Making of 40 Photographs #16

This is #16 in my series ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. Sometimes you’re constrained and you know it.

Every scene we encounter presents something of value and often something that is of no value, and it’s up to us as photographers to extract out of it what we want. This can be easy on occasions because of the way the subject matter is laid out - and also perhaps it fits the vision we have in our head. These kinds of images come easily, but there are those images which we have to work at because we either don’t really understand what it is we’re photographing, or because there are obstacles in the scene which prevent it from being as perfect as we want it to be.

I often think that photography is not about what we want in the shot, but what we want to edit out of it. When making compositions, it’s as important to decide what to exclude as well as what to include. I just don’t think we really ever consider this.

Take this shot of Rannoch moor. I’d been studying the web cams up in Glencoe for some time during a variable February - hoping to get some real winter light, and it came for a brief day - just as I had a space in my diary to head up to the coe for an evening and one morning shooting there.

The shot has a lot going for it, but for me, what I remember the most as being problematic was the ‘weight’ of the stones in the foreground. Don’t you feel the stone on the far right is a little too close to the right hand edge of the frame? I do. I remember being aware of this, and the fact that there was too much space on the far left of the frame too.... but I was constrained by the physical limits of the edge of the lochan. Yes, the flat surface you see in the shot is actually the frozen surface of a small loch, and where I was positioned, allowed me no room to move to the left. In doing so, I would have been able to balance out the two foreground rocks with the background horizon of the hill.

It was a frustrating moment for me because I loved the quality of the light (the sun is rising right in the middle of the frame, but the cloud cover creates a very diffused light over it).

So I took it anyway. I’ve never been entirely happy with this shot because of the inbalance in the foreground composition, but I’m able to recognise that it’s still a nice shot and has something that a lot of people appreciate. But what I find surprising is that over time, I’ve found myself becoming so used to it, that it’s almost as if I can’t imagine it being shot any other way. Some images tend to grow on you and etch a place in your being and this, for me, is one of them.

On a technical note, it was shot again on my Mamiya 7. My first Mamiya 7 to be exact because I’m now onto my second one. The first one suffered a lot of use and rapidly started to fall apart. It’s not a well made camera by any means, but it makes up for this by being very light and portable for a 6x7 film camera. 

I used a 3 stop hard grad on the sky, and the rest was down to the quality of the light, which you only get like this on a fine winters morning on Rannoch moor.