on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Giving Chance a Chance

Free myself from limitations

Hans-Ludwig Beinsen-Ruf

I am photographing as an amateur since my early school-days (around the year 1960), starting with 24x36, continuing with 6x6, and now getting familiar with large format, always and only in black and white, on film. I develop the negatives and print the images in my own darkroom.

Due to my interest in the technicalities, I started to explore large format photography a few years ago. In contrast to my previous subjects, where I mainly photographed people I met while travelling or in my everyday surroundings, I was now more drawn to quiet scenes where I was particularly interested in nature and landscape.

Despite my technical advances, many of my photos were average at best, making me increasingly doubtful of successful progress. I asked myself the question of why and came to the following insight:

It was mainly due to the way I conducted my photographic excursions.

In the preparation phase at home, I planned motives in great detail with the aim of finding and photographing them outdoors.

For example, when the weather forecast announced strong winds and thunderstorms for the next few days, I prepared myself accordingly to capture dramatic weather situations with my camera, ignoring all other possible subjects I might encounter.

Or I had the idea of searching the forest for rotten wood on which new plants were already growing, then I went off to realise this idea and nothing else.

This worked fairly well from time to time, but in the long run, it did not satisfy me.

Looking back, it is clear to me today that I had voluntarily put-on blinkers by this meticulous preparation and preliminary fixing to certain motives!

This insight is supported by the fact that the majority of the better pictures were not the result of advance planning, but were more or less accidental or spontaneous.

For example, the section of the dirt road near the Kochhartgraben,

Whose prominent stone caught my eye in passing on the way to a conscientiously planned motive, and which I then photographed on the way back.

One of the similarities I see between these pictures and my earlier photos of people is that they were also taken not after anonymous preparation but after personal acquaintance, so that they are within the viewer's grasp, so to speak, and they can perhaps feel the spirit of the situation.

I also remembered reading "Gross and Shapiro, The Tao of Photography", "Elliot Porter, In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World", "Yamamoto Masao, Small Things in Silence" and others, which I now picked up again and from which I drew further motivation to proceed in the manner described.

In concrete terms, for me this means giving my surroundings the unrestricted chance to be noticed by me with relaxed attention and, if appropriate, to be photographed or not.

The planning and preparation consist of dressing appropriately for the weather and getting the camera equipment ready for use, that's really all.

Of course, this change did not happen overnight. I went for walks and extended hikes, leaving my camera equipment at home from time to time, to unconstricted experience impressions without any filter and photographic considerations.

This approach has helped me to free myself from the limitations described above and to continue my photographic activity with renewed enthusiasm.

Thus, the respective momentary perception is in the foreground and my decision to photograph or not to photograph results from the concrete situation and not from a previously detailed planning.

This approach has helped me to free myself from the limitations described above and to continue my photographic activity with renewed enthusiasm.

It would be a great pleasure for me to have given the one or other reader an equally helpful push through this report.

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