Sunday, August 24, 2008

Patience pays off

click photo to enlarge
People who know that I'm interested in photography often ask me how I get a good image. That's not a question that can be answered succinctly. The questioner often assumes it's down to the camera, but that piece of technology is usually the least significant factor, only marginally more important than the brand of brushes a painter uses, or the type of pen a writer favours! Those with a little more knowledge of photography think the lens must be a factor, and in truth it is usually more important than the camera body, but it's not usually critical.

When I reply that the ability to "see" images, to mentally put together compositions, to strongly want to create a photograph, to have an interest in light, tone, colour, composition, story telling, etc. then people glaze over! And if I add that, in my case, an interest in fine art (painting) is very important, and that I don't find reading books about cameras very helpful, then they switch off further. The ultimate turn off, though, is when I mention the importance of digital processing using the computer. But all of these factors are very important for me. For other photographers, however, it will be different. Many think that photography means travel, and for some photographers it does. For me it's not important: most of my best images come from the area in which I live, and are secured by repeatedly visiting the same locations at different times of day and year.

However, one attribute that I think is vital in securing a good image is patience: the willingness to re-visit a place many times, and more specifically, the ability to wait around until all the elements necessary for capturing the photograph as you envisage it, are in place. Take this shot of the church of St Andrew, Butterwick, Lincolnshire, a medieval building with an eighteenth century tower and Victorian additions, that I've been to a few times. The other day I was resigned to making an image of the building with flat lighting under a brooding sky. However, there was sufficient movement in the clouds for me to hope that the sun might get through and model the building better. So, as my wife went to explore the inside of the church, I remained outside and waited. And waited. And waited. Until finally I was rewarded by a pool of sunlight that moved towards, then over, the building. I fired off some shots, with a range of camera settings, aiming to ensure I got the photograph that I wanted. When I came to process the images, and particularly when I converted one to black and white, I was struck by how much the light and shadows made it look like a nineteenth century engraving. I really liked it and thought to myself, "That's the reward for your patience!"
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On