Must We Shout So Loud?

I have been very happy with the work that I have been creating recently as I explore the far eastern fells close to my home. But I am becoming more and more frustrated with the narrow mindedness of some within our community.

One of the many holes in the wall that runs over the top of Little Yarlside

Monday 8th June 2020

This morning I set out to film a video all about the gear that is essential for landscape photography.

For a long time I have been a great believer that you don’t need expensive equipment to capture great images. I have also learned through personal experience that having a lot of gear often gets in the way. Better to keep things simple.

To demonstrate this point I thought I would take an shot using my back up camera (a 9 year old Canon 600D that I bought secondhand) and my old Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. So confident was I that I could get a great shot with this set up that I even planned to put it up for sale on my website.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got the photos on to the computer to find that the image quality was appalling. Certainly no where near good enough to be able to produce a high quality print.

I guess gear does matter after all.

This shot taken with a Tamron 17-55mm f/2.8 is not good enough to sell as a print
Revisiting one of my favourite images from lockdown – this version (shot with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8) may look OK on the web but study it closely and you can see there is terrible fringing around the edges of some of the branches. When it comes to creating high quality prints clearly gear does matter!

Tuesday 9th

After yesterday’s failure to produce a video I found myself without anything to post this evening. I was left with little choice to release part 2 of my film from Selside Pike and Branstree that I had planned to post on Friday.

I am very proud of this film. It is both interesting and fun, sharing an approach to photography that most people can relate to whilst also offering important advice on the benefits of including a strong subject in your images.

It was therefore a huge disappointed that (in terms of views) it turned out to be a complete flop.

I later learned that many people did not receive a notification from YouTube that the video had gone live. Things are hard enough at the moment without YouTube playing at silly buggers!

The survey tower in the hills about the Haweswater Reservoir
The survey tower in the hills above the Haweswater reservoir. One of the images from Tuesday’s video demonstrating that by including strong subjects you are still able to get good images even when the light is flat.

Wednesday 10th

Tonight was my webinar about creating a photo website using Adobe Portfolio.

I think that it went very well. It was nice to ‘meet’ some of the people that have been supporting me for a long time now. I would like to run more in future so if there are any subjects that you would like me to cover please let me know.

It has also started me thinking of other ways that I could bring photographers together. I am working on a couple of ideas and hope to be able to make an announcement soon.

Thursday 11th

I had a wonderful time exploring some of the fells between Shap and Kendal this morning. Starting from the top of the A6 I climbed Little Yarlside and Great Yarlside before eventually making my way to Grey Crag.

I was blessed with some wonderfully moody conditions and although they eventually cleared I managed to come away with some images that I am very happy with.

A whole in the wall that runs over the top of Little Yarlside in the far eastern Lake District
There are many places where of the wall that runs over the top of Little Yarlside has collapsed. This is one of my favourite images from my hike to Grey Crag.

Friday 12th

I spent most of today editing my images from yesterday’s hike.

I am really pleased with how they have come out. They capture my morning and the area pretty well.

The photos have a certain subtlety to them that I find really appealing.

The wall leading from Whatshaw Common to Little Yarlside
The wall leading from Whatshaw Common to Little Yarlside – I am really happy with the photos from my hike to Grey Crag, they have an understated subtlety to them that I find appealing.

Saturday 13th

The feedback that I have been getting about my most recent work is that the images need more ‘punch’. More interest in the sky, more dramatic lighting.

Obviously I don’t agree with this assessment.

I find myself wondering if this is the impact of social media. In order to get attention on platforms such as Instagram (which I am not knocking at all) our images need to ‘shout’. And nothing shouts louder than a colourful sky!

Over the years we have been conditioned into believing that a landscape photograph must have impact. If it doesn’t have the wow factor then it is a bad image.

Increasingly I am finding these images to be superficial, lacking in depth. Once you start to look past the obvious they don’t appear to be saying very much.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking these types of images. I mean who doesn’t enjoying photographing a beautiful sunrise? I know I certainly do.

But I am starting to get frustrated by the closed minds within our community that dismiss anything that does not conform to their narrow definition of a good photo.

34 thoughts on “Must We Shout So Loud?”

  1. Hi Chris

    Afraid I didn’t receive a notification either, very annoying but don’t let it get you down.

    Personally, I feel that the recent vlogs have been your best to date. Really enjoying the open moorland images that make a welcome change to the norm that everyone else aspires to.

    The latest fad seems to be woodland photography and every Tom Dick and Harry are trying their hand

    Don’t be tempted join them but please carry on with rugged moorland images that are so appealing.

    Don’t let the ba****ds grind you down!!!!

    On a personal note my new Sony A7ii full frame mirrorless arrives this week, Xmas has come early so I will be starting a new chapter in photographic journey

    Onwards and upwards

    Best Regards

    Barry Noon

    1. Hi Barry – congratulations on your new camera. Is it you first full frame camera? Where are you planning to take it for its first outing? Thank you for the kind words about my recent videos, I really appreciate it.

      1. Thanks Chris

        Good to see that you are getting the support that you rightly deserve from your trusted subscribers 👍👍😊

        Yes it will be my first full frame camera and will be getting it tomorrow (Wednesday). Probably need a bit of time setting it up before venturing out. Not really decided what to shoot first but the weather may be the deciding factor as it looks like rain for the next few days.

        Look after yourself

        Very Best wishes

        Barry

  2. Good morning Chris,

    Another week beckons, taking us forward into the unknown, but not for Photography. This is the thing, we know, we know as photographers what we are looking for wether that be a conscious decision or subconscious. What I’m trying to say, keep doing what your doing, planning investing time into your landscape because it shows. It shows experimentation, development and reaching within your artistry. Time seems tough to balance at the moment, surreal almost. Keeping up with you and others has been difficult and not getting YouTube updates is shocking!

    Stay positive, keep doing what you are doing because all of it together from you diary, blog, vlog shows you as a true hard working artist pushing without shouting and being obvious. The hustle and shout shouldnt always be in the photograph.

    Take care and I’ll sithee soon.

    Mali

    1. Thanks mate – I am really looking forward to when we get the chance to catch up. It has been too long. And thanks for the kind words about my photography. I really do appreciate it.

  3. Hi Chris, I really enjoy reading your weekly updates. It’s a level of information and detail that is making you stand out from other photographers on the YouTube ‘circut’, for me it makes you more relatable and with that comes a greater appreciation and understanding of the images. You are fortunate to live in an outstanding part of the country and photos do it justice. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Neil – thank you for you kind words, that come at just the right moment. I am pleased that you enjoy reading my weekly updates. It is through my blog that I enjoy the best interaction with fellow photographers and it is rapidly becoming my favourite creative outlet.

  4. To be honest Chris, I think your efforts in recent times have provided a refreshing change. I don’t think there is any harm to your personal development, or to the experience of your audience, by experiencing something different for a while.

    Ultimately you have to do what feels right for yourself. I’m personally a bit over the samey sunrise shots that seem to flood the internet.

    1. Thanks Daniel – I was hoping that the series would be something a bit different from the norm. The plan is to continue my normal ‘work’ alongside it. I feel that the images that are coming from the series are a bit more honest than my other images if you get my meaning. Thanks once again for your continued support, it really appreciate it.

  5. Hi Chris
    You make some interesting points about ‘what makes a good photo’ at the end of your last Blog. The Far Eastern Fells are an acquired taste but to those who discover their flavour they are precious. I personally love places such as this, my own favourites are the Pennine moorlands of Kinder & Bleaklow but it is not easy to create photographs that capture their character. I think you did well in your most recent set to do this, walls, vegetation & structures plus good skies all work well. That last image with the snaking wall and subtle colours in the grass is brilliant.
    It may not be the colourful sunsets over craggy giants and sweeping lakes that many of your followers crave but it is a good landscape photograph. To quote Tony Benn – ‘In politics there are weathercocks and flags – I would rather be a weathercock than a flag’. Stick to your instinct and keep on blogging.
    PS I have a great fondness for the Howgill Fells which are right on your doorstep – have you explored them?

    1. Hi Keith, thank you so much for your kind words. I am really happy with the work that I have been producing recently. The images have a depth and an honesty to them that I don’t think is there in my other work. Regarding the Howgills, they are not an area that I know but I have visited them on occasion. Usually we reserve them for the summer months when the Lake District can be unbearably busy.

  6. I’ve never done a YouTube video so I can’t say much about that but when I still had a Facebook account found it quite fun to figure out how to get many likes. And on FB it’s quite easy – just tag a few people in the photos (yes, they should be in the photo) and that’s all I had to do. After that people started to tag each other and the numbers quickly increased (these were photos from various events). I haven’t played so much with Instagram but as you say: colorful simple photos or simple photos with strong contrast seem to be the way to attract attention.

    Unfortunately, Instagram isn’t very good for photos that deserve to be viewed big like the Thursday photo above, I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t look that good on Instagram while it would be beautiful full screen on my 28″ screen. So yes, the platforms used really affect what kind of photos we see.

    I like that you’re trying various styles since it inspires me to play around with my photography.

    1. Hi Jan – I often find myself wondering just how big an impact Instagram will have on the future of landscape photography. I also wonder if people will eventually become blind to the epic landscapes that we see on there. I’ve never been one to follow the crowd – I think that is why I am drawn to a more understated colour palette in my images. I am enjoying trying different approaches to photography, it is really helping me to be more versatile.

      1. Hey Chris
        Just my 0.05 worth – I’ve been following you for probably a year or so now i think, having come across you on Youtube. One of the things I really like about your work is your ability to create great shots working with whatever light you have. You aren’t put off if the light isn’t perfect and you still create great shots.
        I also really enjoy your Youtube videos. You showcase a stunning part of the UK and allow your own personality to come through. For me at the end of the day it’s the personality of the Youtuber that keeps me coming back to a channel, it’s what separates them from the pack.
        As for Instagram, most of those I follow on there are photographers. Personally I’ll take an interesting composition over the mass of hyper-saturated images that Instagram is full of.
        I think you should just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re producing great content, building a loyal following and have established your own identity . Keep it up mate.

        1. Hi Bevan – thanks very much for taking the time to leave a comment. I have been rather overwhelmed but the response that I have had to this post with so many people being supportive of my beliefs and approach. Ultimately if I am going to be successful as a photographer the support that I get will have a huge part to play in that. It is so encouraging that so many people appreciate what I do.

  7. Totally agree with Keith, these images are landscape photos. If you want to see sunrise or sunset images all the time it would be quite boring. I really enjoy what you capture, as you mentioned as photographers do we always have to provide the Wow factor, maybe some people think we should. Keep going strong Chris .

    1. Thanks Ross – regarding sunrises/sunsets I am reminded of a video that Joe Cornish and David Noton did for Lee Filters (I think it was). In it the both agreed that they rarely photograph during golden hour any more and said that pink “is an overrated colour”. I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

  8. Chris

    You really should stop talking criticisms personally. If you think social media is bad you should try submitting scientific work to peer reviewed Journals. Over 25 years I have been called everything from incompentent to dishonested. Personal criticisms like this are always the easiest referees reports to refute because they are inariably made by people who do not understand the material but are not prepared to admit it and hence hide behind insults.

    However, there is a difference between negativity and well meaning constructive critiques and may of my papers have benefitted from revisions suggested by constructive reviewers. There are two risks arising from destructive criticism (i) it can cause you to give up (ii) and far more dangerous it encourages you to insulate yourself from all comment and hence cease to develop.

    If you want to reassure yourself try putting some of yor images into this neural net based analysis site

    https://www.everypixel.com/aesthetics

    If your experience matches mine you will find a strong preference for images with vibrant primary colours. It just depends on the audience used to train the ANN

    John

    1. Hi John – I’m not taking the criticism personally, I am merely expressing my frustration that there is a belief that a landscape photo HAS to have some sort of epic sky.

      I have to say I really enjoyed having a play with site that you sent to me (I ran the R&D into machine learning in my last job before I became a full-time photographer). I tested it against the shot of the Duke of Portland Boathouse in my portfolio which scored 98%. So you can image how thrilled I was when I found that the image above from Little Yarlside scored 98.7%! 🙂

      One day I will run all my images in my portfolio through it to see how they rank and if that ties in with what sells.

      1. A landscape doesn’t have to have a sky at all. In some conditions it makes sense to leave it out completely.

        The site I linked, despite saying its Beta has been around for some years. You have probably found by now that while it is pretty good at key wording its ratings are all over the place. If you want some fun try feeding it with some screenshots of past LPOTY winners.

  9. Chris, keep believing in what you do, and the way that you do it. Your images may not have the same “visual punch” as others, but they do have a degree of realism and a lack of unnecessary editing that others don’t have as they “shout” at us.
    I can spot a Chris Sale image amongst others that I see as they’re generally more “subtle” for want of a better expression, and also different from the crowd in that way. I like the way you try to convey the mood of the scene and story without resorting to extreme movement of various sliders. Isn’t it bettter to be known for what your images look like than an unknown in a sea of overstauration? Keep going.

    1. Thanks Mark – I find it extremely flattering when someone says they can spot my images. It is incredible when you think about it. It is comments like this that reinforce the belief that I am on the right track. Thanks so much for taking the time, you cannot know how much I appreciate it.

      1. You’re welcome Chris, I’ve picked up quite bit from your vlogs (I remember the “How I Take Photos | My On Location Landscape Photography Workflow” vlog most), so it’s me who’s grateful to you.

  10. Yeah I’ll echo what Mali said, keep doing what’s in your heart. You can’t control whether a person likes your image or not, all you can do is express yourself. The biggest challenge for you as a now full time photographer is not how to be a photographer, it’s how to get your voice heard in the room where everybody is shouting and few are listening. I walked round the National Portrait Gallery in London last year and much of it was lost on me, doesn’t mean the gallery was full of bad fridge art, it’s just not my bag, whereas a small Gustave Dore collection later in the year had me captivated for hours.

    But hey, it’s tough, trying to walk that line where an image meets an viewers expectation based on a style they have decided is good, possibly from exposure to work that you yourself take inspiration from, and not simply produce work that is derivative. If you find that line, please let me know where it is.

    On a lighter note, I’d have enjoyed watching your reaction to the grand reveal of appalling image quality photos haha.

    1. Thanks mate, you are right of course. Being a professional isn’t just about taking good photos, it’s about getting them in front of enough people so that you can start to scratch together a living. And when bright, colourful images appear to dominate social media I can see the temptation to follow that avenue. For me our photographic style represents our personal artistic beliefs. Compromise them at your peril!

  11. “I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” – Jean-Michel Basquiat
    The same goes for Instagram, YT, and FB.
    I’ve found myself less and less enthused with these platforms to share photos. I think you rightly touched on this trend a few weeks ago in another post. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to learn more about Adobe Portfolio.

      1. Thanks Chris. Honestly, haven’t touched it yet. Work has been a bit busy and I’ve many home projects (mostly in the garden). I’ll let you know when I got something up to start. Thanks for checking in on it ; )

  12. Chris – people are entitled to their opinions even if you disagree with them; you put yourself and your work out there on social media and invite feedback so I’m afraid criticism comes with the territory. The most important thing is if you satisfied with your work – if you are then carry on, if not then work out what you need to change and change it. For what it is worth, I like your recent videos from the Far Eastern Fells and the still images that you have produced.

    Landscape photography is difficult especially when you set yourself the challenge of producing 2 videos a week and therefore have to publish the best images you can get irrespective of the conditions you encounter. I think that what you do produce is a very high standard that couldn’t be achieved in the same circumstances by those who criticise you, so don’t let the buggers grind you down and carry on doing what you want to do.

    1. Hi Stephen – sorry for not replying sooner, it has been a crazy week here in the Lakes. Some of the best conditions I have been lucky enough to experience. Thanks as always for putting my dilemmas in some form of context. Generally I am dealing with the criticism reasonably well but it gets tougher when you are struggling and lockdown has been a difficult time for everyone. Thanks for all the support that you have given me with your kind words. I don’t think I fully understood just how difficult what I am attempting to do was going to be, or how much I would rely on the support of the people that are behind me.

  13. Chris,
    I really like your recent work, the subtlety and simplicity of the images is refreshing, specially the ones from your newly found love for agile, ‘handheld’ photography. I am so tired right now of seeing so many ‘punchy’, over-processed images, with huge dynamic range and dramatic skies that I stopped following a few well known landscape photographers in Instagram. Keep calm and carry on.

    1. Hi Flávio – I am so pleased that you like my recent work. It is so personal to me, showcasing my beloved Lake District as I see it. It is not all vivid sunsets and dramatic lighting. It does rain here. A lot! 🙂 Thank you for the kind words of support. I could do what I do without the knowledge that there are some people out there that believe in me.

  14. Hi Chris
    I really look forward to your videos and thoroughly enjoy the way that you present all the information; the way you share is open and honest and I really appreciate this. All art is subjective and therefore there will always be those that aren’t fans. I am a fan, because I like photography that is real and hasn’t had all the colours punched up until they are so unbelievable, that when you visit a location you think you are in the wrong place.
    Please keep up the videos and the blog, as I enjoy both equally and as I said earlier, I look forward to that email that is from you saying there is something new and exciting to see.

    1. Hi Lee, thank you so much for the kind words of support. I am so pleased that you enjoy the content that I create and I hope that it helps you in some way with your own photographic journey.

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