The pleasure is in the process

Photograph of a print of the lake shore at Gunten in Switzerland

After buying a drone earlier this year, regular photography has taken a back seat. To be fair, it’s taken a back seat for a long time anyway. I have had plenty of reasons to stop taking photographs, from stress at work to stress in my personal life. But the real reason for the shift is that I simply forgot what it’s like to be a proper landscape photographer.

Having an iPhone in my pocket all the time means that it’s easy to take snapshots wherever I am. That lead me to be less interested in “doing it properly”. After all, what’s the point in lugging a camera, lenses and tripod around when the smartphone in my pocket does such a good job?

The point (Mark, you idiot) is that the process of taking the photograph is as important as the result. Using a smartphone doesn’t get my creativity really flowing. Flying a drone doesn’t even make me feel like a landscape photographer: it makes me feel like a drone photographer, which isn’t the same thing at all. I enjoy it, and I enjoy flying for the sake of it. But what gives me the most creative satisfaction is something else.

Preparing photographic prints for an exhibition by the Photo International Club Zurich last month slapped me around the face. It reminded me that the most pleasure I get from photography is when I’m lugging a proper camera about – with or without a tripod – and then creating photographic prints from the edited results.

It’s as simple as that: a piece of paper, historically eight inches by ten inches, with a detailed photograph printed on it which is so sharp, you can cut yourself on the grain. By preference, the paper has a semi-matte (or “lustre”) surface, which is halfway between glossy and matte. The colours have to be precise, or the black-and-white tones have to be accurate, spanning the ten-stop Zone System championed by Ansel Adams. The print is surrounded by a white (or slightly off-white) border of consistent width, and if it’s to be card-mounted, the passepartout should be bevel-cut and placed in a neutral frame.

I was a hopeless printer in the classical darkroom.  But with the advent of digital printing, I can finally complete the entire process successfully: from concept to photography to editing to printing and, finally, to mounting and framing. This is the process which gives me so much pleasure. This is what I am starting to get back to and it’s already started giving me so much pleasure.

Nigel Danson unwittingly gave me a nudge to get back to printing at around the same time as I was preparing my prints for the PICZ exhibition and his video – linked below – on how to get good results has helped me back onto the photo printing wagon.

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