I suppose it’s natural, on the first day of a new year, to look back at the year gone by and reflect on what we have accomplished.
Looking back on the photography I’ve done in the past twelve months, I wouldn’t say I’ve made any discernible improvements in my technical ability as a photographer. With rare exceptions, I seem to have stayed within the bounds of what I already knew.
Artistically, I have tried a few new creative approaches, particularly long exposures and creative blurs.
The lead image, which was taken in Venice in October, is an example of the use of creative blur, using a slow shutter speed to blur movement of a gondola passing under one of the city’s many picturesque bridges in order to impart a dreamy, ethereal feeling of this incomparable city’s romantic heart.
The second image was taken on the beach at Botany Bay in Edisto Island, South Carolina in April. This photo was a stretch for me technically because I am normally fastidious about correct exposure and avidly scrutinize the red, green and blue channels of the histogram of every image I take to ensure it is correctly exposed.
In this case, I had to accept that there was no way I could save the highlights in the blazing ball of the rising sun: the histogram is blown to smithereens on the highlights side. But, know what? I’m really glad I abandoned my own normally strict rule about correct exposure and allowed the demands of the image to override all technical considerations. Yes, the image is technically flawed, but I am very pleased with it.
This past year, I have continued to shoot infrared (IR), in both 720 nanometer (nm) and 590nm wavelengths. The former, I use mainly for producing black and white IR images and the latter I use mostly for producing faux colour.
The third image, which was taken during a trip to the Peak District of England in October, is one of my more successful B&W IR images, I think. I was happy with the delicate texture in the trees, the way they seem to be facing the sun, as sunflowers do, and the impression the image imparts that the sunlight is streaming down the bank of clouds to strike the grove of trees. When I posted this image in the Peak District Photography Group on Facebook, I got an overwhelming response from local photographers and residents of the area, who loved the image and know this clump of trees intimately. It is called “Twenty Trees” and it stands in a field above the hamlet of Hayfield in Derbyshire. I loved the Peak District and hope to return to photograph there again, next time I am in England.
The fourth image, I’m a little ashamed to admit, was staged. This is a good example of what professional photographers call “working the scene”. I spotted this abandoned house while driving along a road in South Carolina, stopped to shoot it, found the abandoned child’s tricycle nearby on the same plot of land and placed it in the scene in order to create an implied narrative about a little boy or girl who once lived in this house and once rode this tricycle. It is, I fancy, a tale of happiness lost. But it’s only a tale. A mirage created by the camera. But what the hell! Now and again I allow myself a little creative license.
The fifth image was taken in the pretty little Tuscan town of Lucca. Shot at night with a long exposure, this photo benefited from the fortuitous passage of cars on a nearby street, whose headlights created an interesting tapestry of light and shadow on the sidewalk.
The sixth and final image is the one which pleases me the most.
I travelled to the remote Black Valley of Count Kerry, Ireland with the specific purpose of finding and photographing this little abandoned farmhouse on a hillside in the most godforsaken part of my home country.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of times when, as a boy of five or six, I visited remote farmhouses just like this, in the bleak, windswept countryside along the border between County Tryone and County Donegal, between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. I went with my father to visit his elderly uncle or with my Uncle Charlie Gallagher to visit his cousins near Pettigo. I remember long climbs up unpaved country lanes, stepping stones across fast-flowing, ice-cold streams, marshy fields full of rocks and bullrushes, thatched rooves, black-bottomed kettles in which water was boiled over a peat fire to make a cup of tea to welcome visitors. To think that, just two generations ago, my relatives lived in houses like this, in locations just as remote, makes me shake my head in wonder.
Of all the photographs I have created in 2014, this image of the little, abandoned farmhouse in the Black Valley of County Kerry means the most to me.
(click on an image to enlarge it)