Standing on the shoulders of giants

For Gary Groucutt the inspiration for landscape photography comes from the great classic painters of the past …

When considering your next photographic masterpiece, why not look to the landscape painters of the past? Tom Girtin, JMW Turner, John Constable, David Cox and John Sell Cotman, to name just a few. There were many.


All great and masters in the art of creating dramatic landscape images. These guys didn’t mess around, they were out there from dawn to dusk, on foot, in the rain, often walking up to 50 miles in a day to get to the next location. I was going to say go to a gallery to look at their paintings, but hey, I urge you to search the internet (that shouldn’t be too difficult) for their paintings. Everyone is a stunner.

OK, they had the luxury of painting but it still gives you the impetus and ideas to get out there and explore new locations that you may not have heard of before, or to explore known locations but from a different angle, or at sunset instead of sunrise so the sun is illuminating the scene from a new angle. The reason we stand at these places now and keep taking photographs is because these painters stood there first. They made the locations classic. There are many others to discover. Next time you are wondering where to go with your camera, I urge you to take a look. I’m sure you will be amazed at what you find.

Top tips on location

Keep looking for options at a location. Why not try a new viewpoint? Take your version of “the classic” and don’t be afraid to rip up the rule book. How does the subject look from the other side or with the sun coming from a different direction? Remember, anything is possible.

Patience is the key to outstanding photography. Don’t dive in and start shooting right away. Wait and allow some time for the scene to develop. It may take an hour for the light to get interest ing. If it doesn’t, wait, and then wait some more. Many a great shot has been lost on the walk back to the car with the camera safely tucked away in the bag!

Don’t dismiss a location until your camera has had the last word. Our eyes are great filters, they adjust perfect ly to each location; a camera doesn’t and we use this as part of the magical creative process in making an image.

Always have half of your creative brain thinking about post-production when you are making an image. How is this going to look on paper, printed out? What paper shall I use? This is the first thing I consider before I set up. Compose the image to give maximum effect from minimal elements. Don’t complicate it.

Take a notebook to every location and write down the conditions and the time of year. Only practice, knowledge and your instinct, which you are tuning all the time, will tell you when a particular location is best.

Practice, practice and practice. Setting up, taking light readings, controlling exposures; all these things take time and the less time you leave yourself at a location the quicker you have to become.

Photography takes effort. Great shots are not made easily. No classic image was made by luck or just pressing the shutter as you tripped up. They all require hard work, usually in awkward positions. When you start to feel hot and sweaty, you know that you are doing something right. Suffering for your art is about making a good image that no-one has made before.

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