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Friday, September 14, 2012

New Website Portfolio’s

I’ve been away all week on the isle of Eigg with a terrific group, running a workshop.

I’ve not got much time today, but felt I should let you all know that all the new images I’ve been producing for the past year – are now up on my site.

New images section of my site

I decided to separate them into a ‘new’ section, away from my older work, as I feel there’s a refinement in my style over the past few years. So if you’d like to browse the work, which includes Iceland, Norway, Patagonia and my recent trip to Bolivia, please click on the ‘new’ section to the navigation menu at the top of the blog.

I hope you enjoy the newer images presented in portfolios, even if you feel you know most of the work by visiting my blog.

posted by Bruce Percy at 12:26 pm  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Space in the landscape and time to reflect

I often think that it’s a very tempting thing, to include the entirety of the subject you’re shooting, into the main body of the frame. But some subjects are so large, that it’s impossible to get them into the frame in a pleasing way, without them engulfing the entire photo.

Perito Moreno Glacier, study #4

The Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina is like that.

In this photo, you can see the tongue of the glacier poking into the left hand side. If I were to let you know that the face of the glacier is around 80 metres high and that the entire tongue is around four miles wide, then I’d hope that this would convey just how large it is. It’s imply too wide to fit into the frame.

I shot the same glacier a long time ago, and I managed to ‘stitch a 180º composite together (see last image in this post). It’s perhaps more of a ‘traditional’ view of the glacier. We’re presented with the entire thing and I think this is an obvious thing to want to do. I was curious as to how I would shoot the glacier on my return this summer, knowing that I wasn’t going to stitch any panorama’s together, and also knowing I would be composing in square.

I think a few things have changed in me since I made the panorama in 2003;

1) I’m much more interested in the atmospheric elements of the weather. I love it when the cloud comes down and things in the distance become veiled. Fog or inclement weather in general can really change the mood of a scene. And I think it’s important to be aware of this. So often I feel, we are influenced by how we feel – if it’s a cold wet day, we can feel miserable and not inclined to make images. But we have to take a step back, think about the scene as a final image. We have to detach ourselves in a way that we can simply see the tones, and the mystery rather than think the day is a right-off.

I don’t think I would have made my recent image (the first one in this post) if I hadn’t learned that. I think I would have just packed up my camera and thought nothing was happening.

But I’m now of the opinion that all days are beautiful. It’s just up to us to recognise this and work with what we’re given. I don’t feel miserable in low-cloud inclement days now. I actually feel the beauty of it.

2) I’m also much more interested in playing with what’s not there. Our eye has a tendency to fill in the gaps for us. I deliberately decided to include just a tiny part of the Perito, because I felt the space around it – all that expanse of empty sky had a lot of beauty in it. I was particularly drawn to the headland (the dark) land that fills the centre of the frame – see how it tapers off towards the far right? That was an intentional composition device. The top of the headland is missing because the cloud in the sky is reaching down towards the sea. In some respects, this is really an image about ‘context’. I’ve given you the glacier, and we know it’s a shot about that, but I’ve mostly decided to show you the environment it sits in. In this case, I’m trying to convey the atmospheric / weather conditions of the day and how the glacier sits within that space. We don’t actually see much of the Perito Moreno glacier and I think our mind is filling in for what is not there.

2003 image

Admittedly, these two images are of very different kinds of days. I was lucky that the weather had closed in the day we visited this summer. The landscape was less visible, more hidden, and I think that allowed me to reduce, and abstract, to make the photograph more a ‘graphic’ than a recording of a piece of scenery. For me photography has never been about the verbatim, but more about suggestion.

I’d like to finish up by saying that in this post, I’ve also discussed how I’ve changed. I think it’s very important to be able to look back at your own work and your current work, and consider the direction that you’re heading in. I think it’s healthy to stop and reflect, to recognise the changes that are happening inside of you and to know what it is that you’re seeking in your current ‘story making’. I use that phrase deliberately, because I feel that all photographers are simply telling stories with their images.

posted by Bruce Percy at 8:12 am  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Final Selection

I’ve more or less completed the scanning and image selection from my trips to Bolivia and patagonia this June.

I have to say that the number of images I’m left with is very small. But there is a reason for this: I felt that there were two particularly strong shoots for me during the time away where the images feel very ‘cohesive’. I really prefer to choose images that behave as if they belong to a set, and in the final selection here, I think you can see that.

Final image selection

The two shoots in particular that really worked for me were of Laguna Colorada on the Bolivian Altiplano, and that of the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentine Patagonia. I certainly have other images that were successful, but they don’t fit this particular ‘theme’ or ‘style’. And I think this narrowed down selection indicates perhaps where my style is strongest at the moment.

I think that’s a very key thing to understand about your own photography: what it is you’re currently trying to achieve and being successful at. I see these images as a reflection, an indicator of what it is I’m striving for. I think they’re very simplistic and mostly are involved in conveying colour as mood. There is almost nothing inside the frames as such, but I think the mood of the places is very strong in them.

I shot a hell of a lot more images, but I’ve had some technical problems with those. I made them on Kodak’s Portra 160 (the new stock) but I’m having trouble scanning them. I’ve determined it’s not my scanner that is at fault, but I’ve got coloured streaks going through the images in very bright clear areas, and I’m not sure if this is a product of the development, or if it’s an issue with the batch of films I’ve bought. I’m seriously not happy about this and it’s a lesson to myself to never go away again on a shoot with untested equipment or materials.

posted by Bruce Percy at 3:44 pm  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A study in Red, and a study in Blue

As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with the Hassle-Blad (hyphen intended) for the past year, because of all the technical issues with the stupid thing (you can tell I really love it).

Laguna-Colorada (click for larger view)

To be fair, the system is extremely old, and I doubt it’s ever been serviced properly, if at all. So If you can recommend someone who knows what they’re doing (Hassleblad UK seem to want to charge me £400 alone to just service two film backs – I don’t think so), please do get in touch.

I seem to be attached to the system right now though. I love composing in square, although I know it does not work for everything. If I look at my ‘style’ of work, I often shoot portrait orientation and I believe this is because it allows me to use a lot of foreground as well as sky in my shots. Square does not allow for this, unless you get further back, or let a lot more ‘stuff’ come in the sides of the frame.

In the above set of four images, I made a beautiful study of Laguna Colorada on the Bolivian altiplano. At 4,500 metres, the air is extremely thin here, and we were all struggling for breath. But the light! Those intense red evenings seem to be something that happens a lot there. My guide did say though, that we had an exceptionally beautiful evening there. Still, the subject is rather minimalist, and when you consider making four images – to work as a set, rather than individual scenes, a story forms – and for some reason, the entire set becomes stronger than the sum of its parts.

Perito-Moreno-Study, Patagonia, 2012 (click for larger view)

While I was running the Patagonia trip in the southern hemisphere winter, I made these studies of the Perito Moreno glacier. We had a very wet journey out there and everything was looking very gloomy. There was most definitely a low mood to everything and the cloud had come down to obstruct the backdrop view. Years ago, I would have been disappointed, packed up my camera and headed for the cafe, but I feel I know my subjects and light better. I loved the tones that the cloud were producing. Everything was glowing – the glacier had taken on an eerie luminance in the soft morning twilight.

Seeing these images only confirms to me that I need to continue with square – it is something I am growing into.

I still love 4×5 very much (which is what the Mamiya 7 is – the negative has the same aspect ratio as 4×5, despite being labeled a 6×7 camera). So I’m fully aware that I will continue to shoot 4×5 aspect ratio as well as square. So often we think of replacing one thing with another (I’m thinking of that phrase – ‘have you gone digital yet?’ ).

It’s been about a year now of getting used to the Hasselblad and the square format. When introducing something new into my workflow – I feel I need to give myself time to grow into it, in order to find out if it’s for me. I can’t tell straight away if it’s not.

I think that we need to give ourselves more than a few months, perhaps even years to discover if we have the aptitude, or leanings towards a certain format – patience,  and allowing ourselves the time to get fully into something,  can only help reap artistic dividends, I feel.

posted by Bruce Percy at 11:00 pm  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lago Grey, Patagonia 2012

I’ve only just dipped my toes into my images from this years Patagonia photo trip. Here is a backlit shot of Lago Grey with Paine Grande cast in an orange glow from a setting sun.

Lago Grey, Patagonian Winter 2012

I was initially attracted to the rock in the mid-ground – with it’s graphic-angular shape and directional lighting. But it was only while setting the camera up on my tripod that I noticed the lower darker rocks. I felt these could be a great foreground detail with their mottled texture. Often black rocks turn to a muddy mess in a scene, but when there is back lit directional light shining on them, it can help lift their tonal values from extreme black, into the lower mid-grey tones. Making it easier for me to record them on Fuji Velvia.

I made this image on my Mamiya 7 camera. I’m aware that  I’m a landscape photographer who feels more at home with portrait-orientated compositions. Perhaps it’s the ability to mix a lot of sky in with a lot of foreground that works for my eye. I’m really not sure, but having a mix of aspect ratios to work with has really helped me open up my eyes to the surrounding landscape and consider where each object should be placed.

posted by Bruce Percy at 7:20 am  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Patagonia

As landscape photographers, we need to feel a connection with the places we photograph. We have to surrender ourselves to the smells, moods and feelings of a place and let the landscape pervade our own thoughts. I’ve been in Patagonia now for just over a week and familiar ‘feelings’ that I’ve experienced whilst here on previous trips (this is my 7th time here) have resurfaced. A place can be like that – like a familiar piece of music that you haven’t listened to in a while, you are instantly transported back to a mood, a time, a feeling upon hearing it. It’s been just great getting re-aquainted with this old friend of mine now.

So this week I couldn’t help myself, but buy a second copy of Bruce Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’. It cost me around £28 believe it or not, but I had to have it. Reading about Patagonia whilst here seems to be the perfect thing to do and Bruce’s book is a great (if highly inaccurate account) of Patagonia. What Bruce does with this book is set the tone of how Patagonia feels to the traveler.

I’ll admit that I’m not too keen on the fact that there are many lies contained within the book. His meetings with people who live here are often more fable than fact, but he does do a good job of giving you an impression of a place that is remote, lonesome, possessed, and one which can possess you.

As is quoted in Bruce’s book – Patagonia is a magnet for those who’s malady is ‘the horror of one’s own home’. Restless people come here and I feel I can relate to that. As much as I love being at home, when i’m there, I’m often wishing to be away, and when I’m away – I’m often wishing to be home.

If you’re thinking of going somewhere, I can think of no better thing than to buy books about the place. Photography books might give you some idea of what is there, but the written word has a better chance of helping you get into the mindset of what lies before you. Maybe it might help settle you into the mental adjustment an undertaking of this magnitude will have on you: going away for a prolonged period of time can be overwhelming. My way of life in Scotland is so far removed from many of the places in the world I visit, and I’m often confronted with having to rip myself away from my home life, to be replanted elsewhere. Reading books about my chosen destination before I go, often helps me with the adjustment and they’re also great devices to help me slowly untangle myself once I’ve returned home too.

In a few weeks I will be back in Scotland, in my old routine, but I will have Bruce Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’ to help me slowly disengage from the life that I am leading right now as I type this post from my hotel in deepest Patagonia.

Wishing you were where your heart wishes to be.

posted by Bruce Percy at 6:11 am  

Monday, June 25, 2012

In Argentina now

I’m almost finishing up my Patagonia Safari in a few days time, and we’ve seen quite a few memorable images over the past week and a half. Torres del Paine national park was a winter wonderland and each morning we had excellent, atmospheric views at Pehoe. We also had a successful sunrise view of the towers through low cloud. It was really beautiful to witness.

Perito Moreno, Argentina Patagonia ©2003

My Hasselblad continues to stun me with yet more failures. A spare body has jammed and now a film back continues to pump film through it without ever getting to the first frame. I’ve also had the wind catch my Mamiya 7II camera and toss it onto the beach. The camera still works, but the rangefinder feature is broken and there’s a massive hole in the top of the body. So It will be going back for repair when I get home and I’ve just bought a Mamiya 7 Mk1 body tonight to help me out as I’m away to Iceland a week after I get home. I’ve got a month of personal photography time in the centre of the island and also have to meet up with Ragnar Axelsson too, which I’m looking forward to.

Tomorrow morning we are all heading out for sunrise to visit the glorious Perito Moreno glacier – perhaps one of South America’s highlights. It is a living, breathing mass of ice that creaks and groans. Large sections of the face of it come off and hit the surrounding water on a frequent basis, often with a deafening crash.

I first visited this glacier in 2003, and made the above image. It’s actually a stitched composite of several images (I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but in this instance had to, because the glacier is 4 miles wide, and easily takes up over 180º of field of view).

Venturing here for sunrise is great. Tourists don’t arrive here until 10am at the earliest, so you have the whole place to yourself. It’s winter here, and as it turns out, sunrise is at 10am tomorrow morning, so we will be there for the start of civil twilight. It’s a great time to be there as the glacier faces east and it slowly reveals itself to you as the light comes up. At first you can only hear it and that is spooky in itself. As the minutes pass you become aware of the faint glow of the glacier and then as the sun comes up the face of the glacier shifts through the cool colour spectrum and seems to convey many different colours. It’s simply wonderful to witness.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivian Altiplano © 2007

We will be heading back to Punta Arenas in a days time, where some of us will say goodbye while four of us continue on to San Pedro de Atacama for a few days before we venture onto the Bolivian Altiplano for a week’s worth of photography. I’m having so much fun on this trip I don’t want it to end.

Wish you were here!

posted by Bruce Percy at 4:43 am  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Patagonia Calling

I’m in Punta Arenas, the gateway city to Chilean Patagonia. Tomorrow I head up to Torres del Paine national park for the next two weeks of a safari based in this beautiful part of the world.

Lago Pehoe, Torres del Paine, Chile

I’m very pleased to be back here. It is winter time in the southern hemisphere, but despite this, it is very mild here in Punta Arenas. I’ve just met up with my guide for the week and she has told me there was plenty of snow a few weeks ago, but that the wind has taken it all away. She showed me some of her photos and It was amazing to see how much snow there had been.

The best thing about being here in June though, is that the sunrise and sunset times are very sociable – sunrise is at 9am (bliss – I don’t have to get up so early – yes I’ll admit – I’m not a morning person – probably much to your surprise). And sunset is just before 5pm, so the day is nice and short with a low lying sun.

It’s been five years since I was last here. I can’t believe it’s been that long for me, and it’s only become possible to return due to client demand. I’ve had so many clients over the past three years of running workshops in Scotland ask me when I was hoping to go back that I knew I’d have enough interest to run the trip.

So thanks Jez, Adrian, Leslie, Polly, Bo and James for wanting to come with me.

posted by Bruce Percy at 8:53 pm  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Patagonia – now sold out.

Update: this trip is now sold out!

Last week I had a cancellation for my Skye workshop, which was filled straight away, so the Skye trip is now sold out, for those of you who were considering it.

Lago Pehoe, Torres del Paine, Chile

As is the nature of having bookings taken so far in advance, things change in people’s lives and suddenly, they can’t make a trip any more. One of my participants for the Patagonia workshop can’t make it now due to a family member’s graduation, so there is now a freed up space on the Patagonia workshop.

Fox at Lago Grey, Torres del Paine, Chile

If you’d missed booking the trip when it sold out, then now is your chance to come along. It’s been a very popular trip so far, so if you want to come, have a look at the details here. It has all the information on the trip, and also the booking form should you decide to come.

First come, first served.

posted by Bruce Percy at 10:57 am  

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Torres del Paine Park ravaged by Fire

I’m in Iceland this week, currently in a nice chalet near Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. It was a complete white out on the way here, with a lot of snow. The entire south part of Iceland looks amazing.

Anyway, today I’m writing about some very tragic news about Torres del Paine national park in Chilean Patagonia. It is one of my most favourite places in the world. But as of a few days ago, 85 sq kilometres of the park has been ravaged by a fire, which the authorities are speculating may have been caused by human intervention.

Fox at Lago Grey, Torres del Paine, Chile

Because of the nature of the park’s weather systems, it is often extremely windy there, and if the place has been dry for an extended period of time, then any camp fire (fires are not permitted in the park) can wreak havoc in the area.

It’s just such a real shame about Torres del Paine. It’s such an amazingly beautiful park.

Now, of course, the fire could have been a completely natural event. The problem is though, that if we have beautiful parks, they should be shared and visited by people. But mistakes happen, people feel they’re in control and know what they’re doing, and then a mistake happens and a fire like this rages out of control. I don’t know what the answer is for park conservation, but I certainly hope that it does not mean that some day, I can only enjoy some place like Torres from behind the glass of a tour vehicle, because legislation has gotten so tough, or we’re being so ‘nannied’, that we can’t possibly be responsible for our own actions.

I’ll be visiting Torres del Paine this June, as part of a Winter photographic trip. It will be interesting to see the amount of damage in the park when I get there, but until then, I hope that the fires in Torres del Paine will be extinguished soon.

posted by Bruce Percy at 9:58 am  
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