Thursday, June 16, 2011

I had an epiphany!

Last weekend was a good weekend for my photography. Why? Being out there in Claresholm – photographing in rain – I had an epiphany. Being pushed by my surroundings and the weather there was eye opening.
I made the decision to stop looking at other people's work. Let me re-phrase that. I will stop letting me get influenced by other photographers. Maybe that sounds kind of arrogant or even plain stupid but bear with me here for a second.

Back when I started out with photography I was shooting film. Digital was non existing. So I was/am formally trained as a black and white photographer/darkroom adept. Even now it is hard for me to shoot in colour. Somehow it is just not working for me anymore. Somehow I can not put the amount of emotion I want and need in a photo, in a colour photo print. But I can – without even thinking – in a black and white print. It is just second nature for me to do that. I don't know how, what or why the reason is. It's just is.

If I reflect back on my photography over the last 6 months I can only notice that my photography has changed a lot. Honestly it did not change, it just went back to where it was in the beginning. I used to shoot exclusively with wide angle lenses. Now, not so much. I shoot 50mm and up. Again it is more natural for me to do that. Also my compositions have become very empty, very minimal. Not something that everybody likes.

I guess as a graphic artist I am more looking for that 'artsy' shot that has a nice graphical composition then making a wide angle comp where I show everything, from the rocks beneath my feet to the mountains in the back. Sure, those shots are dramatical in depth and I do love them but my heart is in a place now where it needs simplicity.

Of course this does not mean that I will ONLY shoot minimalistic black and whites from now on. Shooting sunrise or sunset colours in black and white does not make any sense right?

Did you experience something like this before? Please do share. I am looking forward to read your thoughts on this.

Here are some examples of what I mean with my ramblings above. These where all shot last weekend.


Wind Catchers

Triangle Coulee

It's Clearing



  1. Beautiful Oli - I especially love the first image. You're right in that often B&W does elicit so much more emotion in a scene than color. I say, go with the flow.

  2. This is a stunning collection of images, Oli. While they may be simple compositions, the subtle details and your excellent processing decisions make these all compelling images.

    I have seen you mention Cole Thompson before and I assume that you are familiar with his concept of photographic celibacy. I have flirted with the idea for some time and have thought about just trying it out for a few months to see if my work changes in the absence of other photographic influences. I think I know the answer to my own question - I would pursue work more like what you have posted here rather than the type of work I typically post on the web. Since I do not do this for a living, I don't know why I am not doing what I want to in the first place. Anyway... I'd be interested to know how you are going to try to stop letting those outside influences in.

  3. I've had a similar blog post in my head for a while now. I've tried to keep my mind on landscapes, and in some places it's very easy, but I keep being drawn to the smaller scale opportunities, the intimate natural settings. And I realized, why fight it? Why chase after the big photos like so many other photographers? Why not follow my vision? And so I will. Thanks for sharing your photos, btw, they are absolutely gorgeous.

  4. I'll be honest - I do not often find B&W in general as appealing as colour. The ones you have posted above though I do find quite compelling - perhaps I should revisit my thoughts on B&W in general? Looks like you had a lot of success on your last trip though!

    I think it is always a good thing if we deviate from our usual way of doing things from time to time. By exploring new ideas, even if they don't end up working overall, we can bring back elements that did to our more established way of doing things and evolve. I have found myself shooting a lot more with longer focal lengths myself as well - it is starting to be what feels more natural for me to shoot with.

  5. I get what you mean by not being able to shoot in color deal. That is how it is for me when it comes to B&W. I guess I am the Love the new work though!

  6. @ Russ: Thank you so much for the support you're giving me. Over and over.

    @ Sarah. I love Cole's work Sarah. I actually wrote him an email last year to thank him because his work made such a huge impact on me. So much that I am considering his idea of 'photo celibacy'. I am not a pro so I am not worried about losing sales or anything. I believe this kind of photography – because it is so close to my heart – will have a greater appreciation with people and I will be a lot happier doing it too.

    @ Sherrie There is absolutely nothing wrong with following your heart. If your eye leads you to intimate landscapes, pursue it. Do it, hone out that niche! Be confident in what you do and never fight it. I would love to read your blog entry Sherrie.

    @ Michael. Thank you as always Michael for all the support I am getting from you. Would you believe me when I said that these shots where taking in less then ideal conditions. All of them where shot with overcast skies, flat light, rain and heavy wind. Everything you see is pure post processing. If you would see the original shots (and maybe I will share them in a later post) you will ask yourself 'why did he shoot that?!'.
    You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. When I see something while driving for instance and I hesitate to stop. I KNOW the shot is going to be a winner.

    @ Jesse. I am attracted to contrasts more then colour I guess. I love blacks in a bw shot. A simple conversion doesn't do it for me at all. After a while your brain knows what colours look like in black and white. Of course now in digital it is much easier. You can shoot in raw with a black and white preview with for instance a red filter effect on it (what I do, my wb is set to -max in the blues too). Makes for black skies. You should try and set up your camera like that as well.

  7. I absolutely love this new/old direction you are taking your photography in now. This is stunning work. My roots are in b&w as well so I understand where you are coming from. I'm really looking forward to seeing more.

  8. Hey Oliver :) I think this is really GREAT actually! I feel like I spend 90% of my time thinking in B&W. I've struggled with it though, and this post helped me realize that it's OK.

    If the majority or all of our work ends up being B&W, it's ok :)

    I guarantee the majority of photos that have moved me are in B&W, and the ones above are no exception to that :)

  9. Heather, if you already THINK in B&W, you are one step ahead of the game. That is actually the most difficult part to learn a 'newbie' photographer (excuse the word there). If you already know how the colours will translate into B&W before you take the shot, you will see for yourself you will be moving away from 'scenes' and look more at details, textures and light then ever before and you will start making compositions with that.

    Thanks for the read and comment Anne! Appreciate it a lot.

  10. Hey Oli, I know this is a little late to respond to this post LOL! I was going through your blog, and saw this post.I really love the first image here! It's just awesome!

  11. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have not shot long enough and never film to experience what you did. I did take a year (years ago) in film production and found I loved the black and white photo class the best. I love both color and B&W. I just don't seem to be able to shoot images that come close to yours with B&W. I don't know if I just don't practice enough in B&W to create images I envision. Time will tell :)

  12. These are gorgeous Olivier. Like you I have a tendency towards b&w. I always have both in my portrait work and now in my beginnings with landscapes. Your work appeals to me very much, so I am happy to see it stay this way. :)

  13. Those shots are dramatically in depth and I do love them but my heart is in a place now where it needs simplicity. Thanks for sharing them to us.
    digital cameras

  14. Really, really beautiful work. It's completely obvious that this is what you need to be doing. I have a similar backround as you, cutting my teeth in a B&W darkroom in the 90's, and loving my 24mm 2.8 glass.

    Although I do shoot in color now, and like to do so, I find that my Photoshop post workflow basically emulates the same techniques I learned in the darkroom all those years ago. I feel bad for today's younger more modern photgraphers, who will never know the craft of printing in a darkroom.

    Keep up the great work--it rocks!

  15. Thank you so much Bart!
    Appreciate your message a lot.
    There are so many techniques we can still use (that I still use) from the good old darkroom days.

  16. You are my new favorite:)
    Nobody has the ability to feel exactly the same way as one does because each and every one of us is unique!
    You rock, Bro!

  17. Beautiful photos! I love color, but the potential for simplicity and clarity (of composition, and vision) seems so strong with B&W. Thanks for sharing your work.