Anticipation

anticipation (ænˌtɪsɪˈpeɪʃən) — n 1. the act of anticipating; expectation, premonition, or foresight – World English Dictionary

One of the greatest pleasures that large format photography gives me is the manner in which it encourages anticipation of the end result; the photograph. This feeling of anticipation is based upon a foundation of contemplation, thought and preparation. Conceiving the photograph, setting up the camera and preparing to take the photograph is a time consuming process in large format photography; with time measured in minutes, not seconds as is common with SLR type cameras.

However, anticipation is not limited to large format photographers, it’s a valuable emotion that all photographers can harness, regardless what type of camera used. It does however, require a different approach to photography than many SLR photographers are used to using. It’s an approach based upon forethought about how a scene could be rendered, and not a reaction to how it is.

Moonrise over Chinaman’s Hat. Kualoa Regional Park, Oahu, Hawaii.

Moonrise over Chinaman’s Hat. Kualoa Regional Park, Oahu, Hawaii. Toyo 45AII Camera, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5.6 lens on Fuji Velvia 100F.

Neither approach is wrong, of course, but I’ve found that my finest results come when I’ve anticipated the results before taking the photograph. So, what are the steps that go into the process of anticipation?

1. Know what you want. It seems quite elemental, but many photographers go out to take photographs without any thought given to what they desire to photograph or how it fits with their interests and photographic goals. It doesn’t matter if the objective is to photograph the sunrise, or whether the outing is part of a larger, more all encompassing, project. Knowing and defining the objective – the photographer’s “vision” – is essential.

It is not a peripheral subject reserved for the photographic elite or photographers with a sociopathic bent towards navel-gazing. It is the place we begin, and the road we travel, on the way to our goal – creating compelling photographs that express something we’ve no other means of expressing but through the frame.”David duChemin – The Vision Driven Photographer.

Without a clearly defined vision, the photographer will flounder, and there can be no real anticipation of what lies ahead, for the photograph. The lack of vision will carry over into the overall body of the photographer’s work, defining it in an unflattering manner. Vision enables you to glimpse into the future, to sense its hope and power, and builds a sense of anticipation that can be fulfilled by your photography.

2. Preparation and research. Once the determination about what to photograph has been made, the next step is to prepare to take the photograph. This can be one of the more mundane parts of the anticipation process, but it’s the part where you learn what is possible for the given subject and location.

I like to begin by considering the location and the lighting that I expect while there. Some subjects work better early in the morning, while others work better in the afternoon. Additionally, knowing the type of terrain to expect you can get a sense of how long it will take to get into position, and the direction where the majority of the lighting will come from. A good topographical map or a computer program like Photographer’s Ephemeris can be quite helpful.

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Simplicity in Composition

“The landscape is a complex subject but understanding that something is complex doesn’t mean that one must necessarily present the subject in a complex manner”. David Ward, Landscape Beyond – A Journey into Photography. (p.33)

In landscape photography, photographers are often confronted with the need to take a complex composition, and extract a clearer and easier to understand composition from it. The difficulty lies in determining which elements enhance, and which elements distract. This simplification is the key, however, to achieving meaningful results. There are three main aspects of simplification to consider.

1. Simplify by removing unwanted clutter from the frame. Begin by looking not at the subject, but at the frame around the subject. Remove any unnecessary clutter from the composition that may lead the viewer’s eye outside the composition, or away from the subject itself.

The subject, or the essential element, of the composition, may, at times, be the tiniest of details. In those cases, the composition isn’t necessarily of that element, but of the other elements of the composition that revolve around and give context to it. For example, in the following image, that tiny, essential, element was the small island named “Chinaman’s Hat.” The surrounding water served to show the environment where it is located. It provides a scene of solitude, peace and tranquility.

Chinaman’s Hat at Sunrise

Chinaman’s Hat at Sunrise. Kahaluu Bay, Oahu. Hawaii. Chamonix 45N-1 Camera, Schneider APO Symmar 210mm f5.6 lens on Fuji Velvia 50, using a Horseman 6×12 roll film back.

However, including the beach in the foreground (where I was standing to make the composition) would have served to pull the eye away from the tiny island as it woke to the rising sun, and destroyed its simplicity.

2. Simplify to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the subject. Secondly, what is it about the subject that stirs your emotions and ignites your desire to photograph it? That is the element  that the composition should emphasize.

Try “seeing” the underlying elements that caught your attention in the first place, and then exclude, or minimize, those elements that distract from your feelings toward the subject. One way to do that is to close one eye when looking at the composition. This gives a feeling for how the subject will appear in the photograph, and will help to determine what should be included or excluded. Remember, what you omit from the composition is just as important as what you include.

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Oregon Moonrise

A few years ago, on a trip to photograph the Oregon coast with Per Volquartz and a small group of large format  photographers, we camped for the night not far from Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area. Being the only photographer in the group specializing exclusively in color, I got up before sunrise to photograph from the nearby park.

Being on the US West Coast, with a small mountain range to the east, I knew that conditions weren’t ideal for a sunrise photograph. However, when I arrived at the park, I found the tidal flats were empty, the tide out, with a full moon in the sky. I knew that I couldn’t ask for better circumstances.

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Oregon Moonrise. Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area, Oregon. Toyo 45AII camera, Nikkor SW 90mm f8 lens on Fuji Velvia 50.

I’ve always found the Nikkor 90mm SW to be a difficult lens to work with, the small F8 aperture makes focusing on the ground glass difficult. As a result, while the foreground is sharp, the horizon isn’t as sharp as I would like. Since this time, I’ve upgraded to a Schneider Super-Symmar XL 80mm f4.5, which is an absolutely, beautiful lens to work with.

Later during this trip, we were able to meet with noted landscape photographer Christopher Burkett, in his home/workshop in Portland.

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Desert Light

Sunrise comes with a bang in the desert. One moment the air is still, stars twinkling in the sky. The next moment, the birds shout with joy, and the sun rises over the horizon as if propelling itself for the day. The rising sun bathes the landscape with a warm glow that imparts a sense of life to everything it touches.

During a trip to Australia’s Northern Territory I traveled north from the town of Alice Springs to Devils Marbles Conservation Area, a distance of about 400km. Arriving late in the afternoon, I immediately began looking for a vantage point from which to photograph at sunrise.

While scouting for such locations, I often look for a subject that is 90 degrees from the point where the sun will rise, in order to take advantage of the side lighting. I’ll also look for a location with good foreground interest, should I decide to photograph into the sun.

After spending the night in the adjacent camping area, I started out well before sunrise to the spot I had previously located, eager to catch the photograph that was firmly planted in my mind.

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For this photograph, I chose a horizontal format, in order to emphasize the open horizon in the background, while focusing on the rocks and Ghost Gum (Eucalyptus) tree in the foreground. I knew that the Ghost Gum, noted for its almost pure white trunk, would reflect the warmth of the rising sun in a pleasing manner. This juxtaposition of complimentary colors, the warm orange of the tree trunk and the blue sky in the background provides a balance between the elements of the photograph.

Photo Details: First Light, Devils Marbles Conservation Area, Northern Territory, Australia. Toyo45AII camera, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5.6 lens, Horseman 6×12 roll film back on Fuji Velvia.

First Light

Landscape photographers often feel that nothing can be more exciting than the first peak of sun in the morning as it rises over the horizon. It brings with it an interplay of sky, sun and clouds, adding an emotional appeal to our subject.

I often find myself taking long walks in the dark, in order to be a just the right location to greet the new day, knowing the excitement it brings. Such was the case when I visited Moeraki Boulders, on New Zealand’s South Island east coast a few years ago. Leaving the car park where I had spent the night in my rented RV, I walked the 2km to where the boulders are located. I had scouted the previous afternoon for a spot to setup, so I proceeded to setup the camera, in the dark, with the aid of a flashlight. Once the sun started to rise, I waited for the optimum time; just after the surf had broken over the boulders in the foreground.

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This also illustrates a technique I use frequently in my photography; that of including a sense of movement, or moment, in the scene. In this case, I knew where the surf would break, and how far up the shore it would come. Then, it was a simple matter of watching the surf, and tripping the cable release at the optimum moment.

Photo Details: Sunrise, Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand. Toyo 45AII camera (4×5), Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5.6 lens, .6 Split Neutral Density Filter, on Fuji Velvia 50.

of Luck and Preparation

Writer and motivational speaker Brian Tracy tells us that “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.  Perfect performance comes from painstaking preparation, often for weeks, months and years in advance.”

Truer words could not be spoken about the art of landscape photography. As landscape photographers, we have no control over lighting, weather or the scenic layout of our subjects. That’s where preparation becomes important. We prepare when we go out with our cameras, even though the weather doesn’t look promising, or when we would rather be sleeping in.

Following on from my last blog post, after following the Murray River to its outlet into the sea, I then followed the southern coastline in Victoria, an area known as the “Great Ocean Road" towards the city of Melbourne. Late in the evening, having just passed through the sea side town of Lorne, I was running quite low on fuel and being afraid of running out in the middle of the night, with no place open to refuel, I decided to pull over for the night.

As sunrise approached I recognized the potential for great light. It was dark when I had arrived the previous evening, leaving me unable to scout for a suitable foreground location in advance. This is where previous experience and preparation came into play; they gave me the edge in understanding the relationship between sea and land. Guided by a flashlight I found a great place to setup. This photograph is the result.

Blazing Sunrise, Great Ocean Road

In addition to helping pick the right location, preparation helped me to setup the large format camera, a bulky and exacting camera to setup even in the best of lighting conditions, well in advance of sunrise. Without an understanding of the camera, based upon years of experience, I could not have gotten the depth of field, while balancing the light and dark areas of the scene (by use of a split neutral density filter) that I desired for the final photograph.

The luck was in the sunrise itself, preparation allowed it to be captured on film in a pleasing manner.

Photo details: Sunrise, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia. Toyo 45AII camera (4×5), Nikkor 90mm f8, .6 Split Neutral Density Filter, on Fuji Velvia 100.

of Light and Land

I’d like to thank you, and welcome you to my blog “of Light and Land”. On this blog I’ll be exploring the world through photography. I’ve had a passion for photography for more than 30 years now, and I’m still excited every time I take my cameras out.

One difference you will find about my photography is my preference for film cameras. Yes, I do have a digital camera like most photographers, however, I get the most enjoyment out of using film cameras.

I currently live in Hawaii, but I’ve been fortunate to have traveled around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. I can’t think of any better way to introduce you to my home and my blog, than with a simple photograph.

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Photo Details: Sunrise, Lanikai Beach, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This photograph was taken with a Toyo 45AII camera, Schneider 135mm f 5.6 Symmar-S lens, on my preferred Fuji Velvia 50.

Long live film…