Inside this issue
A book project
I’m Roy Fraser and I’m a landscape photographer from. Poole in the South of England, County Dorest.
I first became aware of photography when I was at school. I was watching a school rugby match when I noticed an older boy taking pictures on the touch line with a Praktica 35mm film camera. My interest was piqued and I asked him a few questions and decided there and then that I wanted a similar camera myself!
I absolutely love what I do!
I have been very fortunate throughout my career as a professional photographer. I have been a professional photographer now for over 50 years, and during this time, I have seen many changes in both digital technology as well as how I compose and visualise photographic compositions.
I still remember the moment at school when I was 16 years old when I knew I wanted to be a photographer! In the 1960s, your educational pathway was already pre-determined for you, and there was a limited choice of options to choose from in deciding your plans.
It was ‘O’ & ‘A’ levels, University and then work, and in those days, you had no real idea what you really wanted to do. For some reason, my career teachers suggested I became an aeronautical engineer! This was, I imagine, based upon my father being in the RAF and my school being in Bristol, where Concorde was being built!
Photography was certainly not an option!
At school, I had only black and white film to use as I could more easily process and print it myself. Colour was very expensive at this time and well as being harder to process. This turned out to be fortunate for me as I soon became used to ‘seeing’ and processing in B&W.
Leaving school at 18 years of age, I began my career as a press photographer using B&W. The editor instructed me very early on how best to ‘see’ the image that would tell the story without the need for anything more than a simple caption. After 6 years of working on newspapers, I started a portrait business, which I still own and run to this day, but I now found myself now working exclusively in colour!
I thought I would tell you all this as it laid the foundations for the photography I shoot today as a landscape photographer.
I find it easier now with this initial training to arrive at any location and immediately see compositions that I know will work for me. I can then spend more time working and fine-tuning each image that would better tell the story of a place or location.
In the last couple of years, I have changed my approach somewhat on how I shoot landscape photographs. I have discovered creating small books or zines is a more satisfying way of working. I do not now need to find one or two iconic images to tell my story as I can tell it far better within the book with a wider variety of images.
My current interest in landscape photography is to take B&W square images of minimalist scenes, structures and views. I also like to use negative (or, as I prefer to know it as, positive) space.
I start my process off now by researching on Google Earth the places I want to visit, figuring out all the logistics, checking tide times and sunrise and sunset times etc.… then just go and explore!
The challenge I now have set myself with the need to create 15/ 20 images can be very daunting, but I find it far more exhilarating than before when I was just looking for just a few images.
Take my Lake Geneva Book project as an example
I had seen a couple of great images from a Swiss photographer living close to the lake that I liked a lot. That was all the inspiration I needed to arrange a visit. I planned on a four-day visit, which would concentrate only on the Swiss side of the lake from Geneva up to Montreux, about 50 miles in total. I decided to make this trip in December 2022, as, ideally, I wanted a snowy landscape and some misty water.
On my very first dawn morning, all the elements I looked for were there in abundance, which allowed me to shoot exactly what I needed for the book. I had decided to create 15 images for inclusion, but on this day, I must have found at least 8 images that I thought were ‘keepers’ of just the shoreline around Geneva itself. I could not help but see great images everywhere!
Geneva is a very popular tourist location, so the shoreline had plenty of jetties, piers, boats and cormorants! I was in Heaven. I was also now getting worried about having an editing problem if this is what day one had given me!
Cormorants love to dry out their feathers, and they stand very still for long periods. They make for great additional subject matter. This image was lifted, in my opinion, by including this bird.
When I consider how to compose an image, I like to try to include some additional visual context. The snowy shoreline at the bottom of the image was an important element as it visually anchored the composition. The space to the top and right allow space for the jetty and bird to breathe.
I am glad I went in December, as there would be far fewer tourists. I know they would have made footprints in the snow and also photo bombed the shot! This jetty would, I imagine, have boats attached to it in season but sitting here on its own looks quite sculptural.
I am attracted straight away to a structure such as this as it has form, texture and presence. This type of composition makes me stop and think about ‘Why it’s there?’, ‘What has moored here?’, ‘Who has sailed from here? It wants me to figure all this out in my mind rather than just tell me, ‘I’m a jetty’!
I walked past this composition and just thought there was nothing really to shoot here. Something, however, kept nagging at me to go back and take a second look, so after 5 minutes of walking, I went back to take a second look. I stared at this view for quite a while, knowing there was a worthwhile image here. After pacing around, standing higher and sitting down lower, exploring different perspectives, I suddenly got it, and the composition made perfect sense!
All I had needed for it to work for me was to line up the two contrasting angled shapes of the foreground and jetty. This contrast actually complimented each other to create a balance that I liked.
This image above of the diving board at the lido was one of the images that excited me enough to make the trip in the first place. I just loved the angles, shapes and form of the tower and its setting on the lake. The image I had seen online before had more going on in it in the background. It had also been taken from the other side. I knew when I first saw it that I had to find a different angle, and I thought this would be easy!
Unfortunately, the lido was closed, so I could not get close to it unless I walked about half a mile further away down the shoreline. The problem got worse as the lido extended quite a bit further down the coast, and there was another building on the other side of it.
When I got there, finally, I was quite some way from the diving board. I found there was a small gap through the buildings and trees back to the diving board where I could attempt a shot, but it would need my long 600mm lens to reach it.
This long lens is able to compress the subjects in the composition in a very favourable way. This lens actually enhanced the composition by making the diving board and fence into the water become much closer together, which really made my day! It would have been a great disappointment to come away without this image.
The next day I was on the main road that ran mostly alongside the shoreline to begin my search for more great images.
The first one I want to tell you about is the image that I came across totally by accident. Driving along the shoreline, I was able to drop down to every village I came across. Some places had nothing to interest me, or I found the road inaccessible due to road works. When I dropped down to this village, I immediately saw a great composition (see next image below). There was a car park right by, so this is where I stopped. I spent an hour around this spot taking various compositions, but fancied a coffee and cake and so I took a path by the edge to a café I saw in the distance.
I did not get my coffee as suddenly, this image above came into view!
I think a previous photographer had forgotten to take the boat he had placed in this composition with him, as it was so perfect to look at.
I saw this image below before finding the island one.
This pier looked interesting enough for me to explore from the car park but it was not until I walked the length of it that I saw how it would make an unusual composition. I wanted to create some flow and direction for the eye to take within this image. When composing an image in camera, it does take quite some time to tweak the view slightly to find the best balance of the structure to the composition.
The pier wall helped enormously to start this journey. I spent quite some time moving the camera around, trying to keep the leading line of the pier wall at the bottom left whilst including the seat in the image. I also raised the camera quite high, as I wanted to show the water flowing between the pier and the jetty in the background. This was quite a tight space for me to work in with my 10mm lens, and ideally, I would have liked to have slightly more space to the left of the pier head in the background. Sometimes it ends up being a compromise!
As you would expect, along the shoreline, there would be loads of jetties at the end of each of the houses that abut it. This composition interested me as the towering presence of the tree above this jetty gave it some stature. The misty light helped as well!
This image above is another one that I saw from a local photographer online before I arrived, and I knew I had to include it. This was not an easy location to find. I tried finding it from both ends of the village, but in the end, I managed to park quite close. From the car park, I could see part of it in the distance, but it was not until I got closer that I saw how impressive this image could be for the book.
This composition turned out to be much harder for me to make, as there were so many different things I needed to include as well as exclude! I really liked the handrail being in the foreground, but it did extend quite a bit more to the shoreline, and if I included more, then the diving board became less significant. I am happy with this choice, but some of the other shots I took are nice too!
You know, as a landscape photographer, that you can become invisible to people?
This subject above is the children’s paddling pool that sits within the much larger main outdoor pool.
I had my camera and tripod already set up to take this image once they had moved on, and fortunately, I now had this place to myself… or did I? Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young man carrying a canoe walk along the beach. As he came close, he said ‘Bon jour’ smiled and then placed his canoe right in the centre of my image!
I laughed out quite loud, and he looked around and twigged what I was actually doing and laughed himself as he moved out of shot. “It’s great being a photographer, isn’t it?”
The water during my 4 day trip was completely calm, and the mountains on the opposite side of the lake on the French side were mainly in mist. This composition was very close to my hotel, but each time I went to shoot it, there were too many people all around it. I went before dawn to get an image that I am pleased with that has no one in it!
When I dropped down to this village, this post in the water intrigued me. Why was it there? What was it for? A couple of swimmers approached me to ask what I was taking photographs of (and were generally surprised at my reply that I was photographing this post!), but as locals, they did not know either what its purpose was either!
Lake Geneva had many great surprises for me as a landscape photographer, and this image was one that became a very special one for me. A river was flowing out of the town, and as it met the lake, it created some great shapes in the shingle bed. The mountains in the background had a line of low mist across them, and the sun was being blocked by a higher level of mist. The whole scene was just magical, and I had to take some time just to admire it as it typified Switzerland’s quiet beauty.
I sat on this bench on my last day out shooting to try to find some time to actually take in the peace, tranquillity and majesty of Lake Geneva. Trying to convey all these emotions and experiences in a small book is difficult, but I am very pleased with how it came out. The book project helped me focus my creative energy in a different way, and I commend this concept to you all.
Lake Geneva Zine is available on my website.