Examining the work of other photographers has been a large part of my learning process. There are many great examples. On line newspapers like the Globe and Mail and the Vancouver Sun often feature photographs, ‘Top Picks’, that have been popular in the news. Sites like Flickr and 500px are great sources for photographers to examine. And of course, there are many great photographers that display their work on line.
I had planned to write about several photographers that I follow. But after watching a PBS series on Netflix this weekend I’ve decided to change course.
Netflix is famous for the movies it offers. Documentaries are also featured. The Rise of National Parks: America’s Best Idea caught my interest. A six part series, it chronicles the struggles of the movement to establish national parks in the United States. At about 2 hours each I was firmly attached to my chair as I watched 4 episodes.
The early photographers that captured the landscape of the emerging continent really caught my interest. In the mid to late 1800’s photographers were packing their large view cameras, glass film plates and developing materials to the most inaccessible reaches of the country. A little research shows that the same thing was going on in Canada.
Remarkable is the only word I could use to describe these early photographers. The places they found to set up their cameras, the scenes they captured and the quality of their work is mind-boggling.
The black and white photographs taken by these incredible artists brought the emerging landscape of North America to the developed areas of the eastern seaboard and to Europe. What makes their work so compelling. Certainly the physical challenges they encountered draw our interest.
These photographers clearly defined their subjects. Their compositions are simple. Clutter and distractions …. eliminated. Technical qualities such as sharp focusing and beautiful light make these photographs ‘pop’. Location of the camera was everything.
I took a look through some of my photographs to see how my favorites measure up. It was an interesting exercise. Those that I really liked were simple compositions. The subject was clearly defined. The parts of the composition that were most important were sharply focused. Light was beautiful.
A black and white version of this photograph won Nature Photograph of the Year for the Central Okanagan Photographic Society several years ago. Taken in the golden light of sunset I opted to make the image a reflection to eliminate the distraction of jet streams left by countless aircraft moving across the sky.