Photography: Finding My Style

Over the last eighteen months, I’ve made a subtle shift from Writer to Writer and Photographer.   In my writing, I’ve always enjoyed rich imagery and metaphor.  Much of my poetry is sparked from images that intrigue me and in prose, I try to make moments ‘visible’ to the reader.

While I have always taken photographs, until the last year or so, they have just been snapshots.  Moving to a rural area provided me with an environment I wanted to photograph well. I suddenly found myself drawn to the colours and textures of the bushland surrounding me. I began to photograph wild flowers, bark and birds, among other things. Initially I was trying to capture enough detail to be able to identify species, but in time, I captured more than that.  My eye was drawn to abstract elements of the landscape.

So, while a photograph may show a wild orchid, often the shapes and colours in the background would determine the way I framed the shot.  A dear friend gave me a name for what I was capturing:  Tonal Landscapes.

Tonal Landscapes have a limited colour palate, but strong shapes and lines which often fill the entire frame.  This means I frequently take photographs which have a wider angle  than people are used to seeing.  I’m often told that I could crop my photographs to pick out the flower or the bird and eliminate the background.  Yes, I could, but I don’t want to. For me, this would cut out the interesting part of the photograph.

Recently I have developed  a strong sense of my own style.  While I have much to learn about photography, I’ve worked out that I am not after something that ‘pops’;  I don’t want to distort colour;  and just because you can alter photographs in various graphical software packages, doesn’t mean I am compelled to do so.

I would like to share some of my thoughts by describing what I see in five of my photographs:.

Ant Nests

This is one of my early Tonal Landscapes.  I see it as an abstract work of circles and angles created by the shadows of the bracken stems.

I like the way the ground is so textured. The contrasting grey, mustard and green colours add to this abstract, textured effect..

Tonal-landscape-with-abstracted-ant--nests

Tonal Landscape with ant nests photographed from above.

Australian Wood Duck Flock

Another early work, which isn’t really a photograph of birds.

My eye is drawn to the three converging strips, created by the water, the wet sand and the dry sand.  As my eye moves with these converging lines, to the top left of the photograph, it ripples over the vertical stripes of the tree trunk reflections and the dots created by the ducks.

The smooth texture of the wet sand is soothing, and draws my attention back to the birds, but only as an afterthought.

tonal-landscape-of-ducks-sand-and water-reflecting-tree-trunks
Tonal Landscape: Australian Wood Ducks on three toned background

 Pink Fingers Orchid

This is an example of a photograph which could be cropped to show just the Orchid, but if I did that, I would lose the juxtaposition with the dry bracken fronds in the upper left corner of the image. This orchid is approximately  10cm high. I like the juxtaposition of such a tiny, delicate pink flower flourishing among dry, dead bracken.  It’s symbolic of resilience and strength.

tonal-landscape-of-pink-fingers-orchid-juxtaposed-against-dry-bracken
Tonal Landscape: A Pink Fingers Orchid juxtaposed against dry, dead bracken.

Scented Sundews

I never move detritus to make a photograph more interesting. I try to capture nature as I find it.  So, this nest of triangles is naturally occurring.

To me, the photograph is just as much about the triangles as it is about the Scented Sundew plants.  Scented Sundews are insectivorous plants, with sticky red hairs covering their leaves and beautiful white flowers.  There is so much to enjoy in this photograph, why would I crop it to show just the flower?

tonal-landscape-of-insectiverous-scented-sundew-plants-among-field-of-triangles
Tonal Landscape: A Scented Sundew flower among a field of triangles.

Marbled Xeneca Butterfly

While I could not control where the butterfly landed, I could not have hoped for better.  It is sitting at the centre of a naturally occurring cross of fallen bark and dried grass-tree leaves.   The light is angled perfectly, picking out individual leaves, and illuminating both the bark and the butterfly to perfection.  This is one of my favourite photographs.  It features on the front of my Central Victoria: Bushland Colours and Textures calendar.

Tonal-Landscape-Marbled-Xeneca-Butterfly-on-naturally-occurring-cross

Tonal Landscape: A Marbled Xeneca Butterfly sits on a cross formation made from dried grass and fallen bark.

If you are interested in the concept of Tonal Landscapes, I have created a Tonal Landscapes calendar, available from my Redbubble page, along with other photographs and products..

5 Comments

  1. I love this post, Lisa. I am in no way a photographer — I have a cheap camera with only one lens, and I just literally point and shoot — but I appreciate exactly what you’re saying. I think the tonal landscapes in your photos show the context of what you’re taking. What also shows is a love for ‘place’ as well as ‘object’. I haven’t expressed that very well (I’m not an artist; I don’t know the terms) but I think the idea of ‘place’ conveys familiarity with, fascination with and love for a certain environment. In capturing flowers/plants in a tonal landscape, you incorporate that idea of place. Hope that makes sense 🙂

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