What are these strategies that reduce the over-powering presence of landscapes such as Skye in favour of producing a simpler image and accompanying message?
Framing – One of the first choices the photographer makes is about framing the image – a process of reduction. I do this by looking through the viewfinder and scanning my eye around the scene to confirm what I would like to be in the image and what should be removed through reframing. It is important to look around the edges to make sure there are no distracting elements in the potential image. Also, to make sure that key elements are well in the frame as intended.
Cropping – Cropping is also a means of reducing the ranges and elements in the scene post-processing, although I seek to minimise this by making good choices at the point of capture.
Monochrome – Taking images in black and white and reducing the distraction of colour (a significant aspect of subject-oriented photography) is a strategy I deploy a great deal in my photographic work. The removal of colour from an image allows the viewer to focus on shape, form and patterns and to enhance the metaphorical aspects of the image where applicable. Black and white imagery also allows the photographer to emphasise light and shade.
Depth of Field – Control of depth of field can provide options for the photographer in terms of emphasising certain aspects of the image. For example, wildlife photographers often focus on the eye of the animal they are photographing to engage a connection with the subject. It also allows the photographer to diminish or conceal distracting elements such as long grass. The relative depth of field in an image is also influenced by the choice of lens and using a telephoto lens, in the forest for example, has the effect of bringing the trees closer together and closer to the viewer.
Focus – Making decisions about where to focus combined with decisions about aperture above also allows the photographer to reveal and conceal parts of the image.
Intentional camera movement – Intentional camera movement and the resultant images take many forms depending on the choice of shutter speeds and the speed of the movement used by the photographer. For example, to produce melancholy and dreamy seascapes I usually find 1/30 of a second delivers the result with a slow sweeping movement deployed as the shutter is released.
Slow shutter speeds – Intentional camera movement and using slow shutter speeds are strategies that work together in my photographic practice. For example, when I am photographing the surface of the loch and the movement of the reeds, I often choose to allow nature to make its own patterns by using a tripod and a slow shutter speed. On stormy days where there is frantic movement on the surface, I may choose to add my own movement to enhance and emphasise the dynamics of the scene. In gaining slow shutters speeds on bright days, it is often necessary to use a filter to reduce the light in the camera.
Multiple Exposure – In general, photographers that choose to combine images use Photoshop. However, I choose to merge them in-camera as part of the shooting process. I focus on the likely outcomes of the choices I make at the point of capture – the number of images to combine, shutters speeds in the different component images, aperture choices and the degree of sharpness in each image. And the likely effect of the combination of images I choose to make.
Along with Attenuation – reducing our conscious awareness – In the STAR diagram in my previous blog, I refer to attenuation and this process too is a form of reductive practice. Some might call it mindfulness, meditation, creative flow or getting in the zone – however it is termed it is a means of quietening the chattering monkeys in everyday life – slowing down, focusing deeply on practice, and losing oneself in the landscape and the moment.
I like to think of these various methods of reduction as a means of revealing and concealing in my imagery. It is a chance for the photographer to make clear choices about what aspects of the image are important and deserve focus and emphasis. Similarly, there may be other elements that need to be deemed as less important and thus need to be concealed.