Hearing the Patterns of the Sea
I am an Aquarius. I love water and have lived by the sea all of my life. I enjoy the isolation that can be found from just sitting on the rocks, listening to the sound of the crashing waves, and watching the patterns in the tide changing as well as the crackling of the shingle being washed against itself and the smell of sea salt in the air. I feel profoundly content when all my senses are consumed by the beach, the rocks, and the sea. Photographing the sea quickly became inevitable for me, and over time the sea and sky became my palette with which to create my particular photographic vision. Using long exposures and working in black and white, I reduce a scene to its basic visual elements in order to create moods and atmospheres that I hope are both calming and engaging at the same time.
The Musicality of Photography
working on one’s belief system will you be able produce those obscure and abstract ways of seeing reality and the world around us.”
Jeff is a music producer from Detroit, but these could well be the words of a photographer and, for me, truly understanding this idea and applying it to my own work became a massive learning curve. It’s not your camera or your software that makes your images: it’s your imagination, your understanding, and your interpretation of a scene. So, about 18 months ago, I stopped taking photographs and started creating images, images that emerged in conjunction with my own questions, ideas, and contexts, images that reflect myself as well as the space I find myself in.
Before I became immersed in photography and the digital darkroom, I was a DJ, record label owner, and producer. My approach to processing my photos is similar to the way I understood and produced music. Working on the tones of a photograph is quite similar to eq’ing music especially the similarity between balancing blacks, greys and whites and mixing bass, mid and treble frequencies. I seek a balance between those blacks, grays and whites, so each can shine on its own yet work harmoniously together. I like to think I can recognize some of my favourite producers by an intro beat, a chord progression or a certain bass tone or key, and, by comparison, I can recognize the tones and contrasts of my favorite photographers when they have made new images that I have not seen before. Similarly, I hope to develop my own signature tones, gradients and moods so that my work will be distinct and recognisable.
The Double Square
I generally work in the 2:1 and 1:1 formats, and recently I have favoured the 2:1. I find they both have a certain fantasy to them, perhaps, in part, because they aren’t the most commonly used formats. I find the 2:1 format engaging for the viewer because it is quite cinematic, like a widescreen movie, making it able to tell a story in a dramatic way. In a 2:1 seascape, the main subjects can be large and contain good detail, whilst still having space for the sky and water to set the atmosphere. Through this format, I find opportunities to create sweeps and flows. Whereas a 1:1 has a more direct focus, I see the 2:1 format like a visual seesaw and quite easy to balance. I often shoot for two or more formats in mind and then decide which one I want to use when I get home.
When I first started making 2-1s, I didn’t really think about the why, I just felt very comfortable in the format. Over time I have started to appreciate when to use them and when to not. I have a grid set up on my camera that shows me the 2-1, 1-1 and 3-2. formats. I now make my decision at the scene on the format I will be using. With 2-1s I feel I can create a serenity, peacefulness or calm that I can’t always achieve in a square, that is without making my subjects much smaller, and therefore losing details, textures and forms. There is also the sense of rhythm that I can use in a linear way, look at The Monks for example, I feel this image has a musicality almost like notes from a bassline, or keys on a piano and this is enhanced in the 2-1 format. When viewing a square, we hit the edges and bounce back to the centre much quicker and hence, I use squares for a bit more tension.
When composing with 2-1’s, I find that the rule of thirds works, as do quarters and diagonals, just like squares, but I almost always keep the horizon on around the lower third to a quarter. I very rarely use lead in lines so most of the information is on a horizontal perspective. I view the images from left to right and back again, where as with squares there are stronger vertical and diagonal lines, and any circles are bold compared to softer ellipses.
When comparing the two atmospherically, I sometimes consider it as a form of mono vs stereo. If we have a speaker set up at home and we unplug one and listen to a song, generally all the information is there. The rhythm track is straight down the middle of the spectrums so nothing is lost. When we plug in a second speaker, again the rhythm track is there as before, but the panned atmospherics such as strings, harmonies and lighter/softer instruments become far more audible and in some ways I feel this is similar in my 2-1s. The wide screen effect makes it easier for me to create calmer moods. They could be considered as “stereo chromes”.