Bracing Myself

In just a few days time, I will be thrown back into Winter. Each February I spend two weeks above the arctic circle in Norway's Lofoten islands, and each year it's just like a winter reset.

Made after several days of looking at this scene. Sometimes I like to let a view sit in my mind's eye for a while before I know how I think I want to capture it.

Made after several days of looking at this scene. Sometimes I like to let a view sit in my mind's eye for a while before I know how I think I want to capture it.

It can be a bit of a jolt to the system, to have to go to Norway at the end of January. While winter is starting to show signs of loosening it's grip here in Scotland ( the days are gradually getting longer), it's not the case in the Lofoten islands up above the arctic circle.

One of the ways I cope with this, is to review my images from Lofoten. It helps me get my 'head into gear' for the trip ahead. My mind is filled with mountains and that beautiful northern light for days before I arrive.

I think there always has to be a 'settling in' period when we venture out with the camera. Go somewhere so different from where we've come from, and it can me physiologically challenging.

But today I've been thinking about the image at the top of this post. It is the view from my friend Camilla's spare bedroom. Camilla lives in the beautiful town of Reine, and her home is situated on the very edge of Reinefjorden. It's one of the most amazing views in the world as far as I am concerned, and it's a place where you can constantly study the shifts in light and season.

Making the photo you see here was hard. Simply because each time I looked out my bedroom window, the view seemed to suggest that although there was something beautiful happening every second, trying to capture the essence of it, would be a challenge.

I think some locations can be quite intimidating on that front. They're just so enigmatic, that the act of trying to start, to begin to make photographs of it, can be quite daunting. Start on the wrong foot and you might just screw up. Take the wrong approach and you might find you feel dissatisfied with what you create: often I feel there has to be a right time and it's best to just leave things until it feels right. So I left my camera in the bag for a few days.

The pressure was gone.

I just enjoyed what I was seeing and this in turn allowed my mind to become immersed in Lofoten. I found my mind and my dreams of what I was seeing began to sink into my emotions over the coming days until it eventually became second-nature. 

I started to understand, to anticipate what the winter storms were going to do to the view I had in front of me. I knew by now where the snow showers were going to go and what parts of the mountain scenery would be obscured and it was at that moment that I took up my camera and started to make photographs.

New e-Book - Simplifying Composition 2nd Edition Available

I'm pleased to let you know, that as of today, I've released a second edition of my popular 'Simplifying Composition' e-Book.

completely re-written and expanded (now 68 pages long).

completely re-written and expanded (now 68 pages long).

I felt that since writing the first one in 2010, my abilities as a workshop teacher had moved on quite a lot. Over the years I've been teaching my workshops, I've added to my thoughts on composition, so much so, that I felt I needed to update the book to reflect this.

But rather than updating the e-Book, I've chosen to totally re-write it from scratch. So it's definitely worth getting if you liked the first one, and want to learn some new things :-)

Flow..... and relationships between similar shapes and patterns.

Flow..... and relationships between similar shapes and patterns.


More about the new edition


The new edition is double in size - 68 pages long to be exact, and is packed with lots of new advice and tips on improving your compositional awareness while out in the field and when reviewing the work later on.

In writing this edition, my aim was to utilise the experiences gained over the past six years teaching workshops, to give you an updated view on how to simplify your compositional skills.

The book is split into three sections:

  1. Flow. Learning how to guide the eye through the frame in a comfortable and pleasing manner    
  2. Compositional Devices. By using certain features within the landscape,  we can strengthen and simplify our compositions    
  3. Fieldwork. Best practices, techniques and approach while out in the field

And here is the table of contents to the new version:

S-curves and also background emphasis with focal-lengths.

S-curves and also background emphasis with focal-lengths.


Table of Contents


3    Introduction Part 1. Flow
6    The flow of your eye
7     Interpreting the flow within an image
10    An example


Part 2. Compositional Devices

13    Introducing the diagonal line
16    Looking for diagonals in the ground
20    Looking for diagonals in the sky
23    Introducing the curve
25    Curves & mirroring
28    Introducing the s-curve
31    Asymmetrical s-curves
33    Patterns, mirroring & tonal separation
35    Cohesion in the landscape


Part 3. Fieldwork

39    Foreground emphasis
41    Background emphasis
44    Vertical spacing between subjects
47    Avoiding the fish tank effect
52    Visualising in 2D
56    Working with parallax
59    Strengthening composition
62    strengthening cohesion
65    Improving your workflow
68    epilogue

Mirroring in the landscape, asymmetrical shapes in the landscape and parallax issues.

Mirroring in the landscape, asymmetrical shapes in the landscape and parallax issues.

I feel particularly pleased with this updated edition. I felt I got the sequencing of the chapters right because one aspect of composition seemed to lead onto another in a way that has made the book very easy to get into.

I do hope you enjoy reading this one. I fully intend it to be a reference that you can return to time and time again.

Rusty

A few days ago I posted that I was currently in Lalibela, Ethiopia for a special orthodox christian celebration. It’s been wonderful to come back and experience the place for a second time and I feel I’ve done much better this time in portraying the soul of some of the inhabitants of this town. There are a few images etched into my mind that really stand out: I have a few of local priests and of some of the beautiful children here, but maybe the ones that really stand out in my mind are those of the Ethiopian woman wearing traditional head dress.

Ethiopia-21.jpg

I’ve been thinking today about why it might be the case that I’ve done better this time. Especially since I feel my efforts haven’t justified the images that are imprinted on my mind so far. Four years ago when I came here, I really worked the place as much as I could and felt I didn’t really ‘get’ the place. This time round it’s the opposite way - I feel I’ve put very little effort in and yet I think I’ve captured quite a few memorable portraits in the space of two days.

How can this be? I’m really not sure, and currently it’s just a hunch as I haven’t seen the final processed films yet. But if I have learned one thing over the years of shooting film, it is that when I manage to make a memorable photograph: I tend to know it at the time of capture. The good ones just seem to be like that - they leave an indelible impression on your mind and emotions and I’ve found that they stay there, powerfully, right up until I get the processed films back from the lab and the confirmation that what I felt and saw at the time really did work.

Of course, it would be very easy to say that the reason why everything has gone so well this time is due to my improvement as a photographer. But I don’t think so. In fact I’m feeling rather rusty when it comes to photographing people, particularly in developing world countries. 

First there is the issue of feeling that I’m exploiting my subjects, even though I know I’m not like that and would never take advantage. But being surrounded by poverty tends to make you stare at yourself a bit more than usual and ask yourself some awkward questions.

As I stated a few days ago, I seem to have become really shy in front of people I really want to photograph. My guide helped a lot, but he couldn’t read my mind and he didn’t know when I was secretly longing to photograph someone. Inside, I’m crumbing to pieces at the thought of approaching them. God, I really am rusty as a people photographer.

But perhaps there’s something in this unfocussed approach to my trip that’s working for me, rather than against me. My feeling of helplessness is in some ways, making me go more with the flow. I’ve more or less decided that it’s just great to be here, and any good photos are an added bonus. I can’t help but wonder if serendipity is paying me a visit and offering me more than if I’d tried to orchestrate it myslef. I really don’t know.

As well as myself changing in the past four years, so too has Lalibela. Coming back has allowed me to compare, but it’s also forced me to notice the differences between what I was looking for back then, and what I’m looking for now. Years ago I would be very happy if I managed to get someone’s attention to work with me on a photograph, whereas now I feel I’m looking for more of a connection in the way they smile at me or how they talk to my camera.

And Lalibela is a bit more confident these days. Everyone seems to have mobile phones - Chinese fake Samsung Galaxy phones, and the town is a little more touristy than it was back in 2010. Tuk Tuk’s are everywhere - those strange little car inventions from India arrived only six months ago and I can already see the streets of people and mules being replaced by two stroke engines in four years time if I do ever return. But mostly I feel the inhabitants are getting used to cameras being around and I guess that’s maybe why I’m finding things just a bit easier this time. Ethiopian’s are very generous people at heart, sincere and open and they like to share. It seems that asking to make photos of people here is considered a compliment rather than an intrusion.

One last thought before I go. Coming back to Ethiopia has made me re-connect with why I got into what I do in the first place. The wonder of exploring a place that is completely different from my western existence has always made me feel more alive. It also offers me the chance not only to see new things, but to see things about my own life and myself that I had never had the luxury to consider before.

Next stop Japan, then Bhutan in April. I can’t wait to see what unfolds as I feel I’ve found my passion again for photographing people, even if I am a little rusty.

Lalibela, Ethiopia

As I type this, I'm sitting in the Seven Olives hotel in the heart of Lalibela, Ethiopia. I've come here to photograph the special christian celebration Timkat.

It's been four years since I came here to photograph Meskel - a special orthodox christian celebration held each year in September. 

I remember my first visit well. I was a little overwhelmed by the people, who appear to dress the same as back in biblical times. Lalibela is after all one of the birth places of christianity.

Photographically speaking, I was also a little overwhelmed back then and today I'm finding nothing has changed for me. I seem to be going through a period of adjustment. Landscape photography may come easily to me, but I feel it takes me a day or two to settle into making pictures of people. Most of my adjustment period is due to an inner shyness that I have. I'm not really sure where the core of my shyness sits: I was very shy as a kid, less so as a teenager and I'm very open as an adult, but I think we all have that inner-core - that old-self still lurking within us. So I think my young-shy self is still there, but he only really comes out when I'm faced with something I really love. When it matters, as is the case when I see a potential beautiful photograph of someone, I can become quite unable to direct my subjects to get what I am envisaging.

I saw so many great compositions this morning on my first outing with my guide - Muchaw - who is one of the Deacons here. But I really didn't have much confidence to take my camera up to my eye at first. I guess I just have too much respect for others as I simply do not wish to offend and would be hurt if I knew I'd upset anyone. 

But my guide is a great help in this respect. He is able to break the ice where I could not and I think this is one thing that I have reminded myself of - it's always worth employing a guide when I travel, as they can help smooth the relations between the subjects I wish to photograph and me. Plus I also think that hiring a guide is good, because it's a positive way of giving some money back to the local economy.

It's only the first morning, but tomorrow and Tuesday are two full days of celebrations. I think there should be many photographic opportunities since my guide has got me access to the heart of the celebrations.

Looking back at my first visit in 2010, I remember being right in the heart of some dance celebration making photos and found myself staring out towards the surrounding crowd.  In that crowd, were all the tourists I'd gotten to know at my hotel, each of them with a bemused look on their face as if asking 'how on earth did Bruce get in there?'.

It was so tempting to take a digital SLR for this shoot. Many of the locations are in dimly lit churches, and it's something that I might have to reconsider for another time. It is High ISO territory for sure if you want to be able to shoot everything here. But I prefer to work with what I know well and love, and so I've brought two Contax 645 bodies and a few lenses with me. I have the 55, 80 and 140 which translate approximately to 35, 40 and 70mm. Film stock is Kodak Portra 160.

I feel this year is about making people pictures. It's about having a welcome change. It's also something I love very much as it gives me inspiration in ways that landscape photography does not. Even though I feel that portraiture is not something that comes as naturally to me I get a lot of pleasure out of the exchange with my subjects and often the photography is of secondary importance.

Iceland March 2015 - Last minute cancellation - space available

Dear all,

Just a quick head's up today that a space has become available for my Iceland trip this March 2nd to 10th. If you'd like to know more about it - just click on the image below :-)

Iceland South Coast

£2,995 full price

Black sand beaches and dramatic glacial ice

The south coast of Iceland has dramatic black sand beaches, bassalt sea stacks, and a glacial lagoon with beautiful ice sculptures scattered across the coast line.

Add To Cart

You'll be in good hands - there are another six on the group (I like to run with small group sizes - not the usual twelve or sixteen that many other tours run with) plus I have my good friend Raynor assisting me for the nine days we are there.

As it stands, I believe this might be my last south-coast trip for a while, as I'm planning some new tours for 2016.

A free Icelandic Location e-Book

My good friend Hawk, who assists me as my tour-guide for many of my Icelandic photographic  tours, has just published a free e-book about locations in Iceland.

Hawk is an experienced Icelandic tour operator who knows his locations well. Alongside his father Finnur, both of whom I got to know while spending time in Reykjavik,  they run a tour company that offers private bespoke tours around Iceland throughout the year.

In Hawk & Finnur's e-book, they have covered a variety of locations from the accessible to the more remote, often letting you into a secret or two about each place.  They have also ensured that the safety aspects of visiting certain locations around the country has been covered and just like all Icelanders I know, have written the e-book assuming that you take responsibility for your actions.

Iceland is not a country of railings and warning signs. It's really up to you to be careful and respectful when visiting this delicate landscape. The vegetation for instance, only grows for a few months each year, and driving into deserts where tracks erode the landscape is subject to heavy fines.

If you'd like a copy of Hawk's book, you can find it at http://www.hawk.is/books-on-iceland/photo-guide-to-iceland/ and if you would like to know more about his own tour company, you can find out more information here: NatureExplorer.is

The Father of Asian Photography

Photography continues to give me so much joy. Often I never see where that joy may come from until it arrives and last week has been a perfect example of that.

While running a workshop in the north of Scotland, one of my clients - Anmeng - told me that my photography reminded her of a photographer from her homeland of China. She explained that Lang Jingshan's photographs almost feel like paintings, and she saw the same aesthetic in my own imagery. I was intrigued, because I know my influences well: Michael Kenna's work from China and Japan have made quite an impression on me and I think I've learned a great deal about composition from immersing myself in his beautiful work. So I had a hunch that what Anmeng was seeing in my own work, was perhaps Kenna's influence on me. 

Drawing Water from the River at Dawn, 1934, photograph by Lang Jingshan

Drawing Water from the River at Dawn, 1934, photograph by Lang Jingshan

After the workshop, Anmeng came round to show me some of the work she had been mentioning and also to tell me about some places in China that she thought I would really enjoy visiting. The conversation was very good and I felt I learned a bit more about China, but also, that I got to hear about a great photographer that I'd never heard of before.

The images you see in this post today were made by Lang Jingshan, who died in 1995 at the age of 103. He is considered to be the father of Asian photography by many.

Some of the work you see here dates from around the 1930's or earlier. I read up a bit about him today and discovered that he 'defined a style', which I feel is almost a photographic version of Chinese historical painting. It's very beautiful and I believe many of the images are the result of merging several negatives together in the darkroom. This is nothing new of course as photographers have been combining negatives and other such manipulations in their work since the dawn of photography. But I think there is a very eastern 'elegance' to the work shown here.

Photograph by Lang Jingshan

Photograph by Lang Jingshan

There's obviously a sense of romance, but also of space and delicate use of light and space in the work. I think I am a fan.

I had a look around to see if it's possible to buy some books of Lang Jingshan's work, but they are either out of print or simply impossible to get. Which is a real shame.

I'd like to know more, and continue to be inspired by what I see in his work. He makes me want to go to China now, and although I have no intention of copying the style, I can't help wonder what might come of spending time in some of the beautiful landscapes of China.

Mooring in the Misty River at Night, 1937, photograph by Lang Jingshan

Mooring in the Misty River at Night, 1937, photograph by Lang Jingshan

As one thing leads to another, so to does inspiration move from one photographer to another. I believe that what my Chinese friend saw in my work, was Kenna's influence, and Kenna in turn, has been influenced by his study of Chinese art and other photographers. I know so because Michael told me of his love for another Chinese photographer who's work he has collected in the past.

Photograph by Lang Jingshan

Photograph by Lang Jingshan

Maybe these images look historical or old to you. Maybe you see the beauty in them that I see also. There's so much to be gained by learning about photographers, old as well as new. Sometimes work that was created long ago, is only interesting from a historical perspective, but it's also wonderful when something like Lang Jingshan's work leaps out at me and fills me with wonder. I think that's just such an amazing thing to happen: that we can be inspired by work that was created so long ago, and is, to most, long forgotten.

Many thanks to Anmeng Li for coming to Skye with me, and for sharing Lang Jingshan's work with me :-)

A new year, a continuation of a book project

Dear reader, Happy new year!

Well it's a new year and I'm keen to get on with some new projects and some not so new :-)

One not so new project is that of a third printed book. This one, hopefully will be about the Altiplano region of South America, slated for release sometime in late 2016 if things go according to plan.

This is just a 'working'  cover and may not resemble the final cover in any way. It's just something I like to create during the early stages, as it helps me visualise, get direction and maintain focus.

This is just a 'working'  cover and may not resemble the final cover in any way. It's just something I like to create during the early stages, as it helps me visualise, get direction and maintain focus.

Altiplano means 'high-altitude plain'. So it's a bit of a catch-all for some of the high elevation landscapes of South America.

A monograph on the altiplano has been something I've been working towards since 2012. The set of images I created on that visit got me thinking about a book project. I seemed to get a handle on the more abstract, minimalist landscapes of this region as I think they allow for a study of form, tone and colour. 

I returned in 2013 thinking that I just needed one more trip to have enough images for a book. But things didn't work out that way. I went back with a fixed set of visuals in my mind of what I needed to 'complete the picture' of what I saw in 2012, only to find that I was presented with yet another story, a further subtext to the original story I had visualised. I now feel I've found a landscape that has much potential for showing me the way forward in terms of personal growth and development of my own style. Each subsequent visit so far, has just opened up more doors for me.

Images from my 2013 shoot.

Images from my 2013 shoot.

This year I will be visiting the altiplano regions of Chile, Bolivia and also a new area of Argentina that I only just recently found out about. I will be there for just under two months and I can't wait to see what new stories unfold for me whilst there.

I have a Bolivian friend - Marisol, from the town of Uyuni. She is a professional guide and will be accompanying me on my trips across the high plains of southern Bolivia. Marisol lived in Edinburgh for over a year as a sponsored student and it is here that I got to know her. She has since acted as my guide on several of my private trips around the Bolivian sector of the altiplano.

There always seems to be a sense of serendipity to what I do and I'm grateful for the introduction to Marisol by my friend Kathy, who is also responsible for setting up my South American tours via her tour company Andean Trails.

The region of Argentina I am visiting is called the Puna. From what I know of it so far, it will compliment what I've already photographed, but at the same time add an additional dimension to the collection of images, should the trip go well. 

As with everything, you have to speculate to accumulate and I always see first visits to new landscapes as introductory ones. Often I find I need to go at least twice to a new location; once to find out what I want to photograph and get a handle on the logistics involved, and second time, to actually focus on the areas of interest. Besides, I prefer to visit a place many times, as that way I get to know its personality as well as get to understand the more subtle aspects of it.

Velvia transparencies on my light table. If you've never seen a transparency on a light table before, then you're missing something. It makes the review process much more engaging. I never felt as inspired whilst looking at RAW files on a computer screen. Illuminated transparencies are alive; they glow. It's like you've captured a pocket of light from a location and transported it back home.

Velvia transparencies on my light table. If you've never seen a transparency on a light table before, then you're missing something. It makes the review process much more engaging. I never felt as inspired whilst looking at RAW files on a computer screen. Illuminated transparencies are alive; they glow. It's like you've captured a pocket of light from a location and transported it back home.

I need projects, otherwise photography for me is just 'aimless pottering about'. I also need to complete them, otherwise I never get clearance to move onto new ones.

And they have given me so much.  What I love about them the most, apart from the experiences involved in creating the work,  is that the final results are often more surprising than I had originally envisaged. They are a constant reminder that I can steer my own direction, realise my dreams and handle much more than I often think I'm capable of.

Simplifying Composition, 2nd Edition, almost done!

Since becoming a full-time workshop leader in 2008, I feel I've experienced and gained so much more than I ever imaged I would. One aspect of this, has been my own development as a teacher. It's been a great experience for me to teach others - sometimes intense, often a lot of fun, very sociable and highly rewarding. 

2nd edition - a complete rewrite

2nd edition - a complete rewrite

One of the biggest privileges of being a teacher is that it's not just your students that learn. You learn too.

I feel very privileged to  regularly have the opportunity to get a better understanding of many of the core competencies of photography, simply by having to teach them. I now look at each workshop I do, not just as a place to teach others, but also as a space in which to strengthen my own understanding of what I do and why I do it.

It's been quite some journey and every now and then I like to look back and review things. See where I've been, how far I've come.

Way back in 2010, I published an e-book titled Simplifying Composition . It has been one of my most popular titles and I've used it as the basis of my workshops here in Scotland for many years.  

This year I've been feeling that it's about time the e-Book was updated to reflect where I am now as a teacher. Because of this, I've gone back to scratch and rewritten it.

I'm pleased to tell you that the first draft of the new edition is now complete. Other work commitments aside, I hope to have the new edition released early in the new year.

Your Own Voice (continued)

A few days ago, I posted some of my thoughts on creating a style, of finding one's own voice.

Today I've been thinking that our choice of which medium we use for our art can have a dramatic impact on how effective we are in conveying our message.

I was a song writer from the age of 12 right up until I hit burn-out at the age of 33. If someone had asked during that period to define who I was, I would have said I was a musician.

But it's apparent to me in hindsight, that I was using the wrong medium for a long time.

I've discovered in the last fourteen years or so, that my creative voice is expressed better as a visual artist, or if you prefer a more defined term - as a photographer. If I could travel back in time and tell my musician-me that I was going to end up being a photographer and that my true voice would be expressed through pictures - I wouldn't have believed it. It just wouldn't have made sense to me one bit at that stage in my life.

The move to photography from music wasn't a premeditated one. I just followed my own feelings and intuition. I just found myself drawn more to the outdoors and to thinking visually. So I think if we ever do find a voice, it tends to happen because we follow our own inclinations and we don't think too much about it - we just do it.

I'm curious though, as to why I had fought off being a photographer for so long? When I look back, even when I was creating music and spending all my hours and days working on it, I had already formed a deep interest in photography. I owned many photography books and I also owned a few canon EOS cameras. I had just never consciously made the switch. Whether I needed to acknowledge it as a conscious decision is something I'm not so sure about - I just think that the creative arts require us to be fluid and open to whatever may come.

But we have to trust our own intuition. I often feel that I just follow what feels right - whether it's a decision to go and photograph a new country or location, or whether it's to choose one image over another to scan and work on in my studio. It's all just based on gut feeling.

So I think if we ever do find a voice, it's because we are listening to the changes that come from within. That's why I feel that we need to go it alone. It's also why I feel that pandering to others opinions or trends does nothing to aid us in finding out who we really are.

Your own voice

 This week I was interviewed by the UK photographic magazine 'Black & White Photography'. It was interesting to find out that they were particularly interested in my isle of Harris photos below. 

During my chat with Mark Bentley, we got on to the subject of style and that of finding your own voice.

Isle of Harris images as requested by the Uk magazine 'Black & White Photography'. I'm always surprised by the choices others make when choosing which images of mine to use for publication. I've learned that I can't guess how some of my images will be received, and I never hear the same things about them. This has taught me that I just need to listen and trust my own intuition first and foremost. I can't anticipate what others will like or dislike about my work, and the only person I need to satisfy is myself.

Isle of Harris images as requested by the Uk magazine 'Black & White Photography'. I'm always surprised by the choices others make when choosing which images of mine to use for publication.

I've learned that I can't guess how some of my images will be received, and I never hear the same things about them. This has taught me that I just need to listen and trust my own intuition first and foremost. I can't anticipate what others will like or dislike about my work, and the only person I need to satisfy is myself.

I've worked with many participants through the years on my workshops here in Scotland. The subject of finding a style is never far away from our daily critique sessions, so it's only natural that I should have formed some views on this.

To my mind, a voice is a unique thing. to be recognised, you need to stand out from everyone else in some way. So I think the main characteristic of those who create very personal work is that they have a deep trust in themselves to be independent and do their own thing.

Anyone who does something unique does so,  because they do not to pander to trends or others opinions. Take it from me: I hear opinions about my work from others all the time and there is so much variety in what others tell me, that I've come to the conclusion that if I tried to follow it - I'd get lost pretty quickly. Instead, what I choose to do (note that I'm the one choosing what to do here) - is listen to the stuff that makes sense or enlightens me in some way.  The rest - the stuff that I feel doesn't make sense or can't see any value in, I just take as someone else's opinion. Interestingly, I find that most of the time, others opinions usually tell me more about them, than me.

No one else can live my life or make my creative decisions for me. The only person who knows where I want to go with my photography is ultimately me. I can glean some advice from others but in general, the impetus to do anything in my work has to come from within. 

So here are my thoughts on finding your own voice.

  • Your own voice, is something you find when you go it alone.
  • Your own voice, is something that only you can find.
  • Your own voice, is something that comes through a process of self enquiry.
  • Your own voice, is something that becomes apparent over time.
  • Your own voice, is something that comes to you when you listen and observe the changes within you.
  • Your own voice, can't be found by being part of the derivative. Follow others and you quickly get lost in a sea of ubiquity.
  • Your own voice, is something that happens when you are free of current trends.
  • Your own voice, is something that comes when you don't try to please others.
  • Your own voice, is something that comes when you are free of expectations.
  • Your own voice, is something that comes when you are free of ego.
  • Your own voice, is something that comes when you know yourself (i.e your capabilities and limitations).
  • Your own voice, comes when you stop copying your influences. Embrace your influences and use them as the basis for where you start, but don't get tied to them.
  • Your own voice, comes when you do your art for you and you alone.

In a nutshell, you need to have the courage to follow your own path, and above all, believe in yourself.

The Evolution of a Contact Sheet

When I'm busy editing my work, as I have been for the past few weeks, I like to collate all the edited work together and periodically do a review of it, to see how the portfolio is shaping up as I add newly scanned and edited work.

Some images from Fjallabak and also the north east of Iceland, taken this summer and autumn. Images © Bruce Percy. Mamiya 7 camera, Fuji Velvia RVP 50 film.

Some images from Fjallabak and also the north east of Iceland, taken this summer and autumn. Images © Bruce Percy. Mamiya 7 camera, Fuji Velvia RVP 50 film.

This has many benefits as I see it:

1) I'm able to see how new images added to the portfolio contribute by either enhancing or sometimes weakening the overall character of the collection.

2)  I can spot themes in the work which might suggest a direction that the work and future edits should take.

3) It helps me see when some images don't work because of colour problems and also tonal inconsistencies with the other images in the collection

4) The creation of a portfolio is an evolutionary process. As images are added to it, it grows and its character becomes richer. Sometimes a new story is unfolded in the process and what I thought the portfolio was going to look like, is radically changed.

It's also immensely satisfying to watch how the portfolio evolves. Like the act of making the images in the first place, there is a deep satisfaction in watching the work reach full completion.

Some portfolios come together very easily and quickly. Sometimes it's clear that there is a theme to the work before I start to edit, and other times, it's really not obvious to me at all.

I find the scanning and editing in the digital darkroom to be a fluid and iterative process. I may feel that certain images are finished, only to find several days later that they need to be re-tuned to fit with the colour palette or tonal response that the other images are dictating.

In order to let the portfolio evolve, I've got to keep an open mind, and be willing to go back and review an image I previously thought was done.

Images © Bruce Percy. Mamiya 7 camera, Fuji Velvia RVP 50 film.

Images © Bruce Percy. Mamiya 7 camera, Fuji Velvia RVP 50 film.

Some artists say their work is never done, and I tend to agree with this. Images that we work on this week are really more a statement of who we were or how we were feeling at that moment in time. Edit the work months or years later and we may find we come up with a different interpretation.

But still, I don't like to look back too often. Although there is value in revisiting one's work from time to time I'm wary of falling into a hole that I can't get back out of: revisit your work, but don't endlessly rework it. That way lies an unhealthy obsession with perfectionism.

There is a lot of freedom to be gained by accepting that your older work is a statement of who you were at that time. Being able to let go of the past is healthy as it makes room for the future and in a sense, invites new work into your creative life.

The black deserts and volcanos of the central highlands of Iceland. Images © Bruce Percy. Mamiya 7 camera, Fuji Velvia RVP 50 film.

The black deserts and volcanos of the central highlands of Iceland. Images © Bruce Percy. Mamiya 7 camera, Fuji Velvia RVP 50 film.

These images are my new work, and as such, it's too soon for me to be objective about them. I'm going to need some distance and that means some time away from them.

All I can tell you is that the images didn't come easily to me. The central highlands of Iceland is a difficult, wild place. I'm always looking for a graphic element to any place I visit and in this instance it was often not so easy to find.  I think this says more about me and my own approach (read that as criticism of my own limitations).

To add to the complexity of the place, the light was not easy to work with. The deserts are black and often times it felt as though the sun was bleeding out of the corner of my eye. Contrast is a massive issue here. 

Yet I feel that this is exactly what is so compelling about the central highlands of Iceland. Some landscapes are beautiful because of their awkwardness. They are complex and challenging and they are captivating because of these qualities. 

A landscape like the central highlands of Iceland is a defiant one. It will not submit to you. Rather, you have to submit to it. 

I feel I have only just scratched the surface of this intriguing place.

A Stark Beauty

Wishing for the golden rays of the sun to come and light up the landscape may be something that we all aspire to. But I believe that having this aim in mind isn't necessarily always a good thing.

Geothermal, Black Deserts & Ice hugging

Geothermal, Black Deserts & Ice hugging

Some landscapes are muted in colour by nature. I think this kind of understated tonality has a beauty to it - one that we as photographers need to embrace when we encounter it.

I think the central highlands of Iceland is one such place. It can be stark, bleak and yet it is a beautiful thing to witness. I can however, fully understand that to many, words such as 'stark' and 'bleak' could be construed as meaning 'ugly' or 'unwanted'. 

As a landscape photographer who has had a great deal of interest in vibrant colours, I have to say that there has been a subtle change in what I do over the past years - not just in how I edit my work but also in what I am looking for in the landscape. I think this has been an evolutionary thing for me. These days if I encounter a landscape that is devoid of colour, I think I'm more willing to accept it for what it is. I now see a kind of beauty where perhaps years ago I wouldn't have and as a result, i'm more comfortable representing it in all its muted, monochromatic glory.

For me, I think that's one of the reasons why I'm so captivated by the central highlands of Iceland. It's there that I'm confronted with oblique shapes and unconditional tones of muted grey. It is what it is and it can't be forced to be something else.

Natural & Hydro Powered Landscapes

Natural & Hydro Powered Landscapes

For instance, some of the deserts appear to be devoid of colour. They are almost absolute black. They can't really be conveyed in any other way than their stark quality. And It's in this immensity of constant 'nothingness' that I've been drawn in. It's like I'm looking for something underneath, something just out of sight that  I know is there. Each photograph I take, is an attempt to convey that, yet each time I feel I'm just scratching the surface.

I think some landscapes offer us many lessons. They are places in which we can grow. But we have to be receptive to them. I've often said that visiting a certain landscape in my own photographic development has been key to showing me the way forward. The emptiness of the Bolivian Altiplano for instance has taught me how to simplify my compositions, and it also taught me a thing or two about tonal relationships. But I had to be receptive, I had to be willing to listen.

And there are some landscapes which we visit too soon in our development. We struggle to find something to work with or it's just plain too hard to do anything with them. I'm convinced these kinds of landscapes do have a lot to offer, but the timing is wrong - we're just not ready for them yet.

A mesmerising vastness of black deserts and moss.

A mesmerising vastness of black deserts and moss.

Approaching a difficult landscape like the central highlands of Iceland has many obstacles to overcome. For me, I've had to overcome my own set of self-imposed restrictions. I'm aware that I do have them - whether they are conscious or unconscious.  Do I, for instance, only strive for golden warm light and disregard other kinds of light as a possibility? And should I only ever shoot when it is dry and never take the camera out when other atmospheric options show opportunities?

By placing these kinds of restrictions upon myself, I do a disservice to my own creative side but I also show a disrespect to the landscape for what it has to offer me.

The landscape is always providing, always giving something of itself. It speaks, it converses with me, it shows me what it is. This I know for sure. It's just up to me to choose whether I wish to listen to it or not.

As I said earlier on - landscapes teach us things about ourselves. An oblique landscape such as the central highlands of Iceland has taught me that If there is anything holding me back with my photography, then it is most probably me.

What will your photography bring you next?

I believe photography allows us to open up an internal dialogue with ourselves, one where we are able to ask questions of ourselves and our world and be free to interpret at will. I think that's one of the reasons why I love photography so much, because there are always things to be learned about the world, and also about myself.

Portraits of Deakons, Orthodox Christian Lalibela, Ethiopia, © Bruce Percy 2010

Portraits of Deakons, Orthodox Christian Lalibela, Ethiopia, © Bruce Percy 2010

I've often felt that the learning tends to come during the act of making pictures, or much later on, once I've had time to consider and reflect on the experiences and also the results from a photographic trip somewhere. For instance, the new set of photographs I published a month ago of Iceland are still perhaps too fresh for me to get a clearer understanding of what I've created. I'm sure over the coming years, I'll gain a clearer understanding of what I was doing, and why I was doing it.

The main thing for me is not to impose any set of expectations of rules onto what I either wish to create, am creating, or have created. It is what it is, and I fully accept what it is. In this way, I am receptive to understanding its successes and failures and at the same time, not judge it.

I've been thinking today that language, or more specifically, the choice of words we use when we talk about our art can be a clue to how we feel about our creative selves. For instance, I sometimes hear others talk about their work in the sense that they have to  'strive', 'push' or 'challenge' what they are doing. For me, I like to use words such as 'flow', 'embrace', 'discover' and keep things 'open' to whatever may come.

So I've been wondering about this. Why do many photographers talk about their art in a forceful way? Surely the words 'challenge', 'strive' and especially 'push' suggest a need to change and by exerting some kind of rules of force upon what you do - then the change will come?

In the arts, change does not come from challenging or pushing oneself. It only leads to expectations and expectations lead to writers block. Writers block is a symptom of setting goals and if you're unable to achieve them, a feeling of not going forward ensues. Before long, a feeling of stagnation begins to pervade your creative efforts and you loose confidence and faith in yourself. And before long, something you always turned to, to give you inspiration and joy in your life is no fun at all.

Creativity needs to be nurtured, cared for, tended well.

And this means banishing thoughts of pushing oneself forward, or of striving. Things should not be difficult. If they are difficult, it is only because you have made them so, and it is best to stop and leave it a while so it can find its own flow again.

Portraits of Kathmandu, Nepal. © Bruce Percy 2009

Portraits of Kathmandu, Nepal. © Bruce Percy 2009

You may be forgiven for thinking that I've got it sussed. That I know how to avoid these stagnant moments, or times when I feel I'm not going anywhere in my art, or I've maybe given you the impression that I never suffer from this affliction. Rest assured - the main reason why I feel I have such a grasp on why language such as 'strive','challenge' and 'push' are bad, is because I've found them destructive forces in the past.

I have indeed suffered from moments when I've felt lost or stuck with my art, and I still get them. Only recently, I'd been feeling a sense of stagnation with regards to my portraiture work. I simply hadn't had any free time over the years of running my workshop business, to go make some new images of people. The trouble I had, was finding a group of people that I felt a connection or desire to go make photos of. Rather than force it, I just decided that the answer would come sometime, and it did. Just the simple act of watching a movie about the last Geisha was perhaps the catalyst. I thought about how beautiful Geisha are and I've always felt that if I am to photograph anything, it should be because I think it beautiful. Before I knew it, I was buying books on Geisha, reading up on their history, and it just grew from that. Months later a plane ticket was bought and a plan had been formed..... I'd got my inspiration back.

These days, I feel I have a better understanding of my creativity and how it works. It has its own flow. Things happen when they happen and I can neither control or will it to happen. It just does and sometimes it just doesn't. When it's not happening, I'd much rather not force it, so I tend to put the camera away and go do something else instead.

My creativity tends to flow when I am not putting pressure on myself, but just being in the moment, with no expectations or preconceived ideas of what I might create.

Portraits of Geisha. I'd been feeling a sense of stagnation about my portraiture work, and since I'd always had a love for the beauty of Geisha, felt a real desire to go make some photographs of them in 2014. © Bruce Percy

Portraits of Geisha. I'd been feeling a sense of stagnation about my portraiture work, and since I'd always had a love for the beauty of Geisha, felt a real desire to go make some photographs of them in 2014. © Bruce Percy

Next year, in 2015, I've set aside more time than usual in my calendar for some personal projects because I feel there's been an imbalance between my working life and creative life. Running a workshop business is fun, and it's creative in the sense that I am dealing with other's creativity, but I've been feeling a neglect towards my own creative needs. 

So in 2015, I'm heading back to Ethiopia to revisit the sacred town of Lalibela for a special orthodox christian celebration. In February I am returning to Japan to photograph more Geisha, and in April this year I will be heading to Bhutan for the very first time.

 I don't know what these trips will bring, and I love not knowing. I feel that the possibilities are open for things to happen as they happen, when they happen and if they don't, then so be it. It's just the way it is.

I also have no idea of what I will learn about myself or my art until I have made the work. I'm just looking forward to finding out things along the way, opening up a dialogue between myself and the world I am interpreting through my camera and seeing where it takes me.

Photography is a gift. It is an invitation to explore the world and oneself. It is a passport that says 'find out more'. It is a creative outlet. It should not be challenged, or forced at will to perform. Just go with it for the journey and I'm sure, over time, it will enrich your life more than you had ever imagined.

Be kind to your creativity.

Hans Strand's Iceland - a photographic book review

It's no surprise to many of you that I own many fine photographic books.

What you may not know, is that many of them have been the catalyst that got me to go to some of the places I now know and love so well. Galen Rowell's 'Mountain Light' for instance inspired me to go all the way to Patagonia to witness for myself the grandness of Torres del Paine's stunning landscape.

Landmannalaugar, central highlands of Iceland, shot - I believe - from a helicopter. Image © Hans Strand

Landmannalaugar, central highlands of Iceland, shot - I believe - from a helicopter. Image © Hans Strand

I love how photography books can instil a sense of wonder and inspire me in my own photographic pursuits, but they can also take me inside myself for an hour or two where I feel I connect with my creative self. Give me a good book of images and I'm lost, entranced. Time becomes irrelevant, as too does the past or future. All that matters is the present moment - how I interact and feel about the work I'm viewing.

Hans Strand's book on Iceland is a very good book, because it does exactly that for me. I get lost and absorbed in the wonder of Iceland because the work presented inside the book is so beautiful.

 Image © Hans Strand. The book has many abstracts taken from the air.

 Image © Hans Strand. The book has many abstracts taken from the air.

When I received the book, I thought I'd have a short glimpse through it, but I got so caught up in the landscape, my quick few seconds to look through it extended to over an hour. I lost myself in the landscape and Strand reminded me that Iceland is still relatively untouched, unknown and un-photographed. He takes us on a very different journey through the landscapes of Iceland. His book shows us the abstract nature of many unknown locations from the air as well as the ground: sometimes at a very disconnected (read satellite view) and other times at a more intimate vantage point, just hovering a few hundred feet above. 

 Images © Hans Strand

 Images © Hans Strand

Indeed, places like the Landmannalaugar region of the fabulous Fjallabak area of Iceland are perhaps best photographed from up high. With its rhyolite and green moss hillsides intermixed with snow that remains until the very tail end of the summer, there are fabulous patterns to be enjoyed - more so if one has a helicopter. I think his images of the Landmannalaugar region are perhaps some of the strongest in this book: because they successfully capture what I see in my own mind's eye when I am there myself but am unable to capture. They are also beautifully abstract and well composed images. More art than document.

But why would anyone want to own a photographic monograph? I ask this, because over the years I've been writing about some of my favourite books, I've had emails from readers of this blog who have either told me that:

1) They have never owned a photographic book (imagine just what they are missing!)

2) or that they only wish to buy a book if there is text inside which explains how the images were created (and therefore missing out on what can be learned by just studying and enjoying someone's work)

Front cover of Hans Strand's book

Front cover of Hans Strand's book

It’s no surprise to me that many photographers do not buy other photographer’s work. They may enjoy it on a web browser, but the interest seems to go no further than that. This is a shame, because photographic monographs are inspiration food for us photographers. If they are well printed, as is the case with Strand’s wonderful book on Iceland, they can teach us and inspire by illustration. They also feed us with the possibilities of what is there and what we may experience if we so choose to go there ourselves. They also remind us of why we love photography so much.

Ultimately, photography books like Strand's allow us to connect to our creative selves: if I can't get outside to make photos, then sitting gazing upon a beautifully printed book is the next best thing. In this regard, Strand's book is one of the nicest, and inspiring books on Iceland that I've seen in a while.

If you would like to find out more, or perhaps buy a copy, this book is available as a special signed edition from Beyond Words at £40.

Josef Albers - Interaction of Color

I've been saying for a while now, that digital-darkroom skills take a lifetime to master. It is a continuous journey of self improvement. Simply buying a copy of Lightroom or Photoshop and learning the applications may give us the tools, but it does not make us great craftsmen. We need to delve deeper than simply adding contrast or saturation to our images to truly understand how to get the best out of our editing and to move our photographic art forward.

Josef Albers fascinating 'Interaction of Colour'. It's quite an old publication now, but it's great for getting a better grasp of colour theory.

Josef Albers fascinating 'Interaction of Colour'. It's quite an old publication now, but it's great for getting a better grasp of colour theory.

Lately, I've been taking more of an interest in tonal relationships and more specifically, the theories behind how we interpret colour. It's something that has grown out of my own awareness of how my digital-darkroom interpretation skills are developing.

Simply put, I believe we all have varying levels of visual awareness. Some of us may be more attuned to colour casts than others for example. While others may have more of an intuitive understanding of tonal relationships. 

Ultimately, if we're not aware of tonal and colour relationships within the images we choose to edit, then we will never be able to edit them particularly well. I think this is perhaps a case of why we see so many badly edited (read that as over-processed) images on the web. Many are too attached to what they think is present in the image, and there's a lack of objectivity about what really is there. 

So for the past few weeks I've been reading some really interesting books on the visual system. In Bruce Frazer's 'Real World Colour Management' book for instance, I've learned that our eye does not respond to quantity of light in a linear fashion.

An overly-simplified illustration. It demonstrates that the human eye is not able to perceive differences in real-world tonal values. Our eye tends to compress brighter tones, which is why we need to use grads on digital cameras, because their response is linear, while our response is non-linear.

An overly-simplified illustration. It demonstrates that the human eye is not able to perceive differences in real-world tonal values. Our eye tends to compress brighter tones, which is why we need to use grads on digital cameras, because their response is linear, while our response is non-linear.

We tend to compress the brighter tones and perceive them as the same luminosity as darker ones. A classic case would be that we can see textural detail in ground and also in sky, while our camera cannot. Cameras have a linear response to the brightness values of the real world, while we have a non-linear response.

Similarly, when we put two similar (but not identical) tones together, we can discern the difference between them:

Two different tones. Easy to notice the tonal differences when they are side by side.

Two different tones. Easy to notice the tonal differences when they are side by side.

But when we place them far apart - we cannot so easily notice the tonal differences:

Two different tones, far apart. Their tonal difference to each other is less obvious.

Two different tones, far apart. Their tonal difference to each other is less obvious.

Our eye is easily deceived, and I'm sure that having some knowledge of why this is the case, can only help me in my pursuit to become more aware of how I interpret what I see, whether it is in the real world, or on a computer monitor.

Josef Albers fascinating book 'Interaction of Colour' was written back in the 1950's. I like it very much because it:

"is a record of an experimental way of studying colour and of teaching colour".

His introduction to the book sums up for me what I find most intriguing about how we see -

"In visual perception a colour is almost never seen as it really is - as it physically is. This fact makes colour the most relative medium in art".

Indeed. How a viewer of your work may interpret what your image says may be totally subjective, but there are certain key physical as well as psychological reasons for why others are relating to your work the way they do. But most importantly, if we don't 'see it' ourselves, then we are losing out during the creative digital darkroom stage of our editing.

"The aim of such a study is to develop - through experience - by trial and error - an eye for colour. this means, specifically, seeing colour actions as well as feeling colour relatedness"

And this is the heart of the matter for me. I know when I edit work, that sometimes I need to leave it for a few days and return later - to see it with a fresh eye. Part of this is that I am too close to the work and need some distance from it, so I can be more objective about what I've done.

But I also know that I don't see colour or tonal relationships so easily. I need to work at them. I am fully aware that I still have a long way to go (a life long journey in fact) to improve my eye. And surely this is the true quest of all photographers - to improve one's eye?

The memory of a colour

While I was in the Fjallabak region of the central highlands of Iceland this September, I encountered a number of vast black deserts. I've been in vast landscapes of nothingness before, such as the Salar de Uyuni salt flats of the Bolivian altiplano, and also the pampas of Patagonia.

These places are captivating endless nothingnesses that make the eye hunt and hunt for something to latch onto. At least, that's what I think happens when humans encounter something so vast and featureless.

One of the many black deserts of the central highlands of Iceland. Black can come in many shades and hues, as I discovered.

One of the many black deserts of the central highlands of Iceland. Black can come in many shades and hues, as I discovered.

This was nothing new for me. But what was new for me, was that I discovered that black isn't really just black. There are many different types of black desert to be found in Iceland. One of them - near the volcano Hekla, is so jet-black (it feels as if nothing can escape it's pull) that you realise every other black desert you've witnessed has to a large degree - some kind of colour to it.

There's a lot of psychology at play when it comes to interpreting colour.

Bruce Frazer's excellent book on colour management. Every photographer should read this.

Bruce Frazer's excellent book on colour management. Every photographer should read this.

For instance, I've been reading Bruce Frazer's fantastic book 'Real World Colour Management', and in it he describes the psychological factors involved in how we interpret colour. Colour is as he describes it 'an event'. It is light being reflected off a subject and viewed by an observer.

We have what he describes 'memory colour'. For instance, we know what skin tone looks like, and we all know the kind of blue a blue sky should be. We know 'from memory' how these colours should be. There are psychological expectations that certain colours should be certain colours. 

I think this applies to how I perceived the black deserts of Iceland. If i say a desert is black, we think of it as jet-black, even though it might be a deep, muddy brown-black, or a deep muddy purple-black.

I think most of the time, many of us simply go around looking at colour but not 'seeing it'. We use memory colours all the time with little thought to what the real colour of an object might be.

For example, last year during a workshop, my group and I were all working in very pink light during sunrise. Knowing that the entire landscape was bathed in a pink light, and that many of us don't notice the colour cast so obviously, I asked my group individually what colour the clouds were. Half of the group correctly said that the clouds were pink, while the other half incorrectly said that they were white. My feeling on this matter is that those who said the clouds were white - were attaching a memory of what they think clouds should look like. They were, in other words, not really noticing the colour of the object at all, but just attaching a common belief that clouds are white. This is a good example of memory colour.

But let's go one stage further. This might actually not be colour-memory at play though. It could simply be our internal auto-white-balance working. It's known that the human visual system is very good at adapting to different hues of white light. If we are in twilight, we may not see the blue colour temperature of the light on the landscape (but we sure would notice it's twilight if we take a photo on a digital camera and look at the histogram - there will predominantly be a lot of information in the blue channel, and very little in the red and green channels). Likewise, if we are sitting in tungsten light at home, our visual system adapts and tunes out the 3000k warm hue that we're being bathed in.

I think I was applying 'colour memory' to the black deserts of Iceland - I wasn't aware of the subtle differences in hues between one black desert and the other, because I had just attached a memory of what I know black should be (all blacks are black right?).

Being aware of the subtle differences in colour is hard work, because our visual system has evolved to adapt to whatever context we exist in. If we are sitting in pink sunrise light, we tune it out. If we do detect any pink at all,  it's in the more obvious region of the sky where the sun is. That's why most amateur photographers point their cameras towards the sun at sunrise (I tend to point 180º the other way, because I know the pink light is everywhere, and the tones are softer and much easier to record).

If I see clouds, I assume they are white because my visual system has its own auto-white balance. If I see skin tones, I use colour-memory to assume all skin tones to be the same, regardless of what kind of light the person is being bathed in. For example, if someone is standing underneath a green tree, there will be a degree of green-ness to their skin tone which I won't see, because of colour memory.

We lie to ourselves all the time, but our camera doesnt. It tell's it like it is, and I think this is the nub of todays post: being a good photographer is about being as colour-aware as we can be.

This is not an easy thing to do, because we are hijacked by our own evolution: our visual system tunes out colour casts all the time, and we also apply colour memory to familiar objects. We expect certain things to have certain colours, and as a result, we tend to ignore the subtle difference that the colour temperature of the light we're working in can have.

As I keep saying to myself as I work on my new images from Iceland "Not all black deserts are black".

The Highlands of Iceland & North Iceland, 2014

Two nights ago, I published my monthly newsletter. In it, I described the beautiful complexity of the central highlands of Iceland.

I thought it would be nice to share a little contact sheet of some recent images from two trips this September (I still have a backlog of images shot during July as well as September to get through). So by no means is this the complete set of images.

Contact sheet of images shot in the central highlands and north east of Iceland this September. Images © Bruce Percy (Mamiya 7 Mk1 camera with 43, 50, 80, 150 and 210 lenses)

Contact sheet of images shot in the central highlands and north east of Iceland this September. Images © Bruce Percy (Mamiya 7 Mk1 camera with 43, 50, 80, 150 and 210 lenses)

It's been so long since I had the chance to edit any of my own work. I've literally forgotten how satisfying and absorbing working in the darkroom can be (read that as digital-darkroom if you like me, use photoshop or any other digital editor, or analog darkroom if you are a traditional film photographer working in a wet darkroom).

Going into a room, and shutting myself away from everyone for extended periods of time and letting myself be immersed in my experiences and thoughts about the places I am working on, is a bit like re-living the times I had whilst shooting, and it also allows me to reconnect with the work at hand. It's just so enjoyable to escape into my own world and disappear for a few hours.

And a few hours can often turn into a few days. I think I've been putting off editing any work this year due to a lack of free time.

I really prefer to be able to set aside a few days or maybe a week in my studio, so I can truly get into the work I'm editing. Anything else feels like I'm being interrupted, disturbed in some way. And I've really not had much free time in between workshops, and running a business.

I really think to get the best out of ones editing, I need to get some distance between the shoot and the editing. It's the only way I can be objective about what I was doing. But leaving the work for more than six months or more (as in the case of images I shot in Venice a year ago, and Lofoten this February), feels like I'm so far removed from them, it's a little hard to get reconnected.

Anyway, I feel as photographers, we need to look after our mojo. Mojo will only exist if we remain enthusiastic in what we do. Being able to shoot is one way of keeping your mojo healthy, but also being able to bring work to completion is another. Leave things for far too long, or never complete anything and very soon you may be feeling that your photography has no direction or focus.

I've been depriving myself of the joy in bringing my work to completion, and now that I've completed some new work, I'm feeling energised to continue.

You can see more of my new images from Iceland under my ''recent work' section of this site.

 

Fjallabak, Iceland

I'm editing some new work from Iceland tonight. It's been a tough road this time, because I wasn't sure how to approach such a difficult landscape, but I feel I'm on a roll now.

Image made this September 2014, © Bruce Percy. Shot on a Mamiya 7 Mk1 rangefinder with 150mm lens.  Right in the heart of the Fjallabak region of Iceland. Perhaps my most favourite place in Iceland to date.

Image made this September 2014, © Bruce Percy. Shot on a Mamiya 7 Mk1 rangefinder with 150mm lens.  Right in the heart of the Fjallabak region of Iceland. Perhaps my most favourite place in Iceland to date.

It's a strange landscape, and it's a compelling one. Seldom photographed compared to the more accessible areas of Iceland, I feel it has a lot to offer, and I know I will be returning here a lot more in future.

More on my monthly newsletter (hopefully tomorrow). 

Places choose you

.... not the other way round.

Have you ever thought that some of your best images came from places that you didn't particularly feel an affinity with to start with? And some places just don't work when you finally get there? Some places, for some reason just seem to work when you had no expectation of finding something there to begin with?

Looking back, I never intended to go to Bolivia, and I never even considered it would have much to offer. But I went anyway, and I found that the landscape spoke to me.

Siloli Desert, Bolivian Altiplano, June 2013.

Siloli Desert, Bolivian Altiplano, June 2013.

It would be easy for me to think that the reason I've felt at home in this landscape, is because it suits my photographic style. But maybe it's the other way around, maybe it's responsible for it.

I think some landscapes dictate a photographic style - one that resonates with you. They tell you how they should be photographed and as a result, direct your photographic style.

I think some landscapes are like that; they offer us clues, suggestions, hints at what we may become and it's up to us to run with what we're given.

I think Bolivia chose me, rather than I chose it.

It has been a six year love affair. A place where I know I have learned so much about working with negative space. It has also offered up different colour palettes that I've integrated into my style of what I am seeking in a landscape.

Just recently, while I was in my dentists office, I read an article in a Travel magazine about another part of the Altiplano, that I'd never heard of. I turned a page and the images spoke to me. It also felt oddly familiar and I knew I had to find out where it was. I had no idea at the time that I was reading about a related landscape to the Bolivian altiplano, that is situated in Argentina, just across the border from where I've been spending my time.

I now have plans scheduled for next July to go.

I didn't go looking for this new landscape, it just seemed to find me and I feel I've been invited.

Is there a landscape you feel has chosen you?