Following in the footsteps of giants…

Mogshade, New Forest (asp100-1991)

Mogshade, New Forest (asp100-1991). Oak tree and heather, taken a short walk from the most photographed tree in the New Forest.

As my regular readers will know, I generally try to find fresh views and vistas for my photography, or at least new views of old vistas (if you get my drift).

Living on the Hampshire/Dorset border, this is quite a tricky feat considering how many wonderfully photographic venues there are literally on my doorstep – but a lot of these vistas are already photographed to death, with 99% of images from the exact same angles as previously published by the giants of landscape photography. Yes, I have been guilty of this too, but I find my “style” leads me towards other locations, angles and viewpoints (and “style” is a whole other Blog post!).

Don’t get me wrong, when I look at Charlie Waite’s fantastic images of Win Green, or David Noton’s sublime images of the ledges at Kimmeridge, I know exactly where they stood to take them and feel like reaching for my camera gear and go grabbing some images – after all, these great locations are only 30 minutes away from home – but that’s not what it’s all about, not for me anyway.

David Ward summed it up for me perfectly in a recent article he wrote for Outdoor Photography magazine. For those not familiar with David’s work, he specializes in intimate landscapes and is well worth a view (wish I could afford some of his work on my wall). But the key point with David’s images is while they are fantastically considered, composed and exposed, you wouldn’t really know where a lot of them were taken unless you read the caption (which David doesn’t always include as it’s kind of irrelevant with these images).

To quote David;

“We carry our images with us because the compositions we make are the product of all that we’ve seen and learnt up until that point. The only exception to this is when we blindly copy a photographic composition we’ve already seen. Doing this can teach us how another photographer solved the compositional problem they were presented with but, outside the narrow definition that the image file resides on our hard drive, it won’t be ours.“

So, even though we’ve captured our version of that prize-winning/front cover/world famous image, can we really call it our image? We’ve got up at stupid o’clock, gone to the same location, the exact same spot, used the same viewpoint and composition and tripped our shutter to capture the image. Ok, it’s likely not to be as good as the inspirational version(s) as not all of us have the ability or resources to wait for the right light or revisit day after day until we get it right. But apart from saying “I took that”, is it really our image?

How much more satisfying would it be to capture a lovely image of a new location? Something fresh and never seen before? Ok, there’s not much of the world left unexplored, but there’s plenty of landscape left un-photographed. If you use Google Earth to research some of the most iconic landscape images, you will probably be surprised how many of them are taken from roadside laybys or car parks! But if the landscape is so photogenic there, would it not be equally photogenic a few hundred yards away?

From personal experience in the New Forest, some of my more successful images have been taken within a ten-minute walk of the most famous pine tree in Hampshire (and possibly the UK). The oak tree at Mogshade featured above is a perfect example (for me anyway). “Bratley View” is world famous for the excellent Scott’s Pine tree with heather and bracken in the foreground, and sweeping views beyond – but the Scott’s Pine is virtually in the car park, and due to excessive gorse growth to one side, there’s only really one composition available. Ok, on my first visit to Bratley, I majored on the tree – but didn’t really feel satisfied.

On my return to Bratley a few weeks later, I  wanted to explore the surroundings, so stood with my back to the car park, and walked straight ahead to see what I could find. Within a few minutes, I was stood next to the magnificent oak tree you see featured here; there is also a drainage pond immediately to the right of my tripod, and I have used both to great effect for some rather commercially successful images.

Next time you’re near a world famous image location, try taking a walk and see what you can discover?!


Exposure information:   1/20 sec @ f/11, ISO100.

Filters used:                      0.6 Neutral Density Graduated filter.

Post Processing:              RAW file tweaked in Lightroom, converted to TIFF and checked at 100% for dust bunnies.

Prints of my images are available for purchase from my website.

All images protected by copyright laws for Andrew Stevens Photography 2014.


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