Mark Littlejohn is a landscape photographer based on the edge of the English Lake District. He specialises in moody, atmospheric early morning conditions and offers bespoke one-to-one workshops and Lakeland tours.
When Tim Parkin asked me if I would consider writing an article for OnLandscape I didn’t really have to think hard to come up with a first topic. Thanks to Charlie Waite and Take a View there hasn’t really been much on my mind (or in my diary) for the last month. Competitions aren’t something that I spend a great deal of time with. Apart from the Take a View competition I don’t actually enter any. This year I almost didn’t enter that either. An excellent article by David Ward on the subject of competitions nearly changed my mind. One of the arguments was that if you take the competition seriously, and fail to get recognised, is there a danger that you change your style to try and appease the judges. If you still fail where do you stand? Having given consideration to these factors I still decided to enter but I felt it was important to enter images I liked and even include some that I felt a real connection with. Even if that included images that I felt had no chance of being recognised. In a way I felt that I was trying to keep my integrity as a photographer, whilst at the same time entering a competition that usually numbers more classically appealing landscape images as its winners.
I have started to become far too critical of the scenes around me. Whereas before the competition result was announced I could find beauty, balance and soul in all manner of things I have now begun to judge them as to how good I think the resulting image would be
Like everyone else who enters I didn’t entertain the thought of winning but just wanted to perhaps get in the yearly book and see an image or two in print. Deciding whether or not to enter therefore took up a fair bit of my time and caused me to hold several internal debates. I didn’t really expect that winning the competition would cause me even more internal debate. In the last month and a half or so since I received the call from Charlie I have managed the grand total of one keeper. Has winning created pressure? Undoubtedly. My modus operandi so to speak was always to have what I would term a free wander, both mentally and physically. I could just roam with the camera, looking at whatever took my fancy and taking a shot when the light and the balance of all the elements in the frame caught my eye sufficiently. I realise now that in the last six weeks I have started to become far too critical of the scenes around me. Whereas before the competition result was announced I could find beauty, balance and soul in all manner of things I have now begun to judge them internally as to how good I think the resulting image would be. And the bar is set extremely high. I’m not aware if I had even set a bar before…
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