In Love With The Landscape
Lately, I have been yearning to photograph the landscape. It is a feeling that has been building over the last few years. I have made many excuses, not too. The main reason I convinced myself was that I needed a medium format camera. Why? I believed that a bigger sensor would give me the fine detail and resolving power that I needed in my landscape images. Therefore I would have to wait until a digital camera that was perfect for my needs came along.
Fujifilm released the GFX50s. This camera had an excellent sensor with the fine detail and resolving power I craved. But still, I did not take the plunge.
Thinking back, I believe the main reason I did not follow my heart and start photographing the landscape sooner, was fear.
Fear is the biggest creativity killer in a photographer. It has been with me my entire photography life. It eats away at your confidence and self-belief, hides in the shadows and taunts you every time you finish an edit of an image. Is it good enough? What will my peers think? Will my editor or client like it? It stops you or slows you down from taking the next step, be it calling or following up with a client, exhibiting, setting up workshops or tours. It stops you from experimenting with different techniques and dabbling in other genres. It prevents you from self-growth and developing your craft.
Slowly I have overcome my fear; Sometimes, I say the phrase out loud, What is the worse that can happen? I have learnt to except negativity, failure, realising it is all part of our learning curve. It is shaping me into the photographer that I wish to be.
I am ready to tackle a new genre; I have been a wildlife photographer for over ten years, it has taken a lot of tears, sweat and self-sacrifice to get me to where I am today.
Now, I yearn for a new challenge; I can feel the excitement building within. I can almost taste it...
I love the landscape, always have since I was a young boy growing up in rural Ireland. I remember clearly when childhood friends of my parents visited us from Australia. They brought a sheet of colour slides and a small viewing slide projector. I was in awe of this strange landscape; I can still vividly recall the colours, shapes, texture and form of the 'Wave Rock" of Western Australia.
Landscape photographers are influenced or inspired by many different artists, be it, Turner, Constable or past masters of photography, Adams, Weston etc.
But it is the minimalist photographs of Micheal Kenna that have and continued to inspire me. Especially his book "Japan" which for me is the benchmark in black and white landscape photography. I think as a budding landscape photographer, it helps to set out with a style you wish to copy and then try and build towards creating your vision, your way of seeing.
If fear was not enough, procrastination plays a big part in my life, ask the editors whom I am honoured to write for or send my pictures too. It's not my intention to leave everything to the last minute, I usually start weeks before the deadline, but somehow I find myself writing at my desk late into the night on submission day.
Procrastination plays a big part in taking photographs, not my wildlife as my safari trips are pre-arranged and booked in advance. But in my landscape work, it does, I have had to trick myself into deadlines to go out regularly.
My first delaying tactic when I received a GFX50 and three lenses, GF 250mm, GF 100-200mm and the GF 32-64mm was to start a project on "Surfing."
For a month, I would visit one of the worlds most famous surfing beaches, Victoria Bay, a mere ten-minute drive from my home. I would bring my coffee and earphones listen to Miles Davis, sitting on boulders close to the surf action and zone out for hours capturing the surfers riding waves. Photographing surfers with a medium format kit not made for action photography was more than challenging. But it was one I thoroughly enjoyed.
The location was great for getting close to the action with the GF 250mm, which in normal circumstances would be too short in focal length.
Early morning, was problematic as I was photographing into the sun, but I used this challenge, to create some beautiful silhouettes. The autofocus on the GFX is not the quickest and only firing off one frame a second; the timing was crucial.
When the month-long project ended, I was delighted with the images I had made. But I still craved for the landscape. It was time to tackle my landscape project.
I went home and booked a three-day safari at Addo Elephant National Park a mere five-hour drive. Procrastination strikes again. Wildlife Photography with the Fujifilm GFX 50, GF 250mm and GF 100-200mm would not be the weapons of choice of any real wildlife photographer, or so I have been told.
That may be correct, but I love to put constraints on my photography. I found the challenges of having a short focal length and slow autofocus help me to be more creative with compositions and subject choice.
You adapt to the shortcomings and make them positives.
I loved using the medium format kit for my wildlife photography. The files are crisp, sharp, with incredible fine detail, with a beautiful fall-off in depth of field. I will continue to use this Fujifilm Medium format gear whenever possible for my wildlife work.
After a magical three-day safari, I decided that I had to commit to photographing the landscape. The next day I was travelling along the dusty back roads to one of my favourite destinations in South Africa.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is a short but beautiful three-hour drive from my home in the Garden Route. It is a coastal marine reserve with an amazing unspoiled coastline with beautiful clear turquoise waters. It is famed for having the most significant numbers of Southern -Right Whales in the world during the breeding months of May-October.
For me, the attraction was not the whales or the rugged, unspoiled coastline but the magical white dune fields.
My first morning, I was up an hour before dawn, being a confessed coffee addict I was on my second coffee as I approached the dunes. Once I got to the entry point, a gap in some fynbos bushes, I put on my backpack and head torch. Within seconds my lungs were gasping for oxygen as I tackled my first dune climb. I made a promise to myself to exercise more regularly. Even though my body ached and I struggled for breath, I rejoiced inwardly for overcoming my fear, and procrastination.
I marvelled at the view and my surroundings. The silence was deafening; the air was clear and fresh, with a hint of salt. A sea mist lingered over the dunes. I decided to climb the highest dune to get a better view of the dune fields.
Once I got to the top, I threw off my backpack and fell to my knees, I could hear my heart pounding away, and my leg muscles screamed in pain.
Eventually, my breathing became regular, and I looked at the scene in front of me. The view stretched for miles, dune upon dune rising like castles in the air. The sky began to glow; I hastily unpacked my tripod and gear.
I have customised my camera, that makes it easier for me to set up quickly, I always use, two-second delay timer, Aperture priority, 16:9 crop mode, Raw plus Jpeg. Astia/Velvia, Electronic level.
My shooting is straightforward, F16, iso 100, I use single focus point, once I focus, I switch to manual focus and tweak using highlight peaking to make sure that all the essential areas are in focus. Then press the shutter using the two-second timer.
Once the camera and lens were safely attached to the tripod, I began the search for a strong composition; I struggled at first it was all too much to take in. Slowly I began to calm myself down, took some deep breaths and told myself, whether I was successful or not in finding a great image, was not important.
Eventually, I began to see shapes, lines, forms and textures and began to create photographs.
I decided to explore the dune fields as much as possible; I didn't want to fall into the old trap of staying in one place and take the same image over and over again.
The beauty of the raw coastline of South Africa is the inclement weather - one minute it’s clear skies and warm, the next it's rain jackets and storm clouds.
Like every landscape photographer, I love storm clouds, and as the skies began to darken, I raced to find a composition. I attached the GF 32-64mm, lied on the ground, flatten the tripod out and photographed a beautiful pattern dune that reached for the darken skies. From time to time, the sunlight would filter through the clouds creating a play of light and shadow. I was in ecstasy: Zoned out at the task in hand, calm and controlled, my hands and mind in sync to ensure the correct settings whilst my heart arranged the composition in the viewfinder.
My journey of photographing the landscape had finally begun.
Author © Peter Delaney