I’ve been jotting this down over a few days and now just bringing it together, so it will be a bit lengthy, dis-jointed, a bit of digressing, but please bare with and see it to the end. I also know that what I talk about here may not actually sit well with some people in the photographic community, but, if the shoe fits and all that. Its never anything personal, just a “personal” opinion ( were all entitled to one of them, aren’t we? ).
A few months back, I read what seemed to be a very innocuous blog / article written by a guy named Ugo Dei entitled “Will The Real Landscape Photography Please Stand Up”, there will be a link to this at the end of my musing. I read this blog post a few times to fully understand where this guy was coming from, to properly understand his thoughts. Upon reflection it really struck a chord with me in what he talks about.
In essence, its about the trends and the state of play with landscape photography at this point in time. Now then, anyone who really knows me, will know and understand how much I am in love with landscape photography. Its my passion, my end game, my focus; so, this is why I would like to get all my current feelings out there and then people can maybe understand why I am forcing myself to change my style up a bit and try to be different than what I’m seeing near enough everywhere. There seems to be a trend at the moment for all these big booming colourful sunrises, sunsets, misty views – all taken at the same places, from the same view points. I, myself, have been party to it. I am a watcher, by all accounts. I’ll quietly sit back and view what’s going on, occasionally shout expletives at my screen and move on. I spend a lot of time watching what people are posting across social media platforms, look at how people react to certain trends. It was this watching which has ultimately compounded my current state of mind on landscape photography.
So, the current trend – these booming sunrises / sunsets with vibrant oranges, reds, purples, misty ethereal views. I will not and cannot take anything away from these simply beautiful photographs / photographers because I hold each and every one of them in high respect and high esteem. This is clearly what the joe-public want to see. My own stats and seeing the amount of likes / comments on photo’s back up my thoughts and observations, and this is not just on my own work.
All with me so far? Good. Lets continue…..
I’ll go a little more in to depth on what I mentioned above, regarding trends in landscape photography. I operate in and around the Peak District with my camera, enjoying the many places like Winnats Pass, Mam Tor, Stanage Edge, Burbage Edge, Chrome / Parkhouse Hill and The Roaches to name a few. These area’s are the current “go-to” places at the moment for these booming shots. Yes, they are lovely, but, EVERYONE is going to these locations taking the same photographs of the same views, with the same colours, the same mist, all vying for their time on social media when they share them. One or two is a joy to behold, but when the photographs are simply all the same just taken by a different Tog, it kind of gets a little monotonous. When I see one now, I’m shouting at the screen saying some thing like “Joe Bloggs has just posted that view” or “Not another misty Hope Valley Cement Works shot – come on, mix it up for gods sake!!!”..you get my drift..But, this is what people love and want to see, so it gets done all the more and I feel myself getting more and more put off going to these locations now. Its like we feel we have to conform to the trends to stay popular and be “in with the crowd of photographers” and produce the goods which mesmerise viewers with big colours and mist. I’ve seen it myself when I see someone post such a photograph and claim all the woo’s and awww’s and “super likes” ( what in gods name is a super like? ) and then they post one which is quite the opposite, and the woo’s and awww’s turn in too the odd like here and there. I think what this all boils down to is not putting our own stamp or style on the work we produce. We are no longer making ourselves unique. I could lay out five photographs from Facebook on a desk and ask people to name who took the shots and I wonder who would know who took which photograph? I personally think you would really struggle and I firmly believe this is due to this trend. We feel this need to be up with the rest else we lose our social media clout on our Facebook pages ( which, strangely enough, is offline right now – I bet Twitter is taking a real battering ) and we fade away from the “in crowd”.
We can all be unique in a saturated landscape photographers world. We just need to find our style and stick with it, be consistent, be ourselves, photograph what “we” want, not what the viewers “want” to see. Photography is all about feelings and emotions to me and I try to portray that through the shots I produce. We cant fully show the public these feelings and emotions while we are conforming to the trend because were posting for public praise, full-filling their need for big colours. The trend ended for me when I produced my first calendar, “Pristine Peaks” as I wanted to produce that as a mile stone in my photography career.
All of the above has really made me take a very big step backwards from this trend and factory reset myself to the defaults and allow myself to be re-programmed by “Me” ( you’d never guess I do IT too, would you? ). Taking myself back to the passion and emotion I once had, I’m very slowly starting to see things differently, more open minded about what I want to photograph, the views I want to capture etc. I’m now finding new techniques and different post processing methods to achieve the end result. I had to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of this reset and knew that if I changed, I would be taking a real hit on traffic through my social media outlets. Oh boy, was I right. The moment I stopped conforming, the traffic really started to drop off, the shares of my photographs by business’s ran dry near enough instantly and they moved onto another photographer who “was” conforming because it drags more traffic through their own business pages. It was what I was expecting, but I am willing to take all that on the chin and step back from the crowd so that I can really find myself and my mojo again. Do I think it will be worth it in the long run? I sincerely think so, yes. Has it done damage to my online image? Absolutely, it has. Do I care? 100% I do. I feel that the change really is needed right now, enough is enough for me.
Taking all into account of what I’ve talked about above, please don’t get me wrong, I’m still taking the same photographs I’ve always been doing, but, while out on the ground I am “also” taking more of the non-conformance shots. People have noticed and commented on the changes to what I post publically now. I’m doing a lot more of my landscapes in monochrome, which I am absolutely loving right now. I even had one of my recent monochrome photographs likened to an Ansel Adams ( a photographic legend to me ) style of landscape shot by a quite well known photographer which shocked me a lot. When the current trend dies away, which it always does, I’ll then start posting more of the bolder colour shots etc. that people have become accustomed to seeing from me over the last couple of years.
What you take away from this rambling is entirely up to you. By all means, cast it aside and feel like I’ve put your nose out of joint, or maybe it will make you take that step backwards as it did me and really review what and how your photographing the beautiful landscapes around us, think more about your own personal style, worry less about pleasing the public, be yourself.
Here is the link which started me off on this little factory reset. To be honest, I cant thank Ugo enough for what he said in the blog post.
“Will The Real Landscape Photography Please Stand up” – An article by Ugo Cei