Does Mount Sorrow Look Sorrowful?

May 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Mount Sorrow from the Daintree Research Observatory.
110mm lens on Phase One XF 100MP, 50 seconds @ f7.1, ISO 50.

I'm just back from an engrossing week in the Daintree Rainforest, spent with Australian professor and doctor of photography, Les Walkling. And I mustn't forget Les's workshop partners, John and Pam de Rooy who host Les's famous Orpheus Island printing workshop, and assisting photographer Andrey Walkling.

The week was spent with 12 photographers and our own chefs and support crew at the Daintree Research Observatory, just out of telephone signal range and built to host university researchers. There was an expansive seminar and work room for our deliberations, a hospitality area that was well frequented and comfortable dormitory style accommodation. And within a half an hour drive was a host of different photography locations, from crocodile cruises, mangrove walks, ocean beaches and the rainforest itself. There's even a crane for providing a unique bird's eye view of the rainforest canopy.

However, this workshop was different. Instead of spending most of our time taking photographs, we talked about them. Instead of spending most of our time learning how to apply a curve in Photoshop, we learnt when and why to apply them. While technique was definitely an important component, the priority was to take participants to the next stage in their journey as photographers.

It was the art of photography.

And it lasted for seven, information packed days and while I was a co-presenter, I had one of the best educational experiences of my life. Les was in fine form, taking us from modernism to formalism and beyond, explaining how the contemporary art world sees photography and how the best exponents work. We received exclusive insights into both theory and technique, but in a practical way that allowed us to return with concepts and ideas that we can put into practice. I have a notebook full of ideas to work on and directions to take in the future.

The photograph above features the enigmatic Mount Sorrow which was shrouded in low cloud for much of our workshop. We could sit and watch it while eating our meals and I am sure everyone photographed and took videos of it as the clouds curled around its upper reaches.

This is a 50 second exposure during which time the tree-covered mountain was gently blurred by the swaying leaves. It uses a few technical aspects picked up at the workshop (some luminosity compensatory layers) and some ideas gleaned from the world of art.

But I hope the most important thought that participants took away was that it's very difficult to make everyone in the world happy with your photography, so really the best approach is to make yourself happy first. Of course, this doesn't mean working in isolation or disregarding other disciplines and genres, rather acknowledging that photography as an art form is personal - and that means it's up to you!

If you'd like to join Tony Hewitt and I on an exclusive five day photography art workshop next month (15-20 June) in New Zealand, there is just one place left - meaning a maximum of four students and two AIPP Grand Masters of Photography as leaders. Check out our Middlehurst brochure here.


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