Art is not about f-stops and metering, it is a release for the soul. — from Alister Benn’s artists statement
As a beginning landscape photographer, I learned a lot about the inner workings of a camera as well as fundamentals of composition and processing by participating in online critique forums. Following the pattern many of us do, I “lurked” in the background before finally getting the guts to introduce myself by posting an image I thought was one of my best. Fortunately, people were very nice as they critiqued my first image, as well as my second image, my tenth image, and so forth.
I might have been a slow learner, but over time I learned to put my frustrations aside and learn from the critiques being given to me. As time progressed, I learned to look every aspect of a scene, from the lines to the light to each individual element and put them into thoughtful composition. As I gained confidence, I became more willing to offer honest critique of others’ images, which in turn helped me continue to grow.
In short, I was part of a community that was giving thoughtful discussion to photography and I was learning a lot. After a while, however, I learned that one thing the critique forum couldn’t help me with was the development of my own voice and style. These things have to come from within. Once I gained a thorough understanding of my camera and light (not a mastery–I’m still working on that), I was able to break free on a more personal journey into photography.
Over time, I posted less and less on my old critique forum, and I noticed others were as well. Image posting now seems to be done primarily on social networks and media, where honest critiques seem hard to come by (more on that in another blog post). However, as I migrated to social media, several friends from my old critique forum also landed there. There are several photographers who I respect a great deal, one of them being Alister Benn.
I remember thinking early on that I wanted to be like Alister, not so much in terms of emulating his images, but most certainly in emulating (and learning from) his thoughtful approach to art. I think that’s the least any of us could strive for. Even as critiques were offered at a harried pace (and thus were not always as constructive as they could be) on critique forums, Alister has always been thoughtful in his criticism, and he’s become a good friend.
For years I chased drama before I realised that simplicity usually satisfies me more than making some crazy colourful image. — from Seascape Photography: Single Frame Techniques
Over the past couple of years, I’ve reviewed Alister’s other ebooks (see here and here), and I’d like to say a few more words about his most recent publications, a series of instructional guides on seascape photography. Currently, he has three books in the series finished: a free introduction, Vision & Composition, and Single Frame Techniques. Alister was kind enough to let me preview all three books, although he did not ask for this review.
One thing that struck me as I looked through all three ebooks was how Alister’s logical, thoughtful approach to photography shines through in every page. From the very beginning, he encourages not only a mastery of light and equipment, but also a sense of ownership in the final image. This is extremely powerful, especially in an age when we are surrounded by so many “how-to” guides, but few books on guiding vision in landscape photography.
Alister’s descriptions are clear enough for a beginner to understand, but are deep enough for a seasoned photographer to glean useful information from every page.
excerpt from Seascape Photography: Vision & Composition
You don’t live close to the ocean? No problem! Alister’s explanations go far beyond seascapes and are useful for any landscape photographer. Not only can you use his suggestions for photographing any body of water, you can use them for photographing just about any subject. All of these books–again–are based on learning a thorough understanding of equipment, but also the development of a personal style, which begins in the field, but is carried through to the digital darkroom.
excerpt from Seascape Photography: Single Frame Techniques
You can check out all of Alister’s ebooks at his website, Harvesting Light. His introduction is available for free, and the other two Seascape ebooks are available for $10/each. If you’re interested in developing your own artistic vision as well as your technique, these books are a must-have.