During our creative life, some of the most memorable moments are those rare occasions when we experience an epiphany: a sudden revelation that marks a permanent change in our artistic perception. Often, such revelations come about because of a sudden understanding of a concept that has always perplexed us, something which we have knowingly not fully understood, but the more dramatic occasions are those which suddenly reveal that we have been ‘missing the point’ all along.
I recently had the fabulous opportunity to spend a weekend learning the art of bookmaking with one of the landscape greats from the last century; John Blakemore. A completely unexpected consequence of this, was a fundamental shift in my understanding of the importance of ‘light’ in photography. Many of the landscape greats have waxed lyrical about various facets of light and how it interacts with the elements of the scenes we love to photograph; but to be honest, I’ve always thought such comments to be overstating the obvious. Of course light is important, without it we couldn’t make photographs, everybody knows it’s just a basic prerequisite: surely, the immortalisation of time and space is a more worthy intellectual focus in the quest for emotive imagery?
How wrong I have been, to dismiss ‘light’ so easily all these years. Part of the workshop involved discussions about sequencing a set of images, and during one of these sessions John nonchalantly pointed at two woodland photographs in turn and said: “you see, this is light describing something, but this, is light manifesting itself”.
In an instant, my perception of light in the landscape was transformed. There was a sudden realisation that yes, light is a basic prerequisite, and we can leave it there, stating the obvious, if we choose to. There’s nothing wrong with capturing scenes in which our subjects take precedent, and we simply use light to reveal them; but it’s enormously rewarding if we can recognise those occasions when light itself is really the main subject and allow it centre-stage in our image.
My image was made one windy afternoon, from a low viewpoint down on the shingle at Milford-on-Sea, with the late afternoon chiaroscuro sun back-lighting the spray from the churning surf. Light certainly plays a prominent role in this composition and hopefully, my renewed relationship with light courtesy of Mr Blakemore, has facilitated a more emotive expression.