And another thing...
This year I was lucky enough to have a photo short-listed in the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. It is a photo of Worcester being submerged by flood water. I was , obviously, very pleased as this is the first time I have even got close to some kind of recognition. It was not to be and I was not surprised. But for a while I endured the torture that is hope.
This year I have taken very few landscape photos. I have been much more productive with butterflies and fungi. Its sad but I am falling out of love with landscape photography. There are a number of components affecting this admission. Perhaps the strongest reason is my experience of the online community and camera club contests. In both cases there is a philosophy that declares there is a a recipe for producing "good" landscape photos. There are some subjects and occurrences that make a landscape photo worthwhile. By insisting on conforming we end up with a system of group think. where people aspire to take photos in a certain way, or of a certain type because when they do they meet the expectations of the community and get reinforced approval. And the louder the volume of approval, the more people will produce similar content. There is nothing wrong with that, it just leaves little room for alternative views and blinkers creativity.
My approach is to capture things that capture my attention - little vignettes, quirky patches of interest. There is an approach that suggests that the truly beautiful is the thing that is rarely seen, and therefore photographers should seek beauty at the ends of the days and the ends of the earth. There is more to life, and more to photography than that.
The pictures I take are a reflection of me, and especially how I see the world. It is difficult not to take the inferred criticism of silence personally! Perhaps, this dark reflection of myself is why I am falling out of love with landscape photography.
I have always been a little bit interested in butterflies - well who isnt? But last year an internal switch of some kind was flicked which lead to me being almost entirely fixated on photographing butterflies this year. I think there were several contributions. One was undoubtedly discovering the work of Henrik Spranz who made me realised that context was as beautiful as the beast themselves. A second factor was finding a way of getting reasonable photos with the kit I had - namely a canon 100-400 lens. Third was finding a small but appreciative audience on facebook. Undoubtedly another factor has been a growing disillusionment with the landscape photography fraternity.
So this year I went out intentionally to shoot butterflies, rather than relying on serendipity like I usually do. To be honest I have been aided by the whole lockdown situation which meant I could get out more because I wasn't having to go in to work every day - its been my lemonade from lemons. Now that the butterflies have gone and the rain has returned I sorted through all my shots from this year and collated the best ones. I ended up with 50 shots, which is ridiculous. So I decimated them further and thought I would put some here , because, well I can.
The shot at the top is actually one of the last shots I took this year. It is a common blue and was taken with a new lens, a Sigma 105mm which for me requires learning how to use it effectively. I haven't done that yet, that was a lucky result.
The next shot is probably my favourite of the year. It is a Marbled White backlit by morning sunlight and taken in wild grasses in Grimley. I like it precisely because it shows something of the environment and context. I'm aware that this is probably a marmite image.
The next picture, with hindsight, I was lucky to get. Lucky because it has been a very poor year for the Painted Lady. I saw this one relatively early on in June but the expected influx never came. Given that this butterfly was a few metres away I am delighted at the level of detail that is present.
The next photo means more to me than just a pleasing shot. My local wood, Monkwood had seen an introduction of Wood White butterflies in 2016. I have watched them with interest this year as their numbers have grown. They are a particularly friendly butterfly to photograph with a distinctive flight pattern that seems highly inefficient in terms of progress relative to flapping. The photo below is significant to me because it was not taken in Monkwood but several kilometres away in Grimley, which means the Wood Whites are extending their range out from where they were started. This is obviously a good success story. In fact I was lucky enough to spot other intrepid Wood Whites at another site a similar distance from Monkwood.
Another butterfly species that Monkwood is particular good for is the White Admiral. I struggled to get any really good shots of the White Admiral this year but actually my preference is take more unusual shots, with some context, so the shot below works for me. White Admirals underwings appear very different to the top view where they look black, and for me that is the more interesting view.