Art Diaries

“Watch, wait – hope for the light…” – “Peak Meditations” by Landscape Photographer Roy Carr

I am delighted to introduce talented British landscape photographer Roy Carr as a new, regular writer for the artistscribbles team.  In this, his first article for our site, Roy describes the process behind capturing the perfect shot.  As viewers we often see only the finished product – the one photo that made the cut.  Here, Roy shows us, in his wonderfully lyrical prose, how much effort, preparation, skill and dedication goes into achieving his art.

Peak Meditations

Watch, wait – hope for the light. Look closer and then look closer again. What can you see? What pulls you in and invites you to make, not take, a picture.

As I approach the top of Stanage Edge, one March evening, the sky lays flat and hazy. The landscape fades behind it, barely distinct. Perhaps not a night for photography. Still I rise, ever hopeful. The excitement of possibility is there.

Climbers descend, retreating from the wind and weather sculpted rock. And still I rise. That possibility is there.   Other photographers are there at the top, lazily click, click, clicking – their memory cards not so slowly filling. They do not stay long. They go as the light and the temperature begin to drop.

I work my way along the Edge hunting for a composition that will pull me into the landscape. Tonight, for once, my walk is not so far – the rocks call after just a few hundred yards.

Out comes my tripod, slowing me down to the speed of meditation, inviting me to consider what I want to capture.  No rush here. What goes in? What stays out? I set the tripod close to the ground, lured by the texture of the grit-stone. I mount my camera, carefully levelling it with my spirit level as I work toward a composition. Eye to the viewfinder. Not right. I walk focus my camera and tripod (no zoom lens here), refining the elements and levelling it once again. Better, but not right. Adjust.  Change.  Level.  Better still. Adjust. Change. Level. The composition arrives. The elements fall into place. I mount my filter holder on front of the lens, and gently slide in my graduated filter until its dark upper begins to balance the light sky against the dark foreground of the rocks, helping the camera to make the correct exposure.

And now the wait. I have taken control of the things I can control, but it is time for nature to play her uncontrollable role. Excitement and fear mingle. Will the haze persist and deny me or will the sky clear to make my image. The temperature drops.  I put on another layer of clothes. The temperature drops further. I rub my hands vigorously to fend off the cold and pull my hood tighter, watching, waiting, hoping.

And still I wait.

Tonight the weather gods smile at long last. I work to make my picture, adjusting my filters and exposure to balance the light. Tonight I make my image.

"Stannard Edge" by Roy Carr

“Stannard Edge” by Roy Carr

-oo0oo-

The camera hunt for hares has proved hopeless. They lie dead still in their forms, shrouded by the morning mist, oblivious to the gaze of the lens, dissolving my plans.

The mist draws me into her folds. What is it Robert Macfarlane writes? “You need to look for disturbances to the expected, be alert to unforseen interaction” (1) I cast around me, formulating new plans, new ideas, as my camera bag weighs heavy on my hips.

The dry stone walls call. Lichen clad rocks, each one weighed and considered by a human hand, melded together, snaking through the landscape, defining and dividing The Peak District.

Amid the mist, adjacent to the wall, loom the four ancient sentinels, survivors of the Nines Stones, punctuated by an incongruous farm trailer. And on the other side of the wall, a mist laden tree, leafless, almost silhouetted in the low light. Elements for a composition.

Out comes the tripod and I enter into my familiar routine. Mount the camera. Level.  Check the composition. Not right. Move. Level the camera. Check the composition.  Better but not right. Move. And so it goes on until at last my tripod rests precariously on the wall, the composition pulling together stones, tree, wall and mist.

Out come the filters, balancing the relative light of the sky against the other elements, allowing my camera to retain detail across the scene. Click! Check the exposure, adjust and click again. Check the exposure. Adjust the exposure and click again. At last the image is made.

The scene before me, bleached of colour by the mist, cries out for a monochrome, that deceptively simple, most traditional of photographic forms, which carries its own particular power. Strip an image of colour and there are fewer distractions, emphasising shape and texture, evoking mood. I think often of the distinction between television and radio. Monochrome, like radio, leaves room for the imagination in a way that colour rarely does.

"Peak District Monochrome" By Roy Carr

“Peak District Monochrome” By Roy Carr

To make a monochrome demands work at home in front of a laptop, where software emulates the processes of the dark room. Dodging and burning (lightening and darkening) parts of an image, leading the viewer’s eye through the composition.  Pulling out detail to further emphasise shape and texture whilst trying, as best I can, to remain true to the image in my head when I released the shutter, conveying a sense and mood of place.

Roy Carr

  1. Robert Macfarlane is for me the pre-eminent contemporary writer on the interaction of man and the natural world. He makes acute observations, encouraging us all to stop and look closely and carefully, and weaves it with social history, a fine ear for the spoken language into a poetic prose which speaks to me of landscape. This quote is taken from his book The Old Ways published by Penguin.

Words and Photography: Roy Car

Twitter: @RoyCarrPhoto

Website: https://www.facebook.com/RoyCarrPhotography

Introduction and layout: Beck @artistscribbles

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12 replies »

    • Thank you Rachel. I really appreciate your response to my piece. Time and care are just so important. Digital cameras in particular can invite people to take hundreds of photographs in the hope that they can pick the ‘best’. But taking photographs in that way so often stops them ‘seeing’ and relating to what lies in front of them and it is that relationship which I believe is at the heart of creating powerful images.

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  1. Beautiful writing, beautiful photos. As I sit here in the confines of my home I feel I’m there waiting with you for the perfect moment. Then I saw the picture and I smile: perfect.

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    • Thank you Josephine. I’m touched by your comment. When I was asked to write a piece, I wanted to convey my excitement when I go looking for images and the joy I can experience waiting for the right moment. It often becomes almost a meditation as I immerse myself in the landscape around me. I have a passion for the landscape. I have walked, climbed, cycled through it throughout my life and my photography is an attempt to convey that connection.

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  2. Wonderful Roy! I thoroughly enjoyed reading that, especially as I am stuck at my desk here in London – it transported me to the Peaks.

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    • One of the wonders of creating images is that opportunity to take people with you, and the Peak District is most certainly a good place to take them. Just as you enjoyed reading, I enjoyed writing, trying to convey what it is for me to make a photograph. Thank you Candy.

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    • Thank you Tina. I so enjoyed having the opportunity to put together this piece. Doing it reminded me of just how exciting and just how important to me, making images is. I know this is something you share. Roy

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  3. I was there when Roy took the top image and I’m astounded at how beautiful it came out. As a beginner to photography I was struggling to find a good composition and Roy was very helpful and friendly and gave me some advice that will forever stay with me as I progress along this landscape photography journey. Thank you Roy. A great photo and a very well written article by a very nice man.

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  4. Thank you Chris for taking the time to comment. I remember well our encounter, on what was a magical evening as all the elements that go to make an image came together.

    Remember that we all learn from and can be inspired by others. We all have to take steps on our journey, and keep taking them. To quote the old cliche, we only stop learning when we die. Enjoy your photography and the encounters it brings you with the world before your eyes. For all its horrors it is still a wonderful place.

    Feel free to connect with me via Twitter or Facebook. I’d be happy to continue our conversation.

    Roy

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  5. Good photography is art; great photography requires an artist…

    Ansel Adams said; ‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it.’ Roy has put us out on the cliff edge, right in the behind the camera – squarely in the driver’s seat… You can sense the scene unfolding beneath you, along with the fun, frustration and effort required to capture the subtle magic within the image… You’ve captured a raw gem; now you have to polish it – more artist skill required!

    Great photos, great article. Thanks Roy; sometimes we forget what it takes ‘to make great images’.

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