2017 09 - Landscape Photography from the Peak District

21st October 2017
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
11th September 2017
Landscape Photography from the Peak District

Retford members had a wonderful evening with the first speaker of the season, Howard Pratt, sharing with us some glorious images from his adopted Peak District. He began with examples from his early career when photographed for theatre, TV and commercial organisations. This was not his passion and eventually, realising he was not enjoying it, he went part time. He showed some images he had taken pleasure at that time and described realising that he mostly shot landscape in its broadest sense. Wanting to shoot things which interested him, he dismissed wildlife, admitting to not having the patience, and decided against his favoured motor sport because he preferred to go to events to watch the action. Thus he settled on landscape.

Jumping to the present, Howard refuted the view that landscape is a soft option as you 'just walk up and collect the image'. He showed pairs of images which could be described with the same words, but as he showed, when photographed from different viewpoints or with a different approach, they were very different.

Howard described influences on his work including Joe Cornish, a widely acclaimed master of landscape, Charlie Waite and Yorkshire photographer Lizzie Shepherd whose style is very simple. Howard brought books by inspirational photographers for us to see. He then showed a brief sequence of his images, which have all sold and asked that over the break we should each decide which was his best seller.

He then returned to his early attempts at landscapes and admitted candidly that at this time he was not really committing himself, both setting himself up to fail and giving himself an excuse for not achieving what he would have liked to. He tried using flashy processing options to cover up 'rubbish', but eventually realised that he had to do it properly, carry a camera at all times and use a tripod, working on each image as he took it to get the best results he could.

His results improved but he then had to master composition and he found Joe Cornish's advice to introduce foreground interest and lead in lines invaluable. With a camera always at the ready he found he was able to stop and get shots he might formerly have seen and not been able to shoot. He learned the need to trips for specific shots, researcheing locations through repeated visits and using apps for weather forecasts and to tell him what the sun will be doing. Even so the conditions may change or fail to materialise as hoped and it is a case of perseverance until the shot is captured.

Another piece of Joe's advice - to get the exposure right at the time - is one he has taken to heart. ‘Take your time’ is another and now he aims for quality rather than quality from a shoot.

In contrast to some speakers we have had, Howard encouraged us to shoot from well-known viewpoints and to copy successful practitioners. He wisely said that if we are unable to get a good image where we know there is one, we will discover that there is something we have yet to learn to achieve the desired result. Once we can achieve the results in known situations we will be better equipped to take good shots in locations we discover for ourselves.

Our review of Howard’s best seller sequence clearly showed that we don't fit the profile of his customers. Not one person from a good attendance chose the top seller of a statue at Seaham. He did then admit that the majority of the sales were to locals. More of us liked the next best - a glorious sunset over heather in the Peaks.

Howard's talk included useful tips and suggestions such as looking for micro detail or simple shots and exploring how we can capture them. He advocated going out in all weathers and working with the light and conditions we find rather than giving up if they are not ideal. We can try for shots which give an impression or convey an emotion or even multiple exposures in camera.

In conclusion Howard shared some helpful advice which he had presented to his club and illustrated it with experiences which had taught him the hard way. We will now all be very careful with the equipment we carry - it gets expensive when key components fall off into the environment - and check that the equipment is working properly and suitably set up, especially for important shoots.