How to Really see Potential Photographs

by David Bigwood

I admit to being a fan of Charlie Waite. This English landscape photographer has figured extensively in my photographic education. I was lucky enough to attend one of his weekend workshops while in the UK, have interviewed him for several magazines, enjoyed visiting his exhibitions both in London and Sydney and have a collection of his books which I dip into regularly when I need inspiration or reassurance.

He is called the doyen of British landscape photographers, an accolade that is not given lightly but which, in my opinion, is well deserved. And, why all this preamble? I have just revisited one of Charlie’s offerings, a DVD in which he forsakes his usual state of the art cameras for a selection of compact digitals. I hasten to add that this was a temporary exercise as he shows that with thought these small cameras can produce quality results. It is not the equipment that makes great photographs, it is the photographer and the way in which he or she uses the equipment they have.

I bought the DVD for my partner who began her serious photography only a couple of years ago with an Olympus SP350 compact and showed immediately that she has a natural eye for composition and was making some great images within weeks. When she fell through an ice covered creek in the Snowy Mountains a rush down the mountain to a hot bath and a whisky restored her health in double quick time while the health of her camera took a little longer. In the meantime, she graduated to an Olympus E300 DSLR and continued to make pictures.

Even though I had bought the DVD for Margaret I could not resist seeing it myself and I found it most instructive listening to Charlie’s thought processes as he began making pictures. In particular, I was taken by one sequence when he was searching for images in a West Country harbour but found no big picture that satisfied him. However, in no time he was happily shooting a number of images that many of us would have passed by. It was a vivid reminder that in the big picture there are dozens of small pictures ready for the photographer with the eyes to see them. I knew that my files had some of these, what I call, cropped images and so began a search. Yes, I had a number of in-camera cropped pictures but what jumped out at me was the number I could have had when making the images. I had not been seeing the small pictures. I had missed the potential on offer. It was a wake-up call.

©David Bigwood

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