2: Edit and Amend: Landscapes of Place

This part focuses on ‘Landscapes of Place’ as a multi-layered experience of place where ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ elements interact. I am particularly interested in the idea of ‘edgelands’ – places where rural and urban meet and populations mix and also fragility of coastlines and abstraction.

In my re-working and also new work, I start to bring together my visual communications work with conceptual and technical insights from an OCA leisure course on Landscape Photography. My work on that course questioned ‘picturesque’ approaches to landscape photography, raising questions about politics and identities of place and how these are communicated through photographic choices about:

  • what to photograph: types of terrain, what is and what is out, who is in and who is out
  • choices about format and composition and how these alter the meaning of the image

A key addition in my work here, drawing on my more autobiographical work in Visual Communications, are the effects of my own feelings and ‘Voice’ on the was that I select and represent what I see. And how different treatments of the same places may vary to give very different ‘landscapes’.

The two parts of the assignment were done in parallel. They are both ongoing projects that will be further extended with a clearer socio-political focus and narrative in Assignment 5 with new material based on skills and experience developed in Assignments 3 and 4 .

Assignment 2.1 Edit: Bridge

This project uses images of the A14 Road Bridge across the River Cam where I walk every day to revisit a natural landscape lithograph print produced for Printmaking 2 Natural Landscapes The project extends this earlier work across a number of dimensions:

  • thematically/Voice placing landscape printmaking in the context of the literature on psycho-geography and Edgelands drawing on socio-political landscape photography work (using different images) looking at identities and change on the River Cam: Grassy Corner and Bench on my Landscape Photography blog.
  • technically through significantly developing my software skills in digital monochrome photography (Lightroom, SilverFX and Photoshop) and photo-based printmaking (specifically photoscreen).
  • creatively through looking at the different visual messages conveyed for the same image in different media, and how exploration of a range of media can inspire new approaches and styles in other media.

I draw inspiration particularly from the high contrast black and white photography of Brassai and Japanese black and white traditions of Zen ink painting and work of photographers like Daido Moriyama and Hiroshi Sugimoto and abstract prints of Koichi Yamamoto.

Assignment 2b Amend: Shutterscapes

This second part of Assignment 2 uses existing and new landscape photograph series from Cornwall, East Anglia and Northern England to significantly improve my digital photography editing skills across a range of content and the different technical challenges presented. This continues and extends my black and white explorations in Lightroom and SilverFX from Project 2.1 Bridge to look also at colour, split tone, vintage effects and ways of working with low resolution jpg images.

The project focuses on developing a professional standard in digital photographic software: Adobe Lightroom and Nik FX – a key area identified for further development in my personal statement and agreed by my tutor. I aimed to develop an effective and streamlined professional set of alternative workflows integrating Lightroom, and Nik FX with Photoshop for working with different types of image in different styles and starting to promote my photographic work as a way of getting a range of market feedback and starting to develop a possible source of income in the longer term.

My selection of images for this project from my very large library of photos of varying quality and content was based partly on their suitability in posing a variety of technical challenges. Some of the images are older and less ‘professional’ and others are newer and better considered, offers possibilities of exploring a range of relevant technical treatments in different software. This is a more interesting and creative way of discovering ‘happy accidents’ rather than simply mechanically trying everything for all photos.

A key aim of this assignment is to start to look at ways of promoting my work, starting with Shutterstock and Adobe Stock stock image markets. Advice from experienced stock photographers is to have a larger number of different types of image – editorial, commercial and also abstract. Rather than – as in higher end photography – to focus on a distinctive style and niche (that will come in Part 5 of this module). So an issue in selection of series and images was how far I thought they might be suitable as stock photography rather than their documentary interest.

In addition to producing a series of stock quality photographs in Lightroom and NikFX, I also explore use of different Photoshop filters to develop images for printmaking. Photoshop provides a very quick way of exploring different artistic image treatments that can then be used as templates for prints. Photoshop is also the software used for photoscreen – both for black and white photoscreen images as in Assignment 2.1 and also colour separations for photoscreen and photolithography. Selected photographs are further developed as prints in Part 5.2.1 This England: ‘Green and Pleasant Land’.

I focus on series of existing and new images from four locations that offered a different ‘aesthetic’, were under-represented on Shutterstock and which I would be able to revisit and extend further for Assignment 5:

  • 2.2.1 Penwith Black and White revisits photographs of St Ives and the disused mines and landscape around, together with new images from May 2019. It develops these in Lightroom in Black and White to more fully explore what can be achieved in Lightroom on its own.
  • 2.2.2 Suffolk Edges 1: Aldeburgh revisited focuses on colour, using two series of images (one high resolution RAW and the other poor quality iPhone) originally taken as background reference for sketchbooks of Aldeburgh in Illustration 2. I look at what can be done in Lightroom alone, and how poor quality images can be developed in ColorFX.
  • 2.2.3 Suffolk Edges 2: Orford is a new set of high resolution RAW images images from 2018 walks along the shifting coastline of the Ore Estuary and visits to the National Trust reserve at Orford Ness. I compare different treatments in colour, black and white, tinted and split-tone in Lightroom and SilverFX.
  • 2.2.4: Norfolk by the Sea 2: Winter sea-side uses old 2009 jpg photographs of Norfolk seaside towns – since much changed after 2013 floods as the basis for vintage style photos and photoscreen prints. And a photo series of Hunstanton from New Year 2015.
  • 2.2.5 Norfolk by the Sea 2: Shifting Coast uses 2009 photos of Sheringham and West Runton – cliffs since disappeared – and a new set from a 2018 walk along the Norfolk Coast Path at Burhnam Overy Staithe.
  • 2.2.6 Going North 1: Lake District revisits a portfolio of high quality RAW images processed in Lightroom for a landscape photography assignment on ‘Beauty and Sublime’ and looks at whether and how Nik Viveza and Silver FX can add more lift and impact to the images.
  • 2.2.7 Going North 2: Dark Peak looks at ways of working with low resolution jpg images in Silver FX to produce a series of ‘dark’ evocative images from photographs taken with an old compact camera in 2011.

This project brief explicitly required me to focus on skills development rather than content and meaning. But in my discussion of the images and the ways in which I develop them draws on discussions of beauty/sublime, the picturesque and ‘tourist gaze’ in landscape and documentary photography and considers ways in which different styles of digital processing can alter the meanings of the photographic image. In each series I explore a range of possible aesthetic and colour and/or monochrome technique before identifying those that best communicate the ‘spirit of place’, different ways in which human activity has ‘landscaped’ the ‘natural’ environment and my own ‘landscaping’ of what I see.

Technical conclusions on digital photography software workflow

My conclusions of workflow are that the key is to explore a range of image possibilities through initial experimentation as unexpected discoveries are often made – the more one becomes familiar with the software the more possibilities open up. This helps clarify what one is aiming to communicate – often a number of different interpretations that are relevant for different purposes and combinations of narrative. Then images can be reviewed and refined in different ways as photographs for different markets, and also as the basis for further development in printmaking media or illustration and art.

See: Digital photography software workflow

Conclusions on stock photography and agencies

A key aim in this project was investigation of the differing requirements of major stock image libraries and landscape photography libraries and then submitting relevant images and starting to get concrete professional and audience feedback on my work. I identified Shutterstock as the best place to start because You Tube contributors said Shutterstock was easy to use and very good at giving technical support and feed back. See posts on:

I started to develop a quite diverse portfolio – following You Tube advice not to specialise at this stage or narrow my stylistic options. My experience so far has been broadly positive – good resources database on areas like intellectual and privacy rights, technical tutorials and quick and helpful response to some queries I had. I have learned a lot technically. and the experience has taught me a lot so far. Most of my 220 images were accepted when submitted first time (having consulted all their documentation first). The main reasons for rejection have been because of issues like titling, editorial vs commercial categorisation or keywording. Only 3 have so far been terminally rejected on jpg quality issues, but even these I think I plan to re-submit as more artistic creations using NikFX.