Photographic Rules

mickyatesCoursework, Critical Research Journal, Landscape, Photography, SPWeek1, Sustainable Prospects Leave a Comment

I attended the Frome Wessex Camera Club meeting last night. It is a very friendly, very active club where people of all levels of experience are eager to learn. I did a street candid workshop recently for the club.

Meyrick Griffith-Jones was giving a talk on Landscape. He is a relative newcomer to ‘serious’ photography, and by his own admission is only now getting into the genre.

It was an interesting event, though perhaps for an unexpected reason. Meyrick was very good in explaining his process, his apparatus and the amount of quite determined pre-planning he puts into his work. He was also very open about what doesn’t work, showing many of his ‘failures’.

Like many camera club members, he enters a lot of competitions, and is very aware of what judges look out for. He was frank in his desire to do well in such events.

I have taken many landscapes over the years, though never with the pre-thought that Meyrick was applying. And, frankly, whilst occasionally I do get ‘serious’ with a tripod,  I usually shoot hand-held.

What really struck me though was the focus given to the ‘rules’ of photography. Where is the lead-in line, the s-curve? Where is the triangle to keep the viewer in the picture? Is there a Golden Ratio? And how about the Rule of Thirds?

Sligachan, Scotland. Mick Yates, 2015

I am sure that most photographers consider one or all of these as they compose, to one (conscious or unconscious) degree or another. I can see elements of these ‘rules’ in the Sligachan picture, above, yet I certainly wasn’t conscious of setting up the composition with those rules in mind.

Meyrick noted that he wanted to become more ‘intuitive’ in how he took pictures, a worthy aim. I would assume this means a blend of planning and serendipity in his work.

A good analogy would be knowing how to drive a car so well that you can really put your attention onto the driving (and reaching your destination) rather the mechanics of managing the car.

Isle of Skye, Scotland. Mick Yates, 2015

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was also comment on the importance of  ‘front to back’ focus and the use of hyper-focal distance.

But I was frankly rather taken aback to hear that Meyrick usually only takes ‘snapshots’ when travelling, rather than looking for the unexpected. It’s a bit at odds with Martin Parr’s advice to ‘take more crap‘.

I could not have pre-planned this image of a storm, and it is not totally sharp, but I believe it is a strong, moody picture.

Canyonlands, USA. Mick Yates, 1989.

It led me to reflect on the dichotomy between learning via understanding and practising the rules, and learning by experimentation.

It also confirmed that I am not likely to be putting pictures into competitions of this sort …

Header: Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Mick Yates, 1987. This was a ‘grab’ shot from a train, early morning.

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