How would you describe your approach to landscape photography?
I see it as contemplative, and, using the word daringly, spiritual. I do have feelings about further dimensions. I’m in a state of permanent wonder and relish. The only time I can express that is through the camera.
What got you into photography?
I’m an Ansel Adams groupie. He was such an amazing technician and interpreter. He had an amazing ability to produce an image that matched human vision, and his approach to dark room work was second-to-none.
Your company Light & Land run photography holidays, and you personally guide some workshops and tours. Can you really teach someone how to be a good photographer?
I think you can, especially people who have an understanding of design and good lighting and who can identify all the component parts that go into a landscape photo.
It can be a hugely enjoyable process. Our guests who join our many Light & Land workshops and tours are able to concentrate on defining their creative objective, and they develop new found skills of composition, balance, design, relationships and, of course, an understanding of the behavior of light. The delight that many of our travelers experience when they find that they can quickly grasp the business of ‘seeing the photograph’ before it is made is what Light & Land thrives on.
What’s the most important thing people should understand?
‘Recognizing’. One of Ansel Adam’s great lines about photography was “recognition and pre-visualization blended together in a single moment of awareness.” It’s essential to be able to recognize a combination of shapes, a configuration of lighting, and an orchestration of colors, and then identify the merit of what you’re looking at for having a photograph made of it.
Another thing that is essential, of course, is not tolerating compromise.
Light & Land has been running now for 25 years and the company is celebrating their ‘birthday’ in 2018. How do you feel about that milestone?
In 25 years of assisting our guests with their photography, we’ve taken great delight in seeing a network of communities being established and many enduring friendships formed, all with photography at their core. That’s extremely satisfying to be a part of.
There are very many people who at some stage of their lives, perhaps in their middle age, feel a need to explore creative impulses that may well have been latent. The camera is one of the most remarkably creative devices with which to express their response to their world around them. If our leaders can come away from a workshop or tour having assisted some of their guests to produce images that evoke their experience, both for themselves and those who look upon their work, then they’ll be overjoyed.
How has photography changed over the last 25 years?
Digital has offered wonderful opportunities for so many millions of people to explore the magical world of photography. For the world and its people, photography has now become the new common language.
Yet some statistics show that 95 per cent of all photographs made are either deleted or confined within an external hard drive, never to be set free. Digital has brought with it a degree of recklessness, which for the photographer’s journey could amount to a trial-and-error approach. For the beginner photographer, that’s not a crime and it can play an important part in the early stages of their perception and the business of making images. Ultimately, though, less trial and error and more restraint is encouraged as an approach.
Either way, over the last 25 years, photography has given a very large number of people enormous creative joy, and that is what I care about more than anything. Irrespective of film or digital being the method of capture, composition remains the most elusive and, subsequently, the most rewarding aspect of photography to achieve an understanding of. It was this way 25 years ago and it will remain so, I am sure.
What’s your favorite destination for photography?
France. I think it’s the most undiscovered country in Europe for landscape photography. I know a lot of people go to the Dordogne, but I prefer a department called The Lot. It’s an unusual one. I like that part of France enormously. I never see any tourists there and the roads are quiet, so you have plenty of time to pause, which is important for landscape photography. It’s also full of wonderful little cameos.
Where do you like to stay in France?
La Bastide de Capelongue near Bonnieux, in southeastern France. One of its features is that it has an absolutely staggering natural view over the valley. From a landscape photographer’s view, when you open that window, you have to see beauty. If you don’t see beauty, you feel short-changed. You don’t want to look over a swimming pool. I need to see something completely beautiful, otherworldly. Ideally, I want to see a view that makes me want to take photographs straight out of the window.
Have any other hotels you’ve stayed in stood out to you?
The Kempinski Hotel Amman in the capital of Jordan. I’d never stayed in a hotel that was reminiscent of a palace. They’ve brought the natural world into the immediate grounds of the hotel. They had a very clever way of conveying a sense of nature right on your doorstep. They had wonderful lines of palm trees and a canal within the grounds. That was very clever.
Jordan was fantastic to photograph. I went to Petra and to Wadi Rum. It was all an unknown territory to me.
Where else do you like to explore with your camera?
I enjoy spending time in Death Valley and the slot canyons in Utah. Yosemite National Park is jaw-dropping stuff. Ansel Adams was there 50 years ago doing his thing and it’s the most visited national park in the world, but if you get there, it becomes yours.
I’ve been lucky to travel to many other parts of the world, including India, Namibia, Bhutan. Inle Lake in Myanmar is another favorite.
I spend a lot of time in Europe, though. Tuscany was the first place I went to with my landscape photography hat on, having been dumped by the acting profession after 10 years. I remember my mother always saying: “You’ve got to go and look at landscape paintings. Look at the Renaissance paintings and look, in particular, at lighting.”
In the UK, Glen Coe in Scotland looks good in any weather. It’s a classic, dramatic Scottish landscape. Yorkshire also gives me an enormous amount of pleasure.
What advice do you have for landscape photography enthusiasts?
Don’t let a photograph just be just a record. Try to put some soul into it. Will what you feel have parity with the image you make? That’s what you should be striving for.
And don’t think: “If I point my £5,000 camera at this beautiful thing, that’s it and therefore I’ll produce a beautiful image.” It doesn’t work like that.
Light & Land run photography holidays and workshops in the UK and across the world, including Italy, France, Morocco, Albania, Kenya and Namibia. The company is celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2018. For photography tours with Light & Land, including workshops and tours, run by Charlie Waite, see www.lightandland.co.uk/.
Charlie Waite’s new E-Book ‘Beyond The Photograph’ is out on Feb 01, 2018. See www.charliewaite.com for details and more on Charlie Waite’s work.