Mike Green's thoughts on landscape photography

Archive for ‘October, 2011’

‘Zip’: commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011

I’m very pleased, and distinctly surprised, to be able to say that one of my images – ‘Zip’, my first Howgill Fells capture – has been commended in the 2011 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition (LPOTY, to avoid my having to type all that again).


My surprise is due to the fact that everything I’ve read about photography competitions suggests – well, usually states – that they favour rather more obviously appealing subject matter – things like sunshine, warmth and a view; or morning mist. I’m sure I’ve described the origin of ‘Zip’ before on this site: it was supposed to include mist, if not the other three items. Instead, I had a hard frost to work with; yet this turned out to be much more interesting – at least, it was to me, and also, it would seem, to the judges.

Are competitions a good thing?

I have to admit that I was a little reticent about entering in the first place – I’m not entirely convinced that any art can be meaningfully compared in a competitive sense; the process clearly involves a high level of subjectivity. Having said that, I was also sufficiently self-aware, when I was deliberating about making a submission, to know that I’d be very flattered to receive any kind of recognition in the competition. So, I was unashamedly pleased to be short-listed and am delighted to have an image in the 2011 book, displayed at the exhibition at the National Theatre during December and January, and in the Sunday Times magazine feature on 23rd October 2011. I was also reticent as I felt slightly presumptuous, as a relative beginner, in even thinking of submitting an image – fortunately my ‘what the hell’ instinct kicked in there…

One of my motivations – OK, perhaps I should say self-justifications! – for entering LPOTY was that I hoped to be encouraged, if I was fortunate enough to have any degree of success, to make more images. Right now, typing this a couple of days after receiving the email saying that ‘Zip’ was ‘commended’ and would be in both the exhibition and the book, and a few hours after seeing it in the Sunday Times, I’m definitely feeling inspired anew. With autumn here and winter not far off – my favourite times of year, especially for photography – feeling encouraged and inspired can only be a good thing!

It’s easy to be cynical about any competition which necessitates the comparison of any art form – and I assure you I can be pretty cynical about all sorts of things when I want to be – but there’s no denying that they:

  • draw attention to things that most people wouldn’t otherwise hear about, see or read;
  • provide great encouragement to those people who are fortunate enough to meet with the judges’ approval;
  • encourage people to enter the art, whatever it may be; to ‘have a go’.

Without doubt, this success means that I do feel greatly encouraged to try to produce more good work and I’m very happy that I decided to enter!

On the off-chance that any of the judges are reading this: thank you very much!

And to everyone who’s provided constructive critique and encouragement to me on Flickr et al in the past year, many thanks; it’s really very much appreciated and has helped me a great deal.

I’d better stop there!

Musings on: deleting images too soon

I deleted the image below – several times.

My usual practice, after copying the captured images from a memory card to my computer, is to flick through the files and delete those which don’t work, or which have technical flaws which I’m unwilling to accept. This one just looked bland, as did the five other versions I’d taken in quick succession as breaks in the cloud allowed sunshine to sweep across this valley. They all experienced the delete key and both, duplicated cards were formatted when I returned the SD card to the camera.

A few weeks later, thinking over my Scotland trip, I recalled spending a couple of hours standing by the side of the road near the Rannoch Moor end of Loch Etive and imagining a gently-lit composition which highlighted the multiple triangles I could make out in this basin beneath Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor. I remembered visualising the image above – the raw material for which which I’d repeatedly deleted the day after capturing it. Considering it after so much time, I found it hard to believe that there really wasn’t something worthwhile in one of the captures.

Fortunately, several aspects of my file protection set-up cater for ‘deliberate, over zealous deletion’, rather than mechanical failure, accident, or software issues. In this particular case, every ingested RAW file is copied to two internal drives on my laptop, one of which I work on – deleting ruthlessly – and one of which I never touch, but which is itself copied to several other places on my network.

I’m glad I do this!

This may not be an especially spectacular image, but, having experimented with various DxO processing options for it and finally produced something quite similar to my visualisation, I do now like it, and I’m pleased to have stress tested the ‘idiot operator’ provisions in my backup strategy too.

Either don’t delete anything, or make sure you put an ‘I changed my mind’ solution in place

Let’s leave aside whether you like the image in question; that’s not the point. I like it, and you may change your mind on some of yours too. I’m sure we all capture the occasional image which, at first glance, is inadequate in some way, but which proves worth working on sometime later. I urge you to think of a mechanism to make sure that you can!

Of course, one reliable solution is to simply not delete anything, but I find it useful in my work-flow to reduce the RAW captures to a manageable few in the folders I’m working on; so, for me, deleting is good. That said, it’s fortunate that I foresaw the flaw in this approach some while ago and put in place a mechanism to avoid the obvious problem with this method of working.

I’m not saying that any of this is terribly clever – I’m merely suggesting that if you haven’t allowed for ‘over-zealous deletion’ in some manner, by making copies of everything very early on in your work-flow, do consider it. You never know when you might want to revisit an image-capturing session and make really sure that there was nothing in it worth working on.

An alternative to multiple, ideally automated, backups is not to review images too soon after capture. I know many people like to leave their files alone for a few weeks and then view them with more objective eyes. In this instance, the RAW files fell way short of what I’d envisioned and I more or less deleted them in a fit of pique; perhaps, had I left them a few weeks, I would have been more generous?

Whichever you do, make some provision to enable yourself to rectify the sort of initial mistake I made!

For anyone interested, I’ve written a page describing my overall work-flow and file protection set-up (also linked from the menu bar at the top). If you’d like to comment on this little story, and perhaps argue that I was foolish and ‘got lucky’, please feel free, though I may at least attempt to refute the suggestion with the view that working out the sort of foolishness I might be guilty of in future, and guarding against it through automation, ameliorates the fault to a large degree…