that post and here's why.
I saw the comment not just as an opinion on my image but as a statement on how photographs achieve value. The two assumptions that underpinned the comment I believed to be false and therefore felt an alternative view should be offered.
First assumption - if there's little effort involved in getting the photograph then it has no or minimal value. It was true - I had only walked about 200 metres from my car to get to the point where I took the shot. Though this had been across uneven, boggy ground wading through patches of water that threatened to fill my wellington boots. I had also spent a long time wandering along the loch shore looking for a composition followed by 2-3 hours stood around in the freezing cold waiting for the light to co-operate. My feet were cold and my fingers going numb. So, little effort? I didn't think so. But, and here's the important point, does that enhance or detract from the quality or the value of the final image? Of course not. The viewer looks at the image and either likes it or not. They don't care whether the photographer nearly died to get the shot, whether they had a foot amputated due to frost bite or if it's the favourite image of the photographer's mother! They view it for what it is - a photograph.
What do you think of the two photographs accompanying this post? Do you care whether I walked for hours to get to the location or just jumped out of my car and took a short stroll? My hope is not. In fact both images were taken a short walk from a parked vehicle. The first was taken on the Faroe Islands and my tripod was erected around 20 metres from the car; the second is another from the shores of Lochan na h'Achlaise. I don't think that minimises their value as landscape images. What is your opinion?
Second assumption - if a place has been photographed before then it's not worth photographing again. Really? If that's true then there's no point in ever going out to take a landscape photograph. Increasingly there are few locations in the world that haven't been photographed before. Even when we think we are being original it's a pretty safe bet that someone has trodden that path (literally) before.
I don't think we can concern ourselves with that. The real question is have we photographed it before? And if so, have we done justice to the location, captured it's essence, communicated how that location made us feel at that point in time. It's these considerations that drive me back to locations again and again fuelled by the belief that I can make a better job of it. And of course I can't even repeat my own photographs - the light is different, the weather changes, water levels vary, the cloud structure alters etc. It's always worth going back to a location many times - no two occasions will be the same and that's part of the fun and the challenge of landscape photography.