Around 250 people converged on the Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon to see world renowned Landscape photographer Charlie Waite speak about his photographic passion. They were not disappointed, as Charlie explained his philosophy, and how this had been inspired by some of the greats of photography such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Pre-visualisation is one of the keys to successful photography. Ansel Adams was happy if he made 12 successful images in a year, by which he meant photographs that fulfilled his ‘pre-visualisation’ of how the scene should look. He had extremely high standards, and very few of his images reached the perfection he sought.
Although planning and pre-visualisation are very important, sometimes serendipity gives you an unplanned image which nevertheless works. Charlie illustrated this with one of his own pictures, in which a line of cows took up exactly the right position along a shoreline, to create a perfect foil to the stormy sea and sky beyond.
Another theme was the connection between the photographer and viewer, and how interesting it is to observe an audience’s reaction to different photographs. Psychologically, a viewer will typically decide whether they like an image within the first second of seeing it. Charlie also showed how sometimes, viewers can interpret the image in unexpected ways. An avenue through a line of tall trees, framing a view of open countryside beyond, suddenly became a bottle of white wine, and shadows on sunlit cloisters became a stairway.
Charlie’s tour company is called ‘Light and Land’, and Charlie emphasised how important light is on creating a successful landscape. Pre-visualising a scene involves deciding on the interplay between sunlit and shaded areas of the landscape to suit the composition, and waiting for the sky to deliver sunlight and cloud shadow to match. The clouds not in the picture, casting shadows on the right portions of the landscape, are often more important than the clouds within it.
In the digital age, many effects can be added in post-processing, which raises the question of how much of this is valid. If the photograph is the photographer’s way of sharing the passion of his experience with the viewer, the essential integrity of the truth of the image has to be maintained. Once this is lost, the relationship between photographer and viewer is compromised.
On a more practical level, Charlie used many images to illustrate some of the finer points of composition which he believed make for successful images. Repeating shapes such as curves, triangles, diagonal lines etc within an image make for a pleasing whole. A slightly raised viewpoint often provides all important separation between the different elements making up the composition, and to achieve this, Charlie often uses a small set of steps to gain sufficient elevation.
The evening was Devizes Camera Club’s most ambitious undertaking. It was hugely rewarding to see so many people from the wider photographic community and the general public coming to see and hear such and accomplished photographer and speaker. Special thanks go to Robert Harvey, who as Programme Secretary conceived and managed the whole event, undertook publicity to 100 other clubs and co-ordinated tickets sales, which was hugely time consuming.
Our thanks also go to Richard Watson, Craig Purvis, Frank Collins, Lynda Croft and all the others who helped publicise the event and manage ticket sales at club level. DG
Charlie Waite's website