nostalgia

A feeling of nostalgia is hitting me tonight.

As I sit here, after spending the whole week preparing copies of my Altiplano book to be shipped out, I can’t help reflect upon the journeys I’ve made over the past decade or so.

I’ve said many times, that the time we spend outside making images, is a way of us marking our time. Photography gives us a great chance to stop and think about where we are ‘right now’, and then as time goes on, we can look back at images we created and they bring us right back to that moment.

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Who we were, what was going on in our lives. Photography gives us a chance to not only relive the past, but also to draw contrasts with where we are now, who we are now, and how we’ve changed.

I can’t think of a better way of marking my time. Photography has given me a way of remembering the past, and of noting just how much I’ve done with my life.

And for that: I can’t help but feel rather nostalgic tonight.

I’m not entirely at ease with the emotion. I think nostalgia is sort of interlaced with a sense of loss. I think that’s ok though. Isn’t it? We must all accept that what water has passed under the bridge won’t return. What we experienced, what we felt and saw, happens only once.

For me, I think the feeling of nostalgia tells me one thing: to cherish every. single. moment. Who we are, are our memories. We are the culmination of everything that went before us. To revel in what we did, where we were, who we were, what we were doing, is such a precious gift.

Great times are often happening right now, except we lack the foresight to know it. You may be forming some of your most precious memories this year, except you won’t know it until much later on in life.

Well, I digress….. but it does have a point. I can’t help thinking about the amateur photographer I was, with a few friends around me who said ‘you should go pro’ (Don’t all friends tell you that?). Except I was daft (stupid) enough to believe. it. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s also been the best thing I ever did.

My Altplano book wouldn’t have happened without the past. I needed to go create some memories, and I needed to go and live. I went to the Altiplano of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile several times, so much so that I can mark my life by it. I know where I was in 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

My Altiplano book couldn’t have happened without the culmination of experiences. As I said a few days ago, you don’t create work by watching YouTube tutorials, or by reading loads of blogs. You create work by finding out who you are. And to do that, you need to go explore.

That’s exactly what I did. I went exploring.

My Altiplano book couldn’t have happened any other way. And looking back, I realise it’s given me more than just a nice book, and some nice images: It gave me some special memories and markers for my life.

Nostalgia. Well, sometimes it serves us well :-)

Only 5 copies left of Altiplano book

Dear all,

Thank you so much for all the wonderful support. The Standard edition and the Black edition of my Altiplano book have sold out, and we only have 5 copies of the special edition left.

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I’m quite surprised by the level of interest for this book. I wasn’t sure if it would be of interest to you because of last year’s ‘best off’ collection in my Colourchrome book. I felt that perhaps the Altiplano is too specific an interest, and may only appeal to a small number of people.

Altiplano (Special Edition)
145.00

Photographic Monograph

The high plateau of South America

Released on 1st of November

Foreword by Paul Wakefield

This book contains 67 photographic plates from my journeys to the Altiplano regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile over a 9 year period.

The book also contains a number of essays on the subject of composition and of working with simplified landscapes. The book is introduced by Kathy Jarvis who has written a number of travel guides about the region, in order to set the context for the landscape and how it has been shaped by the people that live upon it.

The book is available in three variants, and is limited to a small print run of 310 copies.

The Special Edition

This version comes in an edition of 100 copies. Each comes in a deep purple slipcase and is accompanied by one print (from a choice of three prints).

Specifications

300mm x 300mm
Soft cover + Slipcase
108 pages
67 full colour plates
Choice of 1 of 3 prints
Prints is 8", signed, titled and numbered 1 to 100

Edition of 100

£145

Print Choice:
Add To Cart

I’m sorry if you wanted a copy of the standard edition, but didn’t get one.

It is hard to judge how many books to print…. it is a difficult one to judge because printing books is an expensive operation, and profits / margins are very low. To make money at all on printed books is hard.

But I so wanted to print this book. I felt it might be a vanity project (in other words - my desire to produce this book may be at odds with the interest in it). But I love books. I have a huge collection of them at home and I think photographic books are very important. Just like prints are. Photographs aren’t finished until they are printed or reproduced in books. Uploading them onto a website is nice, but it doesn’t really convey the detail and subtleties of the image.

I also love designing books. The concept is important, the laying out of the images is very satisfying, and then of course, having it all bound up into a final product just seems to feel like something greater than the sum of its parts.

There has been months of discussion and work between myself and my friend Darren Ciolli-Leach, who as a graphic artist is behind the finer details of my book designs. Without Darren, my books wouldn’t be as beautiful as they are. He has a fine attention to the medium of print, paper types and fonts. It is his level of expertise in book production that I admire, as he is always able to take my initial fuzzy idea and turn it into a professional product.

Both Darren and myself produced this book because we both love photographic books, and we love to try to create something beautiful. It’s all about the passion for doing something special.

I would love to continue to publish a book each year, so I am now busy working on some future concepts, and busy making new images in the central highlands of Iceland. Perhaps for that next book…..

Thank you for the support. It means a great deal to me.


Working Titles

In a short while, I will be announcing a new book about the south American atacama. The book encompasses photographs from the Argentine, Bolivian and Chilean high plateau. It has been a work in progress for around 8 years.

I had the 'working title' for this book earmarked around six years ago. I find titles a great way to conceptualise and to think about which way to steer my creativity. Once I had the title 'altiplano', I felt I knew what should be in the book, but also perhaps more importantly - what shouldn't.

The proposed title for my future central highlands of Iceland book. I hope to publish this in the next year or two.

The proposed title for my future central highlands of Iceland book. I hope to publish this in the next year or two.

I find projects or themes a great way to steer myself forward. My creativity is more focussed once I have the 'correct' theme in mind. But the theme doesn't always surface straight away and I find that 'working titles' can morph into something else if I live with them for some time. 'Working titles' are like clothing: you try them on for size and to see how they feel. You need to wear them for a while to see if you grow into them or to find that they really don't suit at all.

Altiplano was one title that stuck from the moment I had it. It made me realise that I couldn't add in other landscapes from around Bolivia - I had considered the mines and some other areas but they weren't part of the region that is defined the altiplano. Boundaries are important in focussing attention.

I don't know if I've discussed this on this blog before, but my graphic designer friend Darren and I have been playing around with themes and designs for a set of books. The first of which is coming out soon. We pretty much hope to publish a further two books over the next few years.

I'm hoping to publish one about the central highlands of Iceland - this will be a book with no 'popular' landscapes in it. No classic waterfall shots, etc. It's all about the remote interior, and I hope for it to include my images from my winter shoots in the interior, and also the dark landscapes I encounter throughout the rest of the year. 

The proposed title for my Hokkaido book.

The proposed title for my Hokkaido book.

The other is about Hokkaido. You can see 'mockup's' above. I wouldn't take the designs or titles too seriously right now - I'm showing you these to illustrate the process I go through - these are just 'working titles'. Hálendi means 'Highlands', and Shiro means 'white'. Just working titles and it's too soon to say whether they will stick.

What these working titles give me, is a way of visualising the final books. I've already been collating the work from each landscape, and I've managed to choose around 50+ images so far. But I can already see gaps in the work - areas where I need to look for images to fill out areas of the landscape that I have either missed out on at times in the past, or that I know are still there to be photographed.

Working titles are a great tool to help steer you forward. Making individual photographs isn't enough. If  you find yourself feeling rudderless, not sure where to go with your photography, but at the same time know that you are creating good individual images, then I would suggest you need a concept: something to help you glue your work together. 

The whole is always greater than its parts, if you get a really strong theme or 'working title'. It can propel you and give your creativity focus.

Altiplano

Some advanced copies of new book have arrived, and I'm delighted with the reproductions: they are amazingly spot on. 

The new book is 12 inches square - larger than last year's Colourchrome book which was 10 inches square, and has a lot more pages.

I'm very excited about it, and there will be an announcement this September 25th about the book. Only 315 copies, so if you want one, better be quick :-)

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Gerhard Richter

I was in Norway last week, visiting a photo-pal. Except that my friend and I came down with a really bad cold and spent most of the week just trying to breathe, as our lungs were a mess.

While I was at my friend's home, he showed me some DVD's. One of them was about Gerhard Richter. I must confess I did not know of him, but I was intrigued. Particularly by his portraits, which look like photographs, except they're made by oils.

So I've just received some books and more DVD's to accompany my recuperation. Here is one of them. I've had a brief look and it's wonderful. So I hope to write a more detailed review later.

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Forthcoming Book

This year will see the publication of the second instalment of my Colourchrome book that was published last year. The new book will be of similar format: same dimension, but this time it will be a detailed monograph of my Altiplano images, interlaced with stories from my time at high elevation. The book will also contain some context towards the geographical and cultural region: Bolivia is a high altitude landscape and the land here is the way it is due to the environmental conditions and local farming.

Forthcoming book cover (prototype).

Forthcoming book cover (prototype).

I've been photographing the Altiplano regions of Argentina, Bolivia & Chile for the past nine years.

I had hoped to publish a book on the Atacama regions of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina  several years ago, but the project just kept extending as I found each year that I went back to complete the work I would find more locations worthy of exploring.

A handful of images

A handful of images

The whole region would take a lifetime to photograph, so I came to the conclusion recently that it is a task that has no end in sight, and I should really draw a line where I feel there is some kind of personal natural conclusion.

Expect an announcement later in the year.

Cono de Arita, Puna de Atacama, Argentina.  Image © Bruce Percy 2017.

Cono de Arita, Puna de Atacama, Argentina. 
Image © Bruce Percy 2017.

Book is now Sold Out (and out of print).

We sold the last copy of my 3rd book today. It is a strictly limited edition run of 300 copies and as such, we won't be re-printing it. Many thanks to those of you who bought a copy. We will be shipping them out 2nd of August.

Colourchrome Monograph
from 35.00

Photographic Images 2009 - 2017

Exhibition Book

Please note: This book is now out of print.

To mark the first exhibition of Bruce's photography, this book covers his work from 2009 to the present. 

The book is laid out in order of tonal range starting with Bruce's serenely minimal Hokkaido images before moving on to the lower registers of tonality by visiting the black deserts of central Iceland. The book concludes with his full spectrum work from the Bolivian Altiplano.

Book dimensions:

  • 10 inches x 10 inches x 0.25 inches

Standard Edition:

The standard edition is limited to 200 copies.

    • 40 photographic plates, 170mm x 170cmm
    • Three chapter Introductions regarding tone and composition

    Special Edition:

    The special edition is limited to 100 copies. Each copy has one of three prints available:

    • 33 editions with signed / numbered Hokkaido Print 
    • 33 editions with signed / numbered Iceland Print
    • 34 editions with signed / numbered Bolivia Print

    Standard edition now sold out

    The standard edition of my book is now sold out. We currently only have 6 copies left of the deluxe limited edition book as seen below, which comes in a dark blue cover.

    This is a one-time printing only. We won't be making a 2nd printing of the book.

    I'm delighted with the response to the book, and now that I've seen it myself, I'm very very happy with the print reproductions inside. 

    If you'd like a copy, we only have a few Bolivia print editions and Hokkaido Print editions left.

    Many thanks to those of you who bought a copy of the book.

    Bruce.

    Colourchrome Monograph
    from 35.00
    Edition:
    Add To Cart

    Bolivia Print Deluxe Edition.

    Where do we go from here?

    Recently, I've been giving a lot of thought to how much my photography has changed over the years. I feel that it is only in the last two or three years that there has been a distillation, a fine-tuning of ideas and style into where I am now. It's as if everything came into sharp focus for me around three years ago and everything before then was a slow gradual journey, one where I felt things were changing but I didn't know where they were going.

    It's only now that I feel I've reached a point where things have become easier for me. I now have better confidence in myself and trust myself more in how I am developing as an artist.

    Trees in a snow storm, Hokkaido, January 2017 Image © Bruce Percy 2017

    Trees in a snow storm, Hokkaido, January 2017
    Image © Bruce Percy 2017

    A creative life has these moments, or plateaus perhaps, of feeling that you've arrived at some level playing field where you can bask in some form of creative comfort for a while before the next (sometimes difficult, other times just natural) adaption occurs. Because growing requires change, and although I know and believe that change is good, it can also be a time of great uncertainty.

    If I look back at Ansel Adam's work over his lifetime, it is clear that he, like many other artists, he had a very creative period and then things started to tail off. By the end of his life, he was perhaps more a curator of his legacy. His skills had developed so much that he was able to go back to his iconic work and produce bolder, deeper prints than when he first started out.

    Colourchrome Monograph
    from 35.00
    Edition:
    Add To Cart

    My 3rd book is about to be published soon, and it has given me pause for thought. Is this the final mark of a period of great growth and creativity for me? Will I look back on this book in years to come and say 'that was my most creative time?' 

    I am aware that I have done so much and witnessed so many wonderful things over the past eight or nine years since I went full time, that I feel it may be unlikely I can perhaps top that for a further similar duration. I am older, I feel different (i.e not the same way as I felt when I started out eight years ago), so things have changed, and indeed, are always changing.

    I believe that each artist or creative person reaches a point in their own development where they are at the summit of what they can do. It's an inevitable point to reach in one's own creativity but we must continue to move forward with an open mind to see if there is still mileage in the road ahead.

    Indeed, there have been many moments where I felt I could go no further, only to find that the period of contemplation was either brief or lasted for many months or years. I've had periods in my creativity where I have felt I had nowhere else to go, yet looking back I see now that I had only just started.

    Contemplative moments are good for us. Thinking about where you've been and where you think you may be going are healthy thoughts to have. You just need to believe in yourself that things are going to change and understand that progress is not linear. There will be times and even long spells of inactivity, times when you feel you have nothing left to say, only to find that you are now entering a period of great productivity. Being open to whatever may come, and accepting that you are on a journey that has no fixed course is the only way to be.

    Learn to live in the present and understand that everything you are doing or experiencing is transient: it will not last. That goes for periods of little or no productivity, and for times when we reach new summits in what we do. Regardless, thinking about where you are and understanding yourself at this present moment is good for a healthy creative life.

    So today  I'm left wondering 'where do I go from here?' And I can't wait to see what's up the road ahead.

    Colourchrome book update

    The printing of my 3rd book is now underway.

    We've taken advanced orders for 240 copies of the 300 edition run, and I think the book may sell out before I even get to my exhibition date. So if you were planning on coming along to the exhibition and picking up a copy then, perhaps best to buy a copy online. It will be shipped out on the 2nd of August.

    There's something deeply satisfying and very powerful about seeing a project come together that started out as an idea. What was once just a single thought becomes a real thing. That's very empowering.

    Book Proofs

    Today I received three proofs for the book I'm publishing this summer.

    Here are the three proofs displayed inside my viewing booth in my home studio. More about the book very soon!

    Upcoming

    Just a short heads up that I am publishing a new book this August. Keep an eye out for an announcement for a special edition. This book is limited to 200 standard copies and 100 special edition copies. More soon.

    Colourchrome Monograph

    90 pages, 25.4cm x 25.4cm
    Published by Half-Light Press August 2017

    This week is "write a new book" week

    How do you write about 40 images that have been shot over the past eight or so years? How does one begin such a task, and should there be a theme to it (yes, of course!). 

    Book No.3

    Book No.3

    Eight years is quite a while. For most photographers it can see the evolution of a style, or maybe just the amassing of images made to mark one's life. But what if you are doing this full time? What if you saw your own style of imagery change over so many years, fuelled on by teaching others?

    I know for sure that my own style of photography has moved on a lot in the past few years particularly, and I am very aware that teaching and guiding participants in the landscape has forced me to think more about what I do and answer questions I thought I knew, only I really didn't.

    I do know one thing: if I had not left IT back in 2008 to do this for a vocation, my photography wouldn't be what it is today. I feel that being a workshop teacher and tour leader has really propelled me forward in what I do.

    More about this book in the coming months.

    Last remaining Deluxe copies

    I've just found 4 remaining copies of my Iceland 'Deluxe' edition, which I had thought had sold out a few years ago. This is the version of the book that comes with three prints of the beach at Jokulsarlon - so they can be framed as a tryptich. Perhaps a nice christmas present for somebody (perhaps yourself? !)  :-)

    Iceland, a Journal of Nocturnes
    from 30.00
    Edition:
    Add To Cart
    Deluxe edition comes with 3 prints that can be framed as a tryptych. 

    Deluxe edition comes with 3 prints that can be framed as a tryptych. 

    Preface by Ragnar Axelsson

    Release Date: 1 November 2012
    ISBN 978-0-9569561-1-8
    Hardback, Cloth, 30cm x 28cm. 
    64 pages with 45 colour plates.

    First edition. Limited to 1,000 copies.

    This book encapsulates all of Bruce's nocturnal photographs of Iceland made between 2004 and 2012.

    The book has a strong nocturnal theme. Mainly a monograph in nature, it is interspersed with entries from Bruce's journal with thoughts that deal with his experiences of shooting the icelandic landscape in subdued light.

    The book can be seen as a photographic day, shot over many years with the opening presenting us with late evening shots. As the book progresses, we move into the small hours of the summer night, where there is no night at all. The book concludes with winter shots made during the fleeting sunrise and sunset of the shortest days of the year.

    This book comes in four variations:

    • Standard Edition
    • Signed Edition with Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon Print (60 copies).
    • Signed Edition with Selfoss Waterfall Print (60 copies).
    • Deluxe Edition (book with 3 special Ice lagoon prints, 50 copies).

    The prints are 7" x 9" in size, printed on A4 Museo Silver Rag Fine Art Photo Paper.
    The have been printed signed and numbered by Bruce.

    Discovery Series - Conceptual at heart

    I think that photography can be a lot stronger if it is created with a concept in mind, or if it exists as part of a concept. 

    Individual images, like individual sentences can be quite nice, but there’s often more depth to the work if the sentences are strung together to create a story. So too, with the photographic image.

    Images on their own only go so far to tell us something but I often find I’m left feeling part of the story is missing. That’s why I find collections of images, arranged within a theme or as part of a narrative so much more engaging.

    Hans Strand - Intimate 1

    Hans Strand - Intimate 1

    Chris Friel - Framed

    Chris Friel - Framed

    Greg Whitton - Mountainscape

    Greg Whitton - Mountainscape

    This month, Triplekite have just announced a series of books which fit into this category. Rather than producing individual books, they are focussing on producing a series that all fit together to create a unified body, which I think is a great idea.

    David from Triplekite explained to me that: “It’s the ‘wholeness’ of the project that interested us when we began to work on it. Rather than looking at individual titles, I think there’s a strength to a body of work if it belongs as part of a larger theme”.

    He struck a chord with me, because this is something that is at the heart of my own photography. I believe that when we prepare our work, we should consider how it fits into the bigger picture. I’m not a piecemeal photographer, and I believe that my ‘message’ is stronger when my images are presented in theme based portfolios.

    With the three books I’m going to review here, they are presented with the same aesthetic values: all titles here have the same dimensions, the same page count, and although each book is a flexible vehicle for illustrating a wide range of photographer’s and also a wide range of projects, they ask to be considered as part of a whole.

    David also explains that “for Triplekite, we are looking at this as an ongoing project - one in which we can, over time, add new titles, showcase lesser known photographers as well as some really well known ones - which we already have in the pipeline, but ultimately, make the collection a cohesive effort".

    So clearly the the Discovery Series has been put together with the hope that owners of the collection will be attracted by the diversity and on-going exploration into different photographers work along with varying project remits.


    Abisko Canyon, Sweden, September 2013, Image © Hans Strand. Used by kind permission.

    Abisko Canyon, Sweden, September 2013, Image © Hans Strand. Used by kind permission.

    Hans Strand - Intimate I

    The first book in the Discovery series i'd like to review is Hans Strand's 'Intimate 1'. Clearly the title suggests that there are more intimate series to come, and I'm looking forward to them very much since Strand's work is of particular interest to me.

    Until now, I was only aware of Strand's ariel 'abstractions'. In 'Intimate 1' he takes us in, closer - to a smaller intimate landscape. Seldom will you see the sky in any of the images contained in this collection which is something I admire, because quite frankly - I suck at it. It's very hard indeed to make such beautiful yet anonymous images and Strand excels at this. He is a meticulous photographer. His compositions are extremely well thought out and very fine indeed. He takes time to simplify them right down and show you only what you need to see, and nothing more. I can fully understand why this may be series 1 in an on-going collection for him. 

    I should note that this is by far my favourite book out of the Discovery series (at present).

    Before I leave this book, I should take time now to say that I was particularly taken with Strand's Iceland book - also published by Triplekite - if you don't own it - then I strongly suggest you read my review of it here.

    Reed, Lake Teen, November 2011, Image © Hans Strand. Used by kind permission.

    Reed, Lake Teen, November 2011, Image © Hans Strand. Used by kind permission.

    Nianån River, February 1992, Image © Hans Strand. Used by kind permission.

    Nianån River, February 1992, Image © Hans Strand. Used by kind permission.


    Greg Whitton - Mountainscape

    Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Torridon, Scotland. Image © Greg Whitton. Used by kind permission.

    Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Torridon, Scotland. Image © Greg Whitton. Used by kind permission.

    "A love for all high places" - is perhaps the sentence that resonated with me upon reading Whitton's introduction to his book 'Mountainscape'.

    Like Whitton, I had to endure endless hill walks as a youngster with my mountain-mad father. I'd often yearned for the time when I could choose for myself to avoid them. But just like Whitton has found in later life, the passion for the hills had already been ingrained from an early age. It seems we both could not escape the beauty of the mountains in our later years.

    This book then, is a homage to his acknowledgement that he loves the high places, and perhaps without knowing it - it is also a tribute to his father's love of high places also.

    Liathach, Torridon, Scotland. Image © Greg Whitton. Used by kind permission.

    Liathach, Torridon, Scotland. Image © Greg Whitton. Used by kind permission.

    'Mountainscape' contains images shot up high, around many parts of the UK: Snowdonia in Wales, the Lake District in England, and many places in the Scottish highlands such as Torridon and Wester Ross to name a few.

    Whitton's images are more intent on capturing the atmospherics of a place, rather than showing you some literal translation. I can almost feel the 'liquid-air' of the misty days I spent up in the mountains with my 'mountain-mad' dad.


    Image © Chris Friel. Used by kind permission

    Image © Chris Friel. Used by kind permission

    Chris Friel - Framed

    I've left this book till last, because it is perhaps the most adventurous of the three. The first two books could be easily classified as belonging to what many of us consider landscape photography.

    But landscape photography should be, and can be, a whole lot more than the idea of recording verbatim scenery. As a creative person, I believe that photography is an art-form. I'm not particularly interested in recording a verbatim scene, but instead, I'm more intrigued by how we can interpret what we see and feel. This book falls distinctly into that realm for me.

    Image © Chris Friel. Used by kind permission

    Image © Chris Friel. Used by kind permission

    Friel's images are like wild brush strokes. As Doug Chinnery notes in his fine introduction "they mimic the tantalising half glimpses we get of light and beauty through windows". So often I've been mesmerised by these 'half glimpses', and I would go so far as to suggest that many of us, if not all who love photography, are often caught by moments when the light shifts and a scene is altered for a fleeting moment.

    Perhaps it is the short lived sense of something only being for a moment that I find most arresting when I'm drawn to something I wish to photograph.

    Image © Chris Friel. Used by kind permission

    Image © Chris Friel. Used by kind permission

    Friel also uses frames found in the real world to frame his landscapes. Again, Chinnery notes "His frames are not regular, perfect, geometric shapes. Rather, they are the wild, free brush strokes of an artist at work". I think this is an accurate description of Friel's interesting use of the landscape to frame itself.

    It's an interesting book and one which I think suggests that this discovery series may allow us to explore the wide gamut of what photography really is about. 


    These three titles on an individual basis, offer excellent value for money at £18.50 each. They are inexpensive, yet beautifully reproduced. They encourage me to think of collecting the set that Triplekite intend to release over the coming years, and I feel it's worth noting that keeping an eye on this series will reap rewards: you'll get to find out about photographers you hadn't heard of before, but you'll also be open to looking at a wide variety of projects. If you're a book collector like I am, then I would imagine that some of the titles may be very popular indeed, and knowing which ones to collect just makes it more enticing to collect the entire set.

    I think Triplekite have offered a concept in photography book publication, which they should be admired for.

    For more information, please see: Triplekite Publishing Website

    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.

    #IPHONEONLY A book of landscape photographs made entirely on an iPhone.

    It's interesting to note that the largest growth market in digital cameras is in the 35mm arena. This is interesting to me because we now live in an age where we have numerous formats to choose from and many of them are just as capable of making good pictures as the trusty old 35mm format. The reason for this current growth in DSLRs as I understand it, is that many mobile phone users who discover an interest in photography through their phone assume that the next logical progression is to buy a decent DSLR. I can appreciate that if you're new to photography, and don't know much about the new smaller formats, that this appears to be the way to go.

    My own personal feeling on the matter is that the DSLR is tied to an historical format and as such, I think there are many smaller lighter systems available that would be just as valid, and much less bulky to use for many projects. In other words, DSLRs are not the only way to go if you want to get into digital photography seriously. In fact, I think the system of choice is often a personal one and the quality of the work is really in the skill of the photographer. Not the gear.

    Julian Calverley is known mostly for his advertising work in which he uses an ALPA camera with a state of the art Phase-One digital back. It's heartening to know that Julian is just as creative behind an iPhone as he is behind his ALPA and his terrific book #IPHONEONLY illustrates. It gives credence to his abilities regardless of what format he chooses and also to the stark truth that any camera is good enough, even an iPhone. If you have dreams to create beautiful work, and can't afford a camera system, Julian's book will confirm to you that you can get started right now with your mobile phone and a few inexpensive processing apps.

    So what of Julian's book?

    Firstly, let's get the physical properties out of the way and then I'll talk about the quality of the work contained within. It's a small book A5 in size and it's printed on very high quality paper via a waterless lithographic printing process. The print quality is really nice and Julian's notes about his images are subtle, allowing the work to speak for itself.

    About the work itself. The book mostly contains landscape images of Scotland. It's a place I obviously know well so I had great pleasure in seeing some very different and refreshing views of well known places. But I think for me what stands out is the overall feel of the work. Julian likes dark moody days. There are images where I can almost feel I'm sitting in a car staring out at the landscape as the rain lashes against the windscreen. Growing up in Scotland, I often found my holidays involved a lot of rain and abrupt changes in atmosphere. Because of this I felt a connection with the work immediately.

    I also think that the work has a spontaneous feel to it, which says more about the freedom that using a mobile phone has brought to Julian's work than anything about quality - the images are superb. Many of them illustrate that he is comfortable photographing in any kind of weather which is something we could all learn from. If we only make photos when it's dry then we are restricting ourselves to what might be. Sometimes owning expensive equipment makes us scared to use it in inclement weather. It seems a mobile phone can, and is, an extremely liberating way to make photographs.

    Julian uses colour in the same sense that I do. He uses his chosen colour palette, which reminds me of rainy autumn days to convey emotion and mood in his work.

    I'm surprised that it's taken this long to have a book published that has been made solely with a mobile phone. If you're looking for some inspiration that can help you to shake up what you're doing, or maybe encourage you to stop going down the equipment buying route and focus more on your own development, then this book is a great example that it's the photographer not the gear that is responsible for making art. But the book Is also a thing of small beauty as well. A lovely object to add to your book collection.

    It's just so encouraging to see someone embrace his mobile phone and create great images. It's proof to me that the equipment is always a means, a personal choice and the art we create with it solely lies within us.

    The standard edition of #IPHONEONLY is available from the Lionhouse Bindery.

    And Exclusively to BeyondWords books, a signed edition at £20.

    New e-Books in-Progress

    Way back in 2007, after a lot of nudging by a good friend of mine, I ran some of my very first workshops. I chose Torres del Paine national park in Chilean Patagonia of all places to start on my little adventure (a rather grand entrance into the world of photography workshops don't you think?). I knew the park well, had visited it more than a dozen times, and felt it was as good a place as any to commence a possible career in workshops.

    Looking back, the workshops were more 'tours' than anything, but they were a great learning experience for me (in fact - all my workshops and tours have been great learning experiences for myself as well as hopefully, my clients too). Seven years on, and I now find myself in a position where I feel the structure and format of my teaching based workshops is very honed now. This I feel, is due to many factors.

    Firstly, as a workshop leader, having to teach someone else something, really makes you have to think harder and get a much clearer picture in your head about it. Through trying to explain something to someone, you discover holes in your own understanding. Getting a clearer picture helps not only the participant on my workshops, but it has also helped me a great deal in my own development as a photographer.

    Secondly, my own style of photography has morphed and changed over the years. I've found that applying a sense of self-awareness has helped me enormously. I find that I consider and reflect a lot about what it is that I do, and why I do it.It's been greatly beneficial to notice the changes in my style and use any new-found awareness in my critique sessions and time in the field with my clients.

    One of the aspects of this, is that I often find that there are topics within photography that I hadn't thought about, or didn't appreciate might need to be taught.

    One of them that I feel has been lurking away for a good few years - popping it's head up - trying to get my attention is that of  tonal-relationships. Which is why you see the proposed cover for a new e-Book I'm working on at the head of this post today.

    For most, composition is all about where to place objects within the frame, but I think it goes further than that. One aspect of good composition is that of the inter-relationship of tones between objects within the frame. Many of us often think of meaningful things like 'sand' and 'rock', but few of us recognise that sometimes sand and rocks have similar tonal values which means that when they are recorded in 2D, the merge to become one confused object.

    But there is more to tonal relationships than this - there is the meaty subject of how to balance an entire composition. If you consider darker tones as 'heavy' tones, and brighter tones as 'lighter', then you can often find some photographs are light-headed, or bottom-heavy, or maybe there are patches of tone around the frame that are too dominant. For instance, brighter tones will stand out if they are the minority in a dark image. Conversely, darker tones may stand out more in a  pre-dominantly bright-toned image.

    But tonal relationships don't end there. We have the thorny subject of noticing that a certain tone in the frame may become more or less dominant by adjusting the tone of an adjacent object. This tends to move into the realms of colour theory.

    Proposed Focal-Length's e-Book

    But there's more yet. Over the past few years, I've found myself trying to ween participants away from using zooms in their compositions. It's not that I don't think zooms are good. It's just that until we master a few focal-lengths, zooms tend to complicate things by giving us too much, too soon. In my own view, It has taken me a decade to learn to 'see' in three focal lengths - 24mm, 50mm and 75mm. That is enough for anyone to be getting on with.

    So there is work in progress for another e-Book, that I'm writing with Stephen Trainor - author of The Photographer's Ephemeris sunrise/sunset application that many of you know I use. Stephen has developed a really nice new application called Photo Transit that you may wish to look into further.

    In this e-Book, Stephen and I will aim to convey how different focal lengths behave, and how to compose with them. Standing at one spot and zooming in and out with your zoom lens is not the way forward to create great compositions. As participants of my workshops will know, I prefer the idea that you should zoom with your feet. Fix a focal length, and hunt the landscape to fit your focal-length, not the other way round. See this post about focal-lengths for further detail.

    I'll be busy over the next few months working on these e-Books. But I may share some observations over the next while during my writing phases for them. I hope these titles may spark some interest for you.

    Paul Wakefield Book Review & Exhibition

    When I started out on my photographic journey, there were a few key photographers that I think helped point me in the right direction.

    For instance, Galen Rowell gave me permission to follow my traveling-dreams, while Michael Kenna showed me that it was totally ok to create a 'new reality' through heavy manipulation in the dark room. But there is one photographer that showed me that nature and natural scenery often possess an abstract depth to them that can be utilised to create strong imagery. That photographer is Paul Wakefield.

    Wakefield's compositions of well known places are often unique, showing that there is always an abstract shape or form to nature's design. I find his images of anonymous landscapes - the kind that many of us tend to overlook - just as powerful as his images of the iconic places we know so well.

    Paul Wakefield's newly published book

    For those of you who aren't familiar with Wakefield's work, he has been a terrific influence on many notable landscape photographers. I know for instance that Joe Cornish often cites Wakefield's images of Elgol on Skye to be the catalyst for him deciding to venture there in the first place.

    A few months ago, I received news that Wakefield was due to release a monograph of his work to date. I bought my copy in a matter of seconds, because I so wished to experience his beautiful work in more detail than I can on a website. The edition I bought is the £175 collectors edition in a clam-shell case with a print signed by him. There is also a standard edition at £48 available from Beyond Words books here in the UK.

    The book is beautifully presented and printed on very nice matt paper. It is a large book and is very much in the style of a classic Ansel Adams monograph. I think all landscape photography monographs should be printed with a timeless-air of design to them, and Paul's book fits this category unreservedly. It is perhaps my favourite landscape monograph since Michael Kenna's Huangshan book (which you can read about here).

    On a side note, there are a few images in Wakefield's book that take me to places I know well: the Lofoten islands of Norway, Torres del Paine in Patagonia and the isles of Harris, Skye and Eigg. It seems that Paul has been more of an influence on my own journey this past decade than I had originally thought. What is so joyful for me then, is to experience a different perspective of these places - sometimes I found myself doubting if his images were of the places I know, because his compositions often offer an unexpected view.

    It is his skill for assembling great compositions in such a way that I find the most enjoyable in his work. I remember asking him a few years back if he could confirm that one of his images was of Lago Sarmiento in Torres del Paine, to which he replied  "don't you think images become more powerful when you don't know where they are from?" I would certainly agree with this.

    The book does indeed tell you where his beautiful images were shot, but it saves us from any interruption by  leaving the images untitled, to enjoy for what they are, rather than for where they are a study of. For those of us with an enquiring mind, the locations are listed at the back of the book. I find this design choice a welcome one, because it removes any possibility of distraction while enjoying the work - images should be enjoyed first and foremost and analysed later.

    Paul-Wakefield-E-card

    So I end this post with news that Paul Wakefield is holding an exhibition this month at the Redfern Gallery in London from the 8th to the 26th. The gallery currently has stock of his beautiful hard bound book. The standard edition is available on-line from Beyond Words books here in the UK.

    Redfern Gallery, 20 Cork Street, London W1S 3HL T: 020 7734 1732/0578 / F: 020 7494 2908 www.redfern-gallery.com

    A life of its own?

    It's just over a year now, since my Iceland book came out. Which I can't believe. In some ways, it feels as though it has been a lot longer, but a year isn't much time at all, so I'm finding it interesting to feel as if the book has been around for a long time. Perhaps it was already a thought in my mind long before I even began working on it?

    Iceland-45

    It was really interesting to decide on the special edition print runs for the book. It was also a lot of fun too.

    I spent a bit of time deciding which group of three images would go together to form the triptych. The idea being that if they are put together, they are complimentary and can be framed as such. The final touch for me, was to create a dedicated envelope for them. The envelope has the same layout and font-set as used for the slipcase. The idea being that the prints will be stored alongside the book in this special edition envelope, as a collectors edition. Well I've just done a stock count, and it seems I only have 8 copies of this edition left.

    When creating special edition sizes, it's a difficult task to decide upon the quantities. Make the edition size too small, and the edition will sell out too quickly. Make it too large, and the stock will sit around for some time.

    But selling books should not be entered upon, if you are going for a quick-win result. Books take a long time to sell, and even small print runs of 1000 copies need a few years at least to sell out, if they are going to sell at all. Creating books and selling them, is ultimately a risky endeavour, and one that is embarked upon, if you feel you really need to do it, and can accept the possibility that you might not get your money back. Books are not cheap to print, and even more difficult to store somewhere dry.

    The idea when I decided to put together my two books, was to create products that I could offer to workshop participants, and visitors to my website, for several years to come. If I sold all the books out in a year, then I would have nothing left to offer.

    Like my prints, I feel a well printed book is a 'calling card'. It is a statement of who the photographer is, and the aesthetics / design of the book, right down to the layout and font-set used, should give you a sense of who the photographer is. The entire thing, not just the photos contained inside, should be carefully chosen, and should fit the aesthetic tastes of the photographer. In fact, I can't imagine any photographer who wouldn't want to be involved in the design of their book as much as possible. It is such a personal thing to do. So many photog's get that part wrong, and I've come across books that have wonderful photos in them, but the overall design or layout is at odds with the work contained within.

    I'm still hoping to do a 3rd book sometime. My initial plans were to come out with a book about the Altiplano of Chile and Bolivia sometime next year, but I feel this is too soon. The work I have begun to create in Bolivia, seems to be getting stronger each year I return. So I think I need to wait a while and see what transpires there when I go back this June.

    Well, just some thoughts and observations. It's good to check in on where things are, and I find christmas and new year a time to reflect, to look back and think about how far I have come as a photographer, as in life, as in everything.

    It seems that making the photos, and designing the layout and appearance of this book with my friend Darren Ciolli-Leach, was just the start. It seems that even a year after publication, the book is still finding its place in my heart and mind. It's a grower, and it's heartening to note that sometimes, when I think I've finished a project, it's only really just begun. I think my iceland book has taken on a life of its own. So I will be watching it with interest over the years to come.