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Don’t Forget To Take Your Soul

Listening to Your Inner Self

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Matt Lethbridge

I have been making landscape photographs for around 8 years now and I am very passionate about what I do.I really enjoy the creative challenges brought on by working with natural light, especially in variable weather conditions. I have just started to dip my toe in the water with 35mm film photography and I an looking forward to the many challenges ahead.Flickr


As a landscape photographer, I have often been advised that there is no substitute for "being there" with "the right light", preferably during the "golden hour" to make wonderful pictures. I have often wondered about this universal advice, is it strictly true? Is it just a case of "being there"? Is it really that simple, or is there more to it than that? The more I thought about it over time; I found that just being there is not enough to produce that really special photograph.

It all started with a question about my own work, one that I'm sure many of you have asked yourselves at one point or another. I started to wonder why some of my images really hit the spot, so to speak, while others with the same potential, usually made at the same time at the same location, missed the mark widely..............


To me, it seems after a lot of though that the images that failed did so because although I was at the right place at the right time, my mind and soul was subconsciously elsewhere, not "in" that specific moment. The more I considered this, the more I came to realise the need to concentrate more on the moment itself, to immerse myself more in the atmosphere of my immediate surroundings. I learned that I needed to tune into the landscape, feel it's very presence within my soul and drink in some of that very atmosphere that I'm trying to present within my photographs.

A recent example of this was a recent trip to Saltwick Bay. I had envisioned photographing the wreck of the Admiral Von Tromp trawler, at sunrise, with the sky ablaze above it. I arrived and everything was perfect, right time, right place, right weather, (although a few more clouds would have been nice - never truly happy are we?).

I started to wonder why some of my images really hit the spot, so to speak, while others with the same potential, usually made at the same time at the same location missed the mark widely


I got the pictures I felt that I wanted and returned home to eagerly view them on the big screen for editing. It was only then that I noticed that after the glitzy sunrise images of the wreck, the beautiful light, the compositional masterpieces (only joking), the one picture that stood head and shoulders above the rest was a simple composition consisting of The Black Nab outcrop, a couple of rocks and some reflected light, made after I'd got the main "shots" in the bag and had relaxed totally into the atmosphere of the location and just chilled out. I did not even remember taking it until it popped up on the screen. Of all the photographs made that day, this is the one that will be printed and hung on my wall.

This one revelation alone has no doubt improved my photography, it has led to me making time to relax when arriving at a location and really observing my surroundings, not just hunting down those preconceived ideas but going with the flow, not just looking with my eyes but also with my inner self, trying to absorb some of that atmosphere into the pictures I make._dsf3631


All we have to do is to "listen" to our inner self, hear what our surroundings are telling us, open our minds as well as our eyes to the possibilities in front of us, not just those we may have constructed in our own head.

Do I still make glitzy sunrise images? Well yes, occasionally, but now when I leave home for a location I always make sure I also pack my soul in the bag along with my filters......

  • Very good article Matt. I was listening to an interview with Charlie Waite this morning in which he was stressing the importance of connecting with a location. Personally I think that’s why pre visulisation doesn’t work, or at least not for me. I think you have to go to a location, sit, wander around and relax. Once your soul is then in tune with the location you will see the best images. After all, photograhy is an artform, and artform generally come from the heart.

  • Darren Lewey

    I share the same view Matt. Absorbing a location for a while before photographing is also something I like to do, however this becomes more difficult if the last rays are the optimum time to photograph.

    • I think there is always a little pressure to get “the” shot Darren….I do still give in to temptation occasionally but most of the time I find myself tuning in a lot more now I know where I’ve gone wrong in the past.

  • Marc Hermans

    Totally agree with you Matt. And some beautiful pictures to prove your point.

  • Robin Jones

    Very interesting read Matt.

  • David Haughton

    Sterling work Matt! Very wise words too. It is all about being tuned in to the environment around you, not just visually but emotionally and take in all the sounds and textures and then to remember all that when you come to process your images. Of course all of that can easily go out the window if you’re struggling to catch that last ray of light… but immersion is the key!

  • John MacAlister

    Such a wonderful article – thank you. Contemplation works and when my mind wanders I get photographs, not pictures.

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