Photographs  Are Made

(The Dead Trees at Norsworth Plantation)

The British weather is a fickle creature, and unexpectedly I find myself sat outside in the sun on May bank holiday. And although not the main purpose of this blog, I find myself reflecting on previous months where although being photographically busy I have not been that productive. May traditionally sees the end of the photographic season for clubs in the UK and my role as lecturer and judge takes a vacation, giving way to processing new work, updating the websites, blogs and getting ready for the next season. So if you find yourself reading this and and belong to camera club I’m taking bookings now for next year. Although it’s now time to focus on my own photography, the late spring giving way to summer only brings longer daylight hours and Ironically I prefer the shorter days and lower sun of Autumn and Winter.

This photograph was taken a few days after driving past this location on the way to another. I saw the dead trees from the road against the dark leaves of the plantation and knew that their must be a strong monochrome photograph waiting to be made.

One of the advantages of living inside the Dartmoor National Park is that most locations are within an hours drive, and this particular one less than 10 minutes. A fleeting glimpse and a wild imagination, are rarely realised by the first press of the shutter. Visiting the location proved a disappointment as my original concept was not possible the background not as clean the foreground cluttered and the dead trees not as interesting as first thought. So I settled on a composition including a strong foreground with plenty of texture, a sky full of impact, and a row of dark trees to frame the dead trees.

 Dartmoor Trees, Brian Northmore Photography

On many levels this photograph works, it has all the attributes previously described above, but as the creator of the photograph it doesn’t speak to me. Others maybe happy with it. The point of my original photograph was to show these dead trees, their relationship with each other and surrounding area. Landscape photographs just as with other forms of photography communicate what the photographer saw, but if the photograph is taken and not made, then the connection with viewer and landscape has not been lead by the photographers creative vision; it’s left to luck.

The original photograph as marked up below fails. I had seen and wanted to show the dead trees and in this composition their importance has been diminished by a strong foreground, a standard focal length has increased the depth in the image but rendered the trees smaller in the frame. The sky although interesting is also dominating, it’s too busy and my main subject is hidden in the confusion.

 Example marked up photograph with suggestions for improvements

Living close to the location a return visit was easy to arrange, and less than 24 hours latter I found myself kneeled down in virtually the same spot recomposing the photograph. This time the weather had been kind the overcast sky was competing less with the landscape. The photograph still needed a foreground, but the expanse of trees were unnecessary, and recomposing the photograph as a square brought the focus back onto the dead trees. But they were still to small in the frame. Changing to a longer focal length brought the trees closer and compressed the perspective, but the square format and relationship between the trees could only be maintained by taking two portrait format images and stitching them together.

 Dead Trees Norsworthy Plantation, Dartmoor

Final processing was completed in Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop and Nik.