So what was I doing differently? Basically I was getting connected, looking, seeing and feeling the landscape but reacting to it visually. Sometimes I would sit for hours in one place just watching what was going on, the way the sun flashed over the hills or how the clouds accelerated above my head or the way the wind and tides left patterns on beaches’ sand.
Landscape photography had become a truly emotional experience.
The Best Spot
I would encourage all, or at least more, of you to try this approach. I’ve been out shooting so many times recently and met or come across other photographers who’ve said: «The best spot is over there, that’s where Joe Cornish shot his picture from.» When I ask what else they’ve shot, they usually reply: «What else is there to shoot?»
Well what about the picture that truly moves you rather than the image that moved Joe — which because of light, time, tide and a million other variables, you’ll never be able to replicate the original. Go out and be brave, shoot with your eyes and open your heart to everything, don’t prejudge a location nearer to home just because the Premier League of photographers hasn’t photographed it.
To get out of the habit of travelling huge distances to shoot the icons of the UK, set yourself a mileage boundary and explore within it. I live in Kent and, to be fair, I thought it was pretty dull, but within a few miles of home I have discovered places that really move me.
The joy of discovering this emotional connection with your subject means that when you do get to go somewhere stunning and iconic you will look at it through your own eyes and not try to copy it, which will probably leave you feeling frustrated.
During a recent workshop with a relatively inexperienced photographer we went to a local woodland to see what we could do with bluebells. As we entered deeper woodland the smells were incredible, the sense of space almost overpowering, the trees were tall and the light filtered through, highlighting certain areas with others left in deep shade.
«Can you smell the woods and bluebells?» I asked and continued, «can you feel the sunlight and breeze?» «Err, not really, it’s sort of chilly.» came the reply…
Not the response I’d hoped for, so I found a spot that worked for me and asked them to setup nearby, somewhere they thought they might be happy with the view. Then we sat in the bluebells and chatted as the clouds moved across the sun, pointed out how the forest had changed and how the colour of the light had altered the colour of the foliage.
After an hour or so later they turned to me and said they felt as if the trees were watching us, waiting for us to do something. They described the aromas of damp leaves, bluebells and the way the light sparkled off the dew. Then without any prompting from me, they got up and started taking pictures, totally in the zone, at one with their subject.
After another two hours of taking pictures we walked away, my client explained how uplifted and inspired they felt but strangely calm. They had taken the pictures they had seen, not tried to copy, but had truly witnessed something magical on their doorstep and recorded it as they felt it.
For me landscape photography is about feeding my soul, I take pictures like Paul Sanders, no one else. I don’t really worry if people don’t like them, but I do get a bit of buzz if someone can identify the emotions within the images or within me when I took the picture.
What’s the most important emotion? I would always say enjoyment over everything else; if you don’t enjoy it you won’t get pictures that reflect your true passion. The others add layers to your work that will help bring the image to life.
It works for me.