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Fotospeed’s Foto Fest Central – 15th July 2018
Ahead of his talk Mark Littlejohn shares his thoughts on ‘atmosphere’
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.
Fotospeed’s inaugural Foto Fest Central plays host to five of the best British photographers who will share their experiences, knowledge and journeys in photography. Ahead of his talk on 15th July, landscape photographer Mark Littlejohn shares his thoughts on ‘atmosphere’ and how a little bit of thought can go a long way.
I suppose I should start by saying I’m not a faithful servant of the truth. Neither am I interested in going out in flat light and using Photoshop to dodge and burn varying areas of light and dark into an image.
For myself, I consider landscape photography to be a thrill-seeking adrenalin rush. I want to be out in the gorgeous countryside, watching the light change, seeing how that light changes the mundane into the sublime. I have always been a fan of the ‘little’ picture as opposed to the grand vista. I don’t think we need to see herds of wildebeests galloping majestically across the plain to make an impressive picture.
I’ve often guarded against the clichéd view i.e. Stob Dearg, Durdle Door, The Duke of Portland boathouse etc. as it can sometimes lead to us being blinkered against all those wonderful wee views in between. The great thing about these ‘wonderful wee views’ is that they are ours to interpret as we wish. They are, in the main, unknown and unseen. The scene is fresh to the viewer. We can choose how much of the scene to show them. We can choose what to hide. We can play with their imaginations. In such circumstances, I often think what we leave out is far more important than what we put in. Always remember to be yourself – take the images you want to take and process and present them the way you want to.
There is a temptation for landscape photographers to try and capture too much. The wide-angle lens comes out and we set it to 24mm, then we think, “if I move it to 20mm I can get that rock in”, and then we think “it might be nice to get that tree in” and before we know it, we are at 16mm and doing pretty much a screen snap of everything in front of us. By the time we’ve finished, we’ve completely missed what it was we were trying to photograph in the first place. And more to the point, the viewer has no idea what we were trying to achieve either.
We don’t need to show everyone everything all the time. I’d far rather pick out the sections that I want them to see, the parts that caught my eye. Sometimes that might involve a certain ambiguity of scale that makes the viewer think even more about what is outside the frame – what is it exactly that they are looking at. It might make for a slightly more abstract image, which is something I quite enjoy. I like capturing naturally abstract images without using in-camera techniques such as ICM or multiple exposures.
Split toning in colour allows you to make subtle changes to the feeling in an image. I’ve been doing this for several years in a way that I believe enhances what I perceive to be the mood inherent in the scene. It might not be to everyone’s taste but this is not really a concern of mine. Mood and atmosphere have always been of paramount importance in my images, no matter what the subject matter.
An image doesn’t need to have to be world-class scenery to capture our hearts and our minds. It just needs us to think a little bit about how much we choose to show the viewer and how we process it and present it first. A little bit of thought can go a long way.
Mark Littlejohn will be delivering his full presentation, ‘Atmosphere’ at Foto Fest Central, Patchings Art Centre, Nottingham on 15th July 2018 at 10am. Other speakers include Tom Way, Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson and Charlie Waite. Click here for more details.
Fotospeed is offering On Landscape readers 10% discount on tickets with code PAGB10