In July of this year, my daughter finished a term abroad in the Netherlands. We took a family decision to reunite in Utrecht where she’d been studying and then to drive north for a look at Scandinavia. Being summer, it was the height of tourist season, and being the summer of 2018, heat records were being broken all across the northern hemisphere. Parts of Norway and Sweden were in drought and there were fires in the news.
While the weird weather was disconcerting, from a photographic perspective it meant that sunny skies were the rule. Days of course are very long at those far northern latitudes, so golden hour became golden hours.
The Norwegian landscape is famously spectacular and everywhere you turn there are wonderful photographic opportunities to be found. Travelling by car meant we could choose when and where to stop for picture taking. My daughter planned each day’s itinerary around visits to various national parks and most places we visited were not much frequented by the tourist busses.
But even though we weren’t going from famous view to famous view like other tourists, I still found myself facing the “postcard problem” simply because the landscape was so exceptionally beautiful. Like most photographers I love postcard views, but as I’ve noted on many previous occasions, once I’ve taken the obvious picture, I like the challenge of trying to capture the spirit of a place in my own way.
As it happened, instead of taking my big DSLR and equally big lenses to Europe, I borrowed our publisher’s 4/3 ILC. While reduced weight was definitely a factor in my decision making, the real inspiration came from talking with Jackie Ranken for her profile in this very issue (see page 4).
Jackie is an outstanding practitioner of black and white landscape photography, and I was quite taken with the advice she gives to her students about setting up one’s camera for mono picture-taking. And if there’s one thing postcards aren’t, it’s black and white.
By putting the camera’s viewfinder display into mono mode, I was able to compose by looking at the tonal relationships in a composition rather than being distracted by the colours.
I’ve included one of my pictures from Norway which was composed this way. For me it works both ways, but my preference is very much for the way it looked in the viewfinder. Definitely not a postcard.
Thank you once again for purchasing our magazine. As always, the team hopes that it will inspire you to take up that camera of yours and to get out in the world to own unique photographic vision.
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