The art of seeing – part 2

In part 1, I explained a bit about learning to see as a photographer. In this continuation, I look at some more images that appeal to me.

Kingman, Arizona (Rustic Gathering #7521)

I hope you shared my surprise and delight at seeing the full-sized version of this after glancing at the thumbnail in part 1. Did you smile to see that it was entirely man-made rather than weed stalks?

James Murray - Kingman, Arizona (Rustic Gathering #7521)
James Murray – Kingman, Arizona (Rustic Gathering #7521)

This is the sort of quirky but visually appealing subject that really works for me; not conventionally beautiful, but carefully observed.

The subdued warm palette is lovely; the glancing light is just right to cause the counterpoint of light and dark shapes whose tops curve across the frame; and the echo of nature is – as I already said – fun.

Add to that the almost formal geometry, and I think this is a real winner. Of all the images here, this is the one I’d most like hanging on my wall (a close call though!).

You can see more of James Murray’s photos on his web site.

The Road to Gondor

This next image illustrates, very well, a point I bring up time and time again. When one is photographing a forest or wood, one of the tricks to finding a compelling scene is to impose a sense of order on the essentially fractal and chaotic nature of trees. Here, the repeating patterns of the receding pines, and the echoing shape of the fallen trunk, are just perfect to do this.

Igor Svibilsky
Igor Svibilsky – The Road to Gondor

Those patterns give the eye something satisfying to contemplate and add a sense of flowing movement through the frame, and the intimation of distance from the misty backdrop is the finishing touch, inviting the viewer to skip along the path and see what’s around the corner.

Quite hauntingly beautiful, and one that I kept thinking about ever since I first saw it. I’m so glad that Igor gave me permission to write about it here. You can see more of his ethereal silvery images on his web site (which won’t work in Chrome, BTW).


Here’s the last one for now, by Wim van Velzen:

Wim van Welzen - Elgin
Wim van Welzen – Elgin

I found it hard to choose a particular image from Wim’s Scottish portfolios. As well as the expected mountain and coastal landscapes, he has a knack of picking up on the impact of human habitation on the land; and to anyone who’s visited Wester Ross, for instance, it’s apparent that the crofts and fishermen’s seaside jumble add a very domestic scale to the wider landscape. You can see these humane images on Wim’s web site. Have a look at his articles too if you have time.

In the end, I picked this one; partly because “it’s all about the light” – the low sun picking out the hillside and adding drama to the backdrop for a solitary sheep. It’s that quality of warm light that can transport the viewer instantly to a location, and imagine the scents and sounds as well.

And partly it’s the contrast between the man-made zig-zagging fences and the natural trees and grass; these two elements combine to lead the eye around the frame, exploring the textures and details.

I also suspect this has a special appeal for me because (although it was taken hundreds of miles away), it is so like some of the country around here: Quarry Hill near Bridport for instance. It is hard to overestimate the subliminal pull of places we know and love when looking at photos. That’s why it is difficult to be subjective about our own photos, because we colour them with the memories of being there, and why even the most breathtakingly spectacular travel photo can fail to engage.

(On a related note, are you, like me, weary of seeing oversaturated contrasty landscapes with lurid sunrise/sunset skies?)