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.