The question of what fine art photography is has no easy answer. There is no universal meaning to what it means and we all have our own view. To my mind it is something that the photographer creates in their mind. The image should be pre-visualized or visualized when taking the image. Some people will see the image in black and white or sepia or vary the scene in color, it is a personal thing. The image should have some artistic or aesthetic quality to it.
As I have moved more into the world of landscape photography my work has moved more to long exposure photography. The effects that this has on water and clouds really appeals to me and gives me the feeling that I want in my photographs. One person recently commented on my images that they were mysterious and dreamy. Maybe that is a reflection on me and the way I see the world. For all the ugliness in the world I do like to see the beautiful side of it. As people say, I live in my own world most of the time, this is probably correct but its a happier place than the real world.
The image that I have added was taken at Betws Y Coed in Wales. It is taken using my 10 stop neutral density filter to give me a long exposure. The exposure was 30 seconds at f22 with the camera set at 100 ISO. Hopefully it has given that dreamy quality that I like to the image. If you are taking fine art based images then do not be afraid to experiment. Find out what your equipment is capable of, it will allow you more opportunities to be creative. You will be amazed at what some equipment allows you to create. The best advice that I can give is to learn to use your camera in manual and keep an open mind.
My new post which is sunrise over Lake Garda in the Italian lakes is really aimed at insomniacs everywhere. I have to admit that I tend to take more sunrise shots than sunsets. The reason for this is I like to be in bed early but up and about early so I have lots of sunrise shots and only take sunsets in autumn and winter when the it gets dark early. There are probably many out there who work the other way round but the advice is the same. With this shot I was waiting for the sun to appear over the mountains and I knew it would glisten on the water.
As with most landscape shots I used f22 for the depth of field. Really what my advice in shots like this is to take notice of the light which you should always do as a photographer. Take notice of what is reflected on the water, there will be more than your eyes can take in, you can pick this up later in post production. Experiment and see how you like the image. Remember that you should be creating an image rather than just recording so make the image something that you like. Just be wary that the sun isn’t too bright and you damage your eyes looking through the viewfinder. Use your live view facility on your camera the sun is too bright. As a photographer or artist then train your eyes to see the light.
If you would like a trip to Lake Garda then I can highly recommend it. Not only are there some beautiful places on the lake but the Dolomites, Venice and Verona are only a day trip away.
Recently I have started looking at the filters that I use for landscapes. I seemed to have a mis-match of filters in my bag that didn’t represent what I do now and my old ones were worse for wear. I decided to purchase some new better quality ones. The first thing to decide was which filters I actually use. It really has come down to 3 regulars which would always be the ones that are in my camera bag constantly. The next thing to decide is whether to go for my usual circular filters or move to a filter system such as Cokin, Lee etc.
For landscapes I believe the most important is a polarizing filter, experience will teach you the range of uses that this filter will do. Probably the most common uses are removing glare and enriching colors. To be the most effective the light needs to be coming from 90 degrees to the image.
The next filter that I use a lot is the graduated neutral density, a 2 or 3 stop graduation is ideal. This helps balance the exposure between the ground and the sky giving much more detail in clouds rather than being over exposed and losing detail. If you shoot RAW then you can improve this but I believe it is best done in camera.
The last filter which I am using more regularly is my 10 stop neutral density filter. I love the smooth mystical effect that it has on water. It also gives a great effect on moving clouds. This definitely a filter I am experiment more with and the image I have put on below is a shot at iso 100, f22 for 30 seconds. It is shot during a bright sunny day. in Bronte country, Haworth, Yorkshire, UK.
I will decide shortly which filters I choose and how I got on. Some advice that I got was to go for a system. This slows you down and makes you think about the shot but I find this a little irrelevant as for most of my landscapes I have to set up my tripod and put my camera on which I am sure gives me enough time to think.
As I have moved more into landscape photography, I decided I needed to put a little more thought into how I was doing things. Often I am walking solo in very rough terrain, often the trails are strewn with rocks where tripping and breaking a leg or worse is very possible. Often no mobile signal is available so especially as I love photographing waterfalls which tend to be in very inhospitable places. I have decided to put a little more care into the way I was doing things.
The first thing that I have done is purchase a Manfrotto rucksack where the top part is for personal goods and the lower half is for the camera gear. A must is a good tripod carrying facility which this bag does well. I am concentrating on the top half here, first in goes my waterproof coat. I have also purchased a pack of mylar blankets and a safety bivvi bag to put in. In case of emergency these will be invaluable and very cheap to purchase. A few other bits like a torch, a whistle, water and some snacks to eat.
I cannot leave you without an image so as I am talking about safety I have put on a waterfall which made me think about that safety. It is Thomasson Foss at Beck hole in the North Yorkshire moors. The path to it is treacherous with rocks surrounding the waterfall but the beauty is outstanding and worth the trip.
I am a great lover of reflections, they seem to give an image extra life, though if you know what to look for they are easy to find. Bright sunny days are where they stand out best. The shot that I have put on here is about 100 yards from the abbey so you don’t have to be too close to the thing that you want a reflection of. Sometimes it is a matter of searching out where you will find a good reflection. The problem that I had with this shot was that it was a breezy day creating a ripple on the water. The ripple was spoiling the refection that I wanted so I put a 10 stop neutral density filter on the lens. When using something like this it is better to put the camera in manual, set everything up and work out the exposure then put the filter on the lens. The filter in this case gave me an exposure of 30 seconds at f22, I needed a small aperture to give a lot of depth of field. The effect of the long exposure on the image was to smooth out the water creating a better reflection. Often with filters like this you will get a slight color cast, depends on the image whether you adjust in post processing or keep it in. Also with reflections I often give extra saturation to my images in lightroom to make them stand out more.
Recently I have had limited time to get out to photograph. When a day came free recently I went to Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire with the idea of getting off the popular walk through the woodlands by the river to the Strid. I walked the route up to the Valley of Desolation which is signposted to the beautiful waterfall of Posforth Gill. Though the track is generally good, close to the falls however it is narrow and rough so wear good walking boots. Though it is winter and many of the trees are bare, I knew after recent rain there would be a good flow of water off the hills.
As I wanted to include the rocks in the foreground to give the image some depth and add some color variation the aperture was set to f22. This gave slow shutter speed of 1/5th second so the camera was set on a tripod and a shutter release was used. After packing my camera for a trip my tripod is the next most important thing I take with me. I do vary how I photograph water depending on the effect that I want to use. I am not a massive fan of making everything looking like cotton wool so I do tend to use as fast a shutter speed as possible without losing quality. The problem with many waterfalls is that they tend to be in areas surrounded by trees so are by nature quite dark. Long exposures tend to be normal but I like to get some of water looking as it should. It would always difficult to freeze the falling water without losing quality, I would always go for quality but it depends on your personal preference.
Rather than in the previous urban portrait which I made high key so reducing the color in post processing, with this one I have saturated the color to emphasize the color in the brickwork. The place is an old railway arch, water has run down the walls to create some amazing colors as a backdrop. A good tip is when you look at color, see what you can do with it rather than always just as it appears. The clothes chosen were to match in with the backdrop. Saturating the colors in Lightroom also added the emphasis to the girls red hair.
When posing someone in this type of scene, look for something that adds interest to the scene rather than just a straight pose. Urban portraits should be a little edgy not like classical portraits. The great thing about an area like this is that the light is lovely open shade which in nice and soft and allows you to vary things as you require.
To turn your photography from recording an image to art is making a scene your own. Look at the scene and see how you would like it look to look then make it happen. You will find plenty of tutorials on You Tube about working with your RAW files, watch and learn from them.
With urban portraits, do not be frightened to be different and try something new. Often it is best to fit people into scenes but here is a head shot and the emphasis is on the eyes. The face in this shot is cut into sections by some bars on the front of a hotel but the eyes hold the viewer. The image has been made into a high key image to take out some of the tonal range and leave the beautiful eyes as the main point of focus. Part of working outdoors is to take what nature throws at you and here the hair is left to it’s own devices, it has worked out beautifully in this shot giving the shot an extra dimension.
Lumb falls in Yorkshire is a little off the beaten track but well worth a visit if you have chance. Basic directions are follow the Keighly road out of Hebden Bridge then take the Haworth old road after about a mile. This is a single track road and you watch for public bridleway sign on your left. There is only room to park 2 cars. A good pair of walking boots are required to walk down the rocky path. You can get to the base of the falls with care if you cross the bridge.
A plaque at the falls shows that the former poet laureate Ted Hughes wrote his poem ‘Six young men’ at the falls. This is a poem about 6 young men in a photograph that went to war and they had all died 6 months later.
It was using my lightweight tripod and the exposure was half a second at f22. The big difficulty with the shot was the extremes in brightness between the shadow areas and the highlights. I did quite a lot of work in lightroom to balance everything out but do hope you think it was worth it.
When I went to one of my favorite places recently, my aim was to use some long exposures photographing a stream running through a gorge. The place that I went is Padley gorge in the Peak district. You can get magical lighting there when the sun shines. As there a lot of trees down in the gorge you get some wonderful dappled light effects.
Because the day I chose to go was heavily overcast and the trees were blocking much of the light, it allowed longer exposures, the exposures were about 5 seconds. The camera was set on 100 ISO at f22. If the light is too bright for long exposures use neutral density filter to cut out some of the light. On exposures of this length you will need to use a tripod, here a light travel tripod was used with a rock in bag hanging from it for added stability.
The effect that you get on the water is where the water is running fast it goes almost milky. On the slower running water the effect is that it looks like a sheet of glass. This type of photography is well worth giving a try and experimenting with.