Last week I got a call from Nihon Kamera. Since June, they’d been holding a submission I sent of landscape photos from New Zealand’s South Island. At last the verdict was in and they are going to run eight photographs over eight pages in an upcoming issue. When I checked the PFD file they sent, showing me which photos had been selected so I would know what captions to provide, I saw that six of the eight photographs were shot in 4×5, and the other two were shot in 645 format and 35mm format. I was very pleased and excited that so many of my 4×5 photographs would see publication; however, it wondered about the two dozen 35mm slides I had included in the submission. Why was only one 35mm photograph selected? Were the 4x5s just that much more eye-catching, or was it a question of quality (sharper images)?
Looking at the 4×5 photographs that were selected I can say that they represent the best of my large format images from my last trip to New Zealand, but also that there were not so many successful images out of the batch. Furthermore, I noticed that my 4×5 landscape photos from New Zealand do not resemble the style of large format Kiwi photographer, Scott Freeman, whose book New Zealand Photographs is one of my favourite photo art books. Because Freeman shoots many scenes of rocks and geologically related subjects, I really enjoy his work and it inspires me to go out and shoot similar scenes in Japan. But my New Zealand large format landscape images are quite different in spite of our common interest.
Shooting in 4×5 is not easy, as I wrote about at length a few months back. However, I still find it really fun to shoot with the technical view camera and rewarding when the images turn out successfully. One of my favourite contemporary 4×5 photographers is not world famous though his work has been published in Hungary, as well as North America. Adam Gibbs is a British-born photographer who has been living in Canada for at least a couple of decades now. During my stay in Canada between December 2004 and March 2006, I had the opportunity twice to meet with Adam and swap favourite photo books. His web site is linked from this blog, and just the other day I took a casual stroll through some of his galleries, once again marvelling at how skilfully he captures mountains scenes, canyons, forest floor detail, sea shores, and so on, with his view camera. Between Adam’s web site and Scott Freeman’s book, I was well charged with inspiration, but to add to it was a book I found at the library called “日本列島の２０億年” (“Nihon Rettou no 20 Okunen – The 2 Billion Years of the Japan Archipelago”). Large format colour photographs capture scenes from around Japan and text describes what is in each image from a geology perspective. There are volcanoes and uplifted mountain ranges, glacial valleys and sea cliffs, tuff strata and lava flows. The book has me all fired up to start shooting more geology-based subjects as I used to do long ago before I became obsessed with the Japan Alps.
Then on the train the other day, I was reading an interview with a Japanese photographer who has made his name and fortune shooting in Canada and Europe. He is only four years older than me but he already has ten books published, three or four in the last two or three years. This at a time when publishers are saying that the photo book market is suffering terribly! One comment that photographer made was that you should photograph what you love and he loves to show places where people live, especially where people live close to nature, and he cites Prince Edward Island as one of his favourite places for that kind of photography.
I sure wish it were me who had so many photo books published. But I do recognize that his favourite subjects are much more accessible to the public in general than mountains and rocks. Many more people can imagine traveling to a European town or to P.E.I than those who want to climb a mountain or study rocks in the bottom of a canyon. His words come to me, though, just at the time when I have decided to work not only on shooting mountain scenes but also to seek out and photograph interesting rock formations and land forms in Japan. It might be harder for me to find success like that but I will be shooting what I love and that is one very good reason to look forward to future outings.
The third and final source of inspiration came from a small book of photographs by Makoto Saito, a photography instructor in Tokyo and writer for Gakujin magazine and editor for the members’ magazine of the Society of Scientific Photography. His book, “山のふしぎ” (“Yama no Fushigi – Mysteries of the Mountains”), is a collection of various photos taken in mountain areas all around Japan. The subjects are extremely diverse: mountain peaks, clouds over ranges, small nature close-ups, people adventuring in the mountains, medium scale mountain nature scenes, waterfalls, and so on. His work is in some ways very similar to mine and yet in some ways a level above mine – almost attainable if I work on it a little harder.
I would love to capture some of the scenes in that book but I have to get to those places first. And then I would love to have a book of my best images published but I need to get recognized by publishers as a worthy investment first. I guess it will take some time and a lot more effort. Thanks to the sources of inspiration I mentioned above, I am very excited about what I might be able to do in the coming year.
And for starters, I can look forward to my next published work in Nihon Kamera magazine.
Ben Avon Scenic Reserve, Ahuriri Valley, South Island, New Zealand.