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ARE YOU A PASSIVE OR ACTIVE PHOTOGRAPHER?

26TH SEP '204 MIN READ

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Visiting and photographing new places this year has not been possible for most people, but it doesn’t mean we should just leave our cameras to collect dust. Landscape photography is an art that needs constant practice to maintain and improve our skills. During the lockdown earlier this year, I didn’t touch my camera for two months. On one hand, it was a positive release from using my camera practically every day when I was traveling and it allowed me to do activities that I don’t normally have time for. But on the other hand, I became rusty. The first time I went out with my Nikon D850 after hibernation I had to rethink what I was doing and get reacquainted with my camera. Using the controls didn’t come naturally as they normally did, I had to think about what I was doing. This was such a strange feeling so I decided to make a point of getting out to photograph more in my local area. 

It’s been great re-visiting many of my old photo locations and discovering some new ones. After living in Norfolk for 35 years, I thought I had it well covered, but just yesterday I photographed a stately home and garden that I had never come across before – the 500-year-old Hindringham Hall. I made a point of contacting the owners so I could photograph it without visitors as I work more efficiently when I don’t have to wait for people and it saves so much time not having to retouch them out in post processing. I was shooting for a specific calendar client that I have been doing a calendar for nearly 20 years. This 16th century Tudor manor house surrounded by a medieval moat would be ideal for the next calendar.

Hindringham Hall, Norfolk, England

The skies were clouding up and it looked like rain was heading my way. After surveying the garden with the owner, I quickly set out a plan taking into account light and cloud cover. I managed to get what I needed within 45 minutes before the skies were completely overcast with a white blanket of cloud. It felt so good; I was in tune with my equipment and the location.  

So are you a passive or active photographer? Are you one of those photographers that takes a photo when you see something nice or are you a photographer that goes with the intention of making a photo? The word ‘taking’ a photo when it presents itself is a passive act, whereas, ‘making’ a photo indicates you are creating an image with perceived thought. Which of these photos do you think will be successful and have more impact with the viewer? If you want to improve as a photographer try being more active.

Several years ago I went to one of my favourite local sunset locations, Horsey Mere one of the most northerly of the Norfolk Broads, with the intention of photographing my kayak moored alongside the bank. I was going for the colour contrast between the red kayak and the blue sky so was really please how it turned out. The conditions were perfect for depicting a tranquil evening.

Red Kayak on Horsey Mere at Sunset, Norfolk Broads National Park, Norfolk, England

A few weeks ago I decided to revisit the same location with my kayak again, but this time add a human interest. Having an image with someone kayaking at sunset can be applied to a manner of uses. This interaction with the landscape not only can be applied for commercial uses, but it can make the viewer imagine they are kayaking in this beautiful scene, I know I would. But someone has to make the picture so I had my son, Brandon, stand in as the action model. I had been checking the conditions using my Dark Sky Weather app making sure the wind speed was low and the cloud cover was at least 50% at sunset, but when we turned up there was hardly a cloud in the sky. To my surprise and delight, some clouds started to form just as the sun neared the horizon. The reflections of the clouds in the water created a more appealing design rather than having an empty blue sky. I was able to direct Brandon to several different positions in the scene in a short time to create a variety of compositions.

Being an active photographer can produce better more mindful images, but it takes a lot of planning and often many attempts the get the right conditions. Ultimately, the end result is worth it.

Kayaker at Sunset, Norfolk Broads National Park, Norfolk, England
Kayaker at Sunset, Norfolk Broads National Park, Norfolk, England

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