Here’s a scenario for you: you go away on a day-trip or a couple of days away, and you come back with a collection of images. And then you check through all the images you captured on that trip. What percentage of the images would be identifiable as being specifically ‘of’ that place that you have just visited? The remainder merely taken ‘at’ that place, but with content that could conceivably have been taken in a multitude of other locations.

My guess is that the second category could amount to quite a significant percentage of your total collection. This is one of the natural consequences of cultivating the ‘Art of Seeing’ or ‘A Seeing Eye’. As we develop the ability to ‘See’, we develop what I would term a heightened sense of visual awareness of our surroundings. And in consequence our eye will select not just images of the hallmarks and characteristics of that place that you are visiting, but it will see all the other aspects of that place too that are not uniquely of that place but are what we might call Universal Images. In capturing these universal images we add substance, roundness and detail to our experience, and these combine with the images that are specific to that experience to form a richer picture story.

Click on the image to see a higher quality enlargement

Click on the image to see a higher quality enlargement

What I’ve just described is exactly what happened on my recent three-day visit to the Lake District. I’ve counted through the images and I discover that just 20% of what I captured (and that’s being over-generous) are identifiable as being ‘of’ the Lake District.

Take the image above for instance. It’s taken at the foot of Adelaide Hill, a quiet little secluded spot on the edge of Lake Windermere, reached via a short woodland path, just off the lakeside road between Bowness and Ambleside. You can view this image three ways. For me it is undoubtedly an image that rounds out my love of this area – a location I have visited on a number of previous occasions. Therefore it would easily belong in an album of the Lake District. It’s also a WaterScape that could sit alongside other images in an album of other similar images of water – it’s location being largely irrelevant. And also it is semi-abstract.

Many images that we take are like this – multi-faceted. Our Eye does not count ‘relevance’ as a factor when it scans our environment for potential images. It simply Sees and it commands our attention.


About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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19 Responses to Ripples

  1. So true Andy, we do start seeing things with a different eye and end up with unidentifiable photos most of the time. I really like this photo. The lighting is superb. 🙂

  2. Jim Denham says:

    Beautiful image and definitely food for thought. Good stuff Andy!

  3. I certainly agree with your assessment, Andy. The “Universal” shots we get are simply the unplanned part of the shoot that rounds out the entire experience. Like most, I have specific “targets” in mind before reaching the location. Then comes all of the other goodies that most people would not see without having developed a “Photographer’s Eye”.

    I like these ripples by the way. Not only is it a peaceful image, but one that has a lot of creative value (backgrounds, etc.).

  4. Len says:

    I really hadn’t thought of that Andy. I really have no idea of what percentage. I would guess that it is a bit lower than yours as a lot of my photography is travel related and I often want to convey the place I am shooting in. Of course, I may find out I am wrong if I investigate it.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Len. I suspect this split between those that belong and those that are ‘universal’ varies greatly with the location. In this instance, Autumn was in full swing and therefore a lot of my images were ‘up-close’ images of the autumn colours. In another season and sustained better weather I am sure a higher percentage would be ‘of’ the location.

  5. oneowner says:

    I’m not much of a traveler so my photographs are not intended to portray a certain place I’ve been. To me, the photo is a personal story not intended to be a document of a time or place. The photo of the ripples is an excellent example. It’s beautiful.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Ken for that thought. I distinctly remember you writing something in one of your posts a while back saying that many of the images you took were not related to a time or place. I believe it is one of the direct consequences of developing an Eye for an image.

  6. Chillbrook says:

    Interesting thoughts Andy.

  7. theaterwiz says:

    Great post, enjoy the day!

  8. ShimonZ says:

    Beautiful image… and yes, I agree with you. Sometimes, visiting a new place is more of an inspiration to see than an inspiration to document the place. And either way, it can be a great pleasure.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Shimon. Despite many visits to the this area, I don’t think I’ve ever taken images of the lakes up-close. It’s evidence of a shift in my photographic interests and also due to the way my eye for a picture is developing.

  9. ehpem says:

    Interesting thoughts Andy. I find that my ratio has been switching very much to the not-of-place variety as I learn how to see and to photograph. Many of those shots are most pleasing to me, though they have to be very well done to get a good response from my readers compared to a more mediocre photograph of something interesting. I think that must be the personal aspect that Ken was referring to.

  10. I never really considered the reasons why we see what we see. You are absolutely right. The eye does not look for relevance. We have to consciously bring ourselves back to the relevance since we’re always seeking the image instead of the record of a place. Such insightful analysis, Andy. Thanks.

    • LensScaper says:

      ‘The eye does not look for relevance’ – I like that, it’s been added to my compendium of quotes (hope you don’t mind). Thanks for your comment as always, George.

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