Last week I spent the week on the isle of Arran with a group of four participants. We had a good time and managed to cover a lot of different varied landscapes on Arran.
Participant Contact Sheet #1
Arran is a subtle island. It does not have the dramatic peaks of Skye, nor the stunning expansive beaches of Harris, but as the tourist brochures say, it is ‘Scotland in minature’. With a ring road that is 60 miles in circumference, we found most locations were within half an hour driving distance and so set off each morning around 5am to capture some of the best light. My favourite location is Pirate bay on the east side, as you may have seen on my portfolio of Arran to date, but there’s a lot more to this island than initially meets the eye.
Participant contact sheet #2
Where we stayed was ideal. I liked the rooms and we had a sitting room dedicated to us in the day time so we could review our images of the day and I even managed to slot in a showing of Michael Kenna’s ‘Hokkaido’ video, which he kindly gave me permission to use (many thanks to the joy of giving something http://www.jgsinc.org/index2.php). It was interesting because each day I kept asking everyone if they wanted to see the video and most folk were too interested in getting some sleep or working on their own images, but on our last day I managed to shoe-horn it in and it wasn’t soon before everyone was glued to it. He’s a master of simplicity and it’s something I’m keen to focus on during my workshops.
Many thanks to Annie, Dorin, Milan and Peter for coming along.
This past year has been a revelation for me. Conducting workshops often means I have to explain my motivations.
A review of perhaps my most simplistic images
And often, trying to explain why some images work more than others brings me up to talking about those images of mine that are simple.
It’s been interesting hearing members of this blog explain that they find simple images the hardest images to make. I’m certainly aware of this as I’ve seen participants on my Harris workshop struggle when presented with a beach full of …. space.
I feel this is because when we start in photography, we always think of capturing objects. Items that have a specific meaning – a loved one, your new car, your favourite pet, but as we progress, we should learn to understand that photographs work because of form mostly. It’s irrelevant if the subject is something abstract or recognisable to us, for it to work well as a photographic subject, it has to be elegant.
Most beginners struggle with this. Give them a beach full of space and they become undone. I’ve heard participants say “but there’s nothing here, I don’t get it!”. They can’t see a specific focal point to the photograph, when in fact they should be thinking about how the light is interacting with the beach, how the tones are subtle, different through the sky.
Beaches I feel are a great study in simplifying composition, tone and colour. Being aware of the elements, how they interplay with each other, how a wave crashes on a beach and how the texture of the sand is altered, are all great studies to be involved with. Using a beach like this I feel, can only help you with your photography technique and the art of ‘seeing’.