Monday, 9 May 2011

Landscape Photography - Learning - not sure

During the last month I have moved up a gear and made an effort to get on top of some projects. The second Lake District visit may have helped and a few evenings out at sunset and dusk have bagged a few images that will make useful photographs to illustrate the project writing. Some of the projects that on the surface appear rather benign can be quite interesting after a while, although what I am not getting though is any sort of WOW factor. The techniques are good to practice, but so far I am doing nothing new, not discovering anything and therefore wondering whether I am actually learning anything here that I couldn't have learnt by buying the various Martin Freeman books and pursuing my love of photography with regular shoots, book buying and gallery visits. In short carrying on as before. I now find myself doing less of the photography that I enjoy (architecture, wildlife, studio still life) and more of the course work, which is not my cup of tea it seems. The assignments are a different issue. I am enjoying them and the results seem to get a 50/50 vote from my tutor and I feel they extend me, make me think and make me angry with myself. That is probably why I am working on assignment 4 and 5 while only managing project 12 to 20.

All in all, its a struggle. Not because I don't understand that when you point your camera at the Sun it fools the meter, or that moonlight is in fact reflected daylight, or that clouds enliven the sky, or you can use a smaller aperture and longer shutter speed when using a tripod etc etc. Its because the gain is not not equal to the pain. As I said the practice in these various techniques is good (in a similar way that a pilots license requires you to perform some basic tests every now and again, to prove your basic level of competency) although was more relevant with a film camera. Digital has removed all of the doubt about exposure and it is now easier in that environ to ensure good results, especially when shooting into the Sun and at dusk. I also quite understand my tutor reading this and say "well if its easy why isn't your work better" and that is a fair comment. I have started to use 5x4 film for some work, not because the course requires it, really out of a sense of frustration, towards making it more interesting (and more relevant) with camera movements and the added techniques that need to be learned and added to my work flow, using a high end scanner.

Landscape photography is an awesome subject (similar to history, theres so much of it) and when I am shooting I love it. Shooting project 34 for instance (using a graduated filter) just to prove a point, when I have used a ND grad in many photographs already will seem like a chore rather than a useful learning experience. I will of course do it, one needs the marks.

The "learning" is not coming from the projects.

The real "learning" is with my reading. There is no better feeling than not being able to put down a book, when you are hooked on the authors every word. The freshness of finding for the first time a new idea, the discovery of a new photographer, the opportunity to look at their work, stimulating and exhausting. Maybe I will not do very well when it comes to marks (poor projects) but I will have gained what I need,  knowledge.


  1. If you've used an ND grad, and understand it, then why shoot the project. Don't just tick the boxes - Project 34, ND grad used, TICK. Use the course to do what you want, using the photographs you want to take, and that you are happy with, to illustrate the points being made.

  2. I am never sure how to tackle the projects and your views Rob are a great help. This is my first OCA course , having joined through the APEL route, so missed out on the OCA learning curve with the dos and donts. In addition my work at the moment is all I can think about, due its complexity and the course is suffering, and its a worry that I if I dont soon make progress I may have to call it a day. Ime not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I may rejoin the RPS and try for ARPS instead.

  3. I am doing the Landscape course at the moment too, and I agree that some of the projects are not very inspiring and like you, I tend to think forward to the assignments rather than chug through the projects. I also tend to take the photographs that I like and then try to fit them to the course requirements. For example, at the beginning of May we had a spell of bright clear weather and I went out to take sunsets over Torbay. This can fit the reflections section or the sundown, and I use what I have done as a learning curve. I am never going to be professional - a look at other people's work is enough to convince me of that - but it doesn't mean that I can't learn to be better at it and more importantly, that I enjoy it as I go along. So keep at it!