…and how to know what you are looking for.

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Where my main Look is at. The components of it are at the end of the day relatively simple, but the refinement took more time.

Quite simply your Look is your consistent style, but you knew that one anyway.

The real question though is do you really need one, and the answer to that really lies in where you are at in your hobby or profession, and at that there are several nuances. In the course of this essay I will take you through this and expand on the what, the why and the wherefore.

But first we need look at how we became aware…

In the beginning we all start out on a quest to be competent, in other words we just want to be better. We may not actually know what better is, but we definitely want to be better. We like our pictures, but we know that they could be better but we have not practiced our craft enough to yet know how to deconstruct a photograph to figure out how it is done, and how we would seek to emulate it — in this realm we are the aspirant, we aspire to be good. …

...or adding clarity by removing color.

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The key aim of this photograph’s story is to convey the essential beauty of the flower as a whole, and with this variety’s main attraction being its incredibly rich burgundy color, then this is the strength that has to be played to in this story’s context. The other factors in this are the supporting sub-plots; be that the evolution from bud to flower, the leaf’s role in providing nourishment, the rippling texture of the petals, or indeed the gentle end-of day light.

Now first of all this is going to have nothing to do with sharpness, resolution or contrast per se, but is all about delivering the message in your picture. Clarity in this regard is all about the story you are wanting to tell, or more simply the message you are conveying to the viewer.

Nor am I one of those folk who like to say one thing is better than the other. In photography it is important that you harness all of your skills to create the image you want — if that is in color good, if it is monochrome black and white then that is equally as good. …

To help you think differently.

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A feeling of meditation is what most people ascribe to Japanese Aesthetics using “Zen like” as a descriptive, but this misses the point.

The more east you go from Europe the more you encounter cultures that have long standing culturally aesthetic conventions that are woven into their society. These conventions need not exist as a singularity, and many conventions live pluralistically side-by-side. Some of these conventions are formally tied to religious belief, some exist alongside a religion without being part of it, and some transcend religious divergence. But what they do have is a long-standing codification.

Unlike our western views of aesthetics which are essentially trend based, Japanese aesthetics are broader ideals that can be applied to the elements of life, be that complex and spiritual, or just to a trendy fashion based westernism. …

The practical lessons I have learned in becoming an “influencer” in a year (ish).

Being on the verges of, or in, the definition of old-foggie, I am probably not the typical user of social networks — and like the aforementioned stereotype I’m inclined to look on some as new-fangled nonsense.

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The first image I put up on Instagram, simple and ticking all the appropriate boxes or so I though.

I have never really got Facebook, as I just don’t get the pseudo-conversation palaver that is imbedded in it. Flickr, I struggle with as well; does it want to be Facebook for photos, or a forum, a portfolio hosting service, or something else I’m just missing.

But then there are the offerings that appeal to me more as they are truly focussed on being about the photo itself, like 500px and Instagram. …

The handiest way to pre-visualize your shots.

I have a confession to make, these days I don’t always carry a camera with me, not even one in a phone. I know, this is a terrible, and worse than that, when I do I tend just to take one or two primes with me. Unless that is I’m just playing about, or out with the family, then I’ll go out with a zoom and/or something weird.

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This composition at Talisker Bay in Skye never came to me via my open eye, or through the viewfinder — the natural panoramic crop would have been across the bay, or using at least one of the sides to frame the shot. But, using a finger/hand frame to cut out the stronger visual elements, the possibility of playing with the stack and the subtler tones came into play.

This terrible omission can generally be put down to that I know what I want to do. To overgeneralize; if the light and the sky is interesting a wide shot is on, if it’s a bright flat day I’ll go with a modern macro, if it’s a dark low contrast day I’ll go out with an ex-cine lens — you get the picture. …

Having moments of epiphany are meant to be rarer the older you get. To which I would tend to reply; aye right. This one evolved out of a completely different point that I have long had problems rationalizing within myself…

Tonality is something I have always had an internal turmoil with. I have always been somewhat envious of some of the tonal symphonies of Ansel Adams in the past and more presently Bruce Barnbaum. …

To say I’m a bit contrary, is a bit of an understatement. I have a off-center worldview that tends to make me want to do things differently. I don’t know if that is because I want a challenge, or because I just don’t want to follow the trend, or because somewhere in my subconscious I believe nothing worthwhile is easy. But somewhere over the past couple of years, on the back of tripping over a thread on a forum, I started fiddling about with projection lenses.

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A Schneider-Kreuznach Cinelux AV MC PC 105mm f2.9 slide projector lens shows more or less the pinnacle of slide projector lens results. An Astrantia is always a flower that can flatter a good macro lens, and if you are happy enough to live with a f2.9 minimum aperture, then a lens that cost less than £30 at an on-line auction can compete with those in the premier macro league, giving you both resolution and Bokeh.

As we all know dedicated objective photographic lenses come in many shapes and sizes, from the crisp and ultra-sharp primes, to ultra-range zooms that aim to cover all the generalists’ dreams. But here we are talking about using lenses dedicated to shining a bright picture on a screen as an objective lens. …

…Or what to ignore and why

Okay, let’s just admit it, I do have a bee in my bonnet. Well to be fair and honest, the bonnet’s so full of them It would be difficult to squeeze another one in. But, the one in question is that good old one about compositional rules in photography.

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This shot shows little in the way of conventional rules. The main feature is the boat which leads out the shot in left to right following the arc of the clouds (a common side effect of extreme panoramas).

If ever I was going to write a big thick book about photography it would be about composition, and if I was going to write a really slim one it would be about composition. I think I first said that over thirty years ago when I was a very cocky 20 something and it was in a response to someone trying to explaining the thirds rule to an architect and the architect saying “don’t you really mean the 1.618 golden ratio”. …

The perception of sharpness, I have always contended, is just a tool in the photographers bag.

When you look at many of great evocative images dealing with landscape many are far from a crisp razor sharpness. Ansel Adams, even given the huge negative size, by process produced end images that have an ethereal quality in their resolution.

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Blurring caused by poorly managed light makes these beech leaves glow in the week spring light

…And we are all aware of the current trend to use log exposures on subject that move to harness a softening of the image, which can be effectively juxtaposed to any sharp static element in the frame.

What these options in the perceived sharpness of the imagery seek to give us, is a divergence away from the factual representation, to an endpoint where we are presenting differing qualities of an image to evoke a feeling with the audience as a narrative. …


Scot Gillespie

Scot Gillespie, nature and landscape photographer and writer. Once upon a life ago a mainstream fashion and editorial photographer — now thankfully more sane.

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