A few months ago, I spent a very enjoyable day photographing waterfalls on the North York Moors with my good friend John Clifton. I rarely go out with other photographers apart from Janet, so it was interesting to chat with John and hear his views on all things photographic. While we were chatting, John mentioned something that I’ve long believed in. He said, “It’s relatively easy to learn the technicalities of photography, but much harder to learn to see” and I couldn’t agree more.
I always feel that I derive the most satisfaction by making images of totally un-recognisable scenes and preferably images that have little or no influence from other photographers. A prime example of an image that doesn’t please me is my “Bear Island Sunrise”, captured during my adventure sailing round Scoresby Sound in east Greenland.
I’d heard that the rock formations and low foliage would be interesting in Greenland, so I had in mind an image with a bold foreground, but I just couldn’t make the composition at Bear Island work to my satisfaction, so I decided to move location. As I packed up my tripod, the sunrise suddenly lit up the mountains beautifully. I rushed back to the water’s edge, hurriedly set up and shot a few frames before the light faded, but I came away with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. To me, this image feels rushed and generic and lacking compositional input, there’s no love, no feeling of connection. Added to that, it was a similar image to ones produced by the rest of the party. So, whilst it has proved to be a very popular image on social media, I feel no satisfaction at having made it.
We’d all seen our guide Raymond’s version of the original image prior to going, but I wanted to produce an image that I felt was “mine”. Fortunately, I did do some more scouting for locations and the light made a comeback, so I was able to come away with an image that I was happy with after all. For me, this was an image I’d “seen”, not one influenced by others. This was my interpretation of the location and I derive a great deal more satisfaction from this image even if it hasn’t been as popular on social media.