Every picture tells a story

Behind every picture there is an untold story. The artist – painter or photographer – has created that picture, either from observation, imagination or a combination of both. We are usually invited to hazard a guess at how, why, when and where. Wouldn’t it be nice to know?

It is common to hear a photographer say I took these photos. I seldom hear a photographer say I created this picture. I used to believe it was vital never to be without a cocked camera so as not to miss, possibly the most amazing photo ever shot. I know better now but I still remind myself regularly that

‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.

The painter starts with a blank canvas and adds what he sees or visualises in the way it appears to him. The landscape photographer is presented with a scene which he must manoeuvre to create the picture he sees in his mind’s eye. Seldom does this happen in a nano-second and often it can take considerably longer than even the photographer imagines.

Phangna Province in Thailand has many of these limestone outcrops. Catch them when the light is right and you will be rewarded. I created this at sunrise after clambering over a pile of rocks behind a police box on the roadside. I apologised for waking the officer.

I find that it now takes me much longer to create a picture that I am satisfied with than it did when I was a complete novice. When I look at my older creations I can understand why.

Both the painter and the photographer have a set of tools which they must know how to use to produce the picture. As a landscape photographer, you have a dazzling array of modern technology at your disposal and you are only limited by your pocket and determination to master it. But however much of a techno wizard you are it will not compensate for a lack of artistry, visual literacy, vision or imagination. We never know exactly how a picture will turn out but without creative visualisation, you can bet it won’t be so hot.

A long boat in Chalong Bay, Phuket waiting for the tide at dawn. I just had to rise while it was still dark to create this picture.

A gallery of attractive or interesting photographs may be pleasing to many viewers and they may be curious enough to hazard a guess at the creative process and how they were produced. But only the photographer, if he remembers, will know.

After viewing thousands of wonderful pictures on 500px, and shuddering at the realisation that I am still a novice, it surprises me at how few write anything in the description box – including me. Then I find an exceptional picture which I really love but have no idea what the story behind it is.

Since then I decided that the pictures I create that I enjoy most will have at least a few words as an accompaniment so that I won’t forget how I made them and maybe others will enjoy the viewing experience a little more as I try to make more challenging pictures.

A dramatic sunrise spotlights the distant mountains in Northern Thailand. This creating meant a lot of early rises before the light was perfect.

River Sunrise

Northern Thailand just after dawn in the forest

I remember this morning well. I walked along the dirt road up from the village to the reservoir through the Lam Yai farms and forest. There was hardly a soul apart from the odd farmer, a couple of noisy dogs and me. Then I looked through the trees and saw this.

Distant mountains

Mountains border Myanmar and Thailand to the West of the forests North of Chiang Mai

I love walking the farms, canal banks and villages in the early cool mornings of Northern Thailand between November and February. Nearly every day I find I can make a new picture of the same view. I am so lucky the countryside is like an art gallery. I processed this scene to look like an old 19th-century oil painting. I hope you like it.

Sparkling feather grass

Sunrise in the Northern Thailand forest shines on the feather grass

Early morning walks in the forests of Northern Thailand are a photographer’s dream. The early light catches the feather grass as it plays in the rising sun.

Jet Stream

An aircraft leaves a trail as it disappears in the morning sky over Northern Thailand

I enjoy the sunrise more than sunset, maybe because there’s no-one around and the air is so clean and fresh. I chose to process this one using a painterly approach as it seemed to fit. Hope you like it.