Landscape photography is a wonderfully expressive genre and digital technology offers a relatively quick route to mastery compared to the arduous journey encountered by learning from our mistakes in the ‘good old days’ when using film. The essence of good digital workflow is to hone our craft to the point where we can reliably and repeatedly capture perfect data without having to devote our entire attention to the task. Once we have mastered correct technique, and repeated the procedure enough times, it becomes second-nature; only then can we concentrate on the more creative elements of the process.
When we are learning to make landscape photographs, perfecting our workflow is really about eliminating all the variables that could lead to imperfections in our captured image. There are so many potential pitfalls that despite the fast-track to mastery provided by the digital process, it can still take many years of learning from our mistakes before achieving proficiency. Exponential advances in camera and sensor design are allowing manufacturers to create amazing tools, capable of capturing images of astounding quality; images that further reveal any minor mistakes in our technique for all to see. But in our tenacious quest to avoid imperfections, we might be unknowingly creating barriers for ourselves from a creative perspective. Just as in life itself, our perception of problems is amplified by our subconscious resistance to them. Could it be that the digital ethos, always striving to capture ‘hi-fidelity’ perfect data and resist imperfection at any cost, may therefore lead to a subconscious disconnect between our experiences and the photographs we make in an attempt to represent them.
Before the digital revolution, the imperfect, relatively ‘lo-fi’ nature of wet-process ‘analogue’ photographs had a charm of it’s own, we call it ‘filmic’. Paradoxically, once we understand how to capture high quality data on location, we can creatively reconnect with such visual values in post-processing. The creative possibilities are limitless, but ironically, we have to master avoidance of imperfection before we can capture data of a sufficient quality to allow us the scope to make sufficient alterations to creatively reintroduce ‘imperfections’ when processing.
‘Lo-fi’ is a term used to describe photographs that have intentionally introduced imperfections like poor focus, Intentional Camera Movement, aberrant colours, saturation, exposure, or as in my image, the addition of grain to create a more filmic look. In our ultra high-resolution digital world, lo-fi photographs are perhaps becoming closer to how we see or remember things in reality. They can bring a deep sense of creative pleasure by subliminally encouraging acceptance of, and even celebrating, imperfection.