Monday, 12 February 2007

In The Eye of The Beholder?

What happens if you put lots of photographers at the same time, in the same place and ask them to photographer the same thing? All the pictures will be the same or similar right?.

To be honest I've often found it most odd when people state this kind of nonsense. I find it stranger still and most distasteful when a photographer is unwilling to share a 'secret' location. Is this in case you somehow steal their mojo? Thankfully I've recently had the opportunity to robustly debunk this myth.

I was recently on a photographic weekend with several practiced photographers and a recent convert to photography. One morning sat on a hill looking at the same tree at the same time. I suggested we all took pictures and then we compared the results. The results surprised even me.

I'll start with myself. I wanted a panoramic symmetrical shot of the scene. So I used a wide lens with the intention of cropping the top and bottom of the image afterwards.

Sycamore Gap - Image © David Toyne
Next is the photograph of Wirral, UK based photographer Anthony Smith. To use his own words

I shot this as a variation of what is an often shot scene. I wanted to include some of the surrounding landscape too. I shot in portrait mode for something a bit different as its not the usual landscape orientation.

Sycamore Gap - Image © Anthony Smith
Next up is Andy Rosochacki. Now Andy made me smile straight away by vanishing over the hill into the opposite direction and photographing into the sun. This is 'against the rules' so it gets my vote. In Andy's own words:

As you remember I did my loner bit and disappeared down the other side of the hill. I'd made a mental note to shoot towards the light source at some stage during the break as most of my previous landscapes have shown lots of detail on the land due to keeping the sun out of shot.

Sycamore Gap - Image © Andy Rosochacki
Last but by no means least is the new kid on the block John MacLeod. He's had a camera only 3 months and is already hooked. I feel he's got great potential largely because no one has had chance to try stifle his creativity yet. He's not hobbled with too many rules and technical obsessions. The result is his photograph is completely abstract and original. It shows a very individual way of looking at things. The great message for us all in John's shot is that you learn by experimenting and should never stop doing so.

Sycamore Gap - Image © John MacLeod
As you can see with a group of photographers in the same place at the same time the results vary hugely. This is for a very simple reason. The creative intent and the creative eye of each photographer is totaly different. This difference in creative intent shapes how a photographer will compose and what they want to show in their interpretation of a scene. It also tends to influence how and what they look for in the first place.

If there is a moral to the tale (and I am not sure there is!) then I think it is this one thing. There is no right and wrong image here there are just different interpretations of what was there. Don't mimic and don't fight your own creative urges. Be yourself, see for yourself and you will not go wrong.


John said...

Enjoyable article once again David. I remember seeing a bunch of red berries on a pleasantly twisted tree and thinking 'ooh berries, ooooh depth of field'... Creativity inspired by the whole camera, tripod, filter, landscape setup palaver and a wee bit of laziness!

What I did find was that spending time with a good bunch of people. With the skills, experience and varying perceptions you all had to share, it's definitely something I'd do again at the drop of a hat.

Chris Shepherd said...

I have not seen this point illustrated so well before. A good article that really shows how much input a photographer actually provides to an image.

Anthony said...

Nice article Dave, well written, and your point is excellently put across. When you said you wanted to do an article, I was not sure what to expect. This is a fabulous piece of work, and thanks for the "practised" photographers bit, made my day.

All the best old friend, see you again soon.


Paul Indigo said...

David, as you know I've often got another photographer with me, loitering about :-) and we are constantly amazed at how different our approach and images are to each other. Having said that it does happen that we take very similar images without even knowing it until we get back. It's rare though.

Your point is well made. Reality offers infinite opportunities.