One of the hardest things in photography is to simplify. Every good photograph is a distillation – a removal of anything that dilutes the spirit of the subject, bringing out its essence and its full flavour. I read somewhere that as you become more skilled as a photographer, you become able to manage more and more complex scenes, focussing attention on what you want people to see and handling distractions with aplomb. When you have a simple scene it’s relatively easy to select the part you want and exclude the parts you don’t, but the more lines and shapes and colours and textures that are present, the harder it is to stop it looking like a great big muddle. A lot of my early shots definitely fell into that category – some still do, but you don’t get to see those……..
One situation I always found challenging was to photograph woodland – there’s so much going on. The complexities of overlapping branches and bushes and trees, all those leaves, the contrasts of bright sun and dark shadow, and the innate untidiness of nature left me not knowing what or where to shoot – I couldn’t figure out how to simplify things. I realise I must have improved somewhat, because I don’t find it so hard any more. Somehow it’s become easier to see broad shapes and swathes of colour and to select the bit I want.
We visited the forest around Moel Famau last week. Moel Famau is the name of one of the peaks in the Clwydian mountains in Wales. They’re not large mountains by any standard – more like very big hills – but we didn’t go all the way up. It was one of those days they’d call ‘soft’ if we were in Ireland – slightly misty, a little damp, cool but not cold, bright but with low white cloud. Not the kind of light I usually favour, but it really worked in terms of bringing out the soft but vibrant pastel colours. These aren’t my usual colours – I tend to go for strong, bright shades and higher contrast – but I love the way they’ve come out. I added a teensy bit of Orton effect – very subtly – just to bring out the colours a little more and to emphasis the slightly fairytale feel of the place.