by Gerald Boerner
Today we look at another nature photographer, Peter Watson, who specializes in capturing the landscapes around his native Britain. He was largely self-taught and an advocate for using a 4×5 view camera and slow color film to record the detailed beauty of his native land. He also produced many panoramas over the years. His photographs have been exhibited in some major galleries. He continues to practice his art to record the details of the landscape before it becomes “civilized’”. GLB
“Congress has an obligation to protect our country’s natural beauty, embodied in our nation’s parks, rivers, and breathtaking landscapes.”
— Dave Reichert
“Even in a less exaggerated description, any verbal account of a person is bound to find itself employing an assortment of waterfalls, lightning rods, landscapes, birds, etc.”
— Sergei Eisenstein
“I’d like to think that the actions we take today will allow others in the future to discover the wonders of landscapes we helped protect but never had the chance to enjoy ourselves.”
— Annie Leibovitz
“I’ve never put myself in the mindset that I’m actually any good at taking pictures, I just love to shoot things that catch my eye, whether it’s landscapes or just my kids.”
— Graeme Le Saux
“My career was 100% different from what I intended to do. I thought I’d photograph nature and landscapes but I wound up photographing the changing of the times.”
— Charles Moore
“I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find drama. Add to that a careful composition of landscapes, live photography, the right music and interviews with people, and it becomes a style.”
— Ken Burns
“I used to paint landscapes without any people in them but now I paint people who happen to be in a particular place. They might be outside a pub, or on a beach or in a studio. They might have clothes on or they might not.”
— Peter Wright
“I’m very influenced by landscapes, not so much the way places look as the way the names sound. In this country we’ve got so many cultures, and the place names – the Spanish names and the Indian names, which are so incredibly musical.”
— Emmylou Harris
This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.
Peter Watson (Born: 1952)
Born in Wallasey, England Watson’s photographic career started in his teenage years when he photographed and produced his own black & white prints in an improvised darkroom. Peter Watson is a self taught photographer who has been photographing the landscape since the 1970’s. He is based in England and travels extensively throughout Britain, Europe, Australia and the United States.
They were sold in a local gallery and this early success encouraged him to pursue a career as a photographer. He studied art and graphic design and in 1993 obtained a diploma in photography from the New York Institute of Photography. Watson specializes in landscape and available light photography using large format Fujifilm with a 4×5 view camera. He photographs both in colour and black and white using slow, fine grain film which enables him to produce pictures of exceptionally high quality. He hand prints his photographs and releases them as Limited Edition prints.
Before becoming a full time professional landscape photographer Watson worked in advertising and commercial photography. He now teaches lectures and is a photography instructor with VSP workshops. He is the author of several practical photography books and his work has featured in many publications including BBC’s Radio Times magazine, Cheshire Life and Outdoor Photography. In 2008 Watson was chosen as a contributor to the publication "Icons of England", produced by The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). He also runs a photo agency and picture library specializing in images of rural Britain.
His hallmark is the creation of unique and very beautiful landscape images. His work has been critically acclaimed and is internationally published. His fine art prints are collected and are exhibited in galleries in Britain and America. He is the author of ‘Light in the Landscape—a photographer’s year’, ‘A Field Guide to Landscape Photography’ and ‘Capturing the Light’.
Watson’s web site biography, found at Peter Watson Photography (see citation in the Reference section below), reveals his exhibition and the influences behind his work.
Where and when was your first Gallery showing?
My first exhibition was held by the North West Arts Association in Chester back in 1992. Although I had been photographing for a number of years I was, at the time, relatively new to large format photography. I spent a lot of time in Delamere Forest in Cheshire familiarizing myself with the demands and intricacies of shooting with 5×4 equipment. The pictures I took were shown as part of the Cheshire Woodland Trust exhibition.
What was your motivation or inspiration to pursue Photography?
My introduction to photography goes back to my childhood days. I was fascinated with the concept of capturing moments in time. I used to take my camera with me everywhere I went photographing anything and everything that crossed my path! Looking back the pictures weren’t that good but it was the start of an ongoing learning process that continues to this day.
How has your work evolved from that first show?
As a photographer I look at images. I see things as shapes, patterns, colours and textures. The photographer’s eye develops and evolves over time. When I look at my work spanning the last decade it is noticeable that my images have become simpler in form. There is a minimalist quality to many of my landscape compositions which was not apparent in my earlier work. This has not been a conscious change in style, it is I believe a natural progression and a consequence of my pursuit of distinctive image making.
Who or what has been an influence in your photography?
We are increasingly becoming a visual society. Modern communication, media and art all have very strong visual content. Developments in technology are creating a more visually aware and sophisticated society. We are all exposed to it, there is no escape. As an artist I am influenced by what I see and the changes I see happening around me. I think that, perhaps subliminally, I am reacting to this visual bombardment by trying to create relaxing, timeless images, pictures which are simple in form but strong in content. When I look at a picture I ask myself – will it look as good in ten years, or twenty or fifty years? I want to create pictures which will stand the test of time. Some modern image making, I fear, will not.
What is visually inspiring or important to you now?
I have always been drawn to the landscape. Away from the suburban development there exists a timeless beauty which is a joy to behold. It might be a single tree which inspires me, or a passing cloud or a rolling wave. It is all out there on the landscape. That is my subject, my inspiration.
Is there any specific work or artist that you feel is particularly evocative?
Although I have been interested in photography for most of my life my first scholarship was at art college in the UK. I was very interested in the techniques of the old masters, particularly their subtle -and sometimes not so subtle- interpretation of light. Rembrandt’s use of light in portraiture is in my opinion without equal, it is divine, simply divine. However, the painter who truly inspired me was Turner. His landscapes are simply breathtaking. I mentioned earlier that pictures should be able to stand the test of time. Look at a Turner landscape and you will see what I mean. They are the epitome of timeless works of art. Oh to be the photographer equivalent of Turner…
In what direction do you feel your work is moving, or where would you like to go?
The concept of photography as a fine art excites me and I am fortunate to have strong gallery representation in the UK. My desire is to therefore become more widely exhibited internationally. This won’t happen overnight but the signs are encouraging.
What is your most memorable experience in photography?
Undoubtedly it was hearing that my first book ‘Light in the Landscape’ had been accepted for publication. I had spent the best part of five years travelling around Britain writing and photographing the landscape. I thought that finding a publisher would be a formality. Of course as every potential author knows this is by no means the case. It took me two years to find a publishing company. I will always remember receiving the telephone call as I was photographing in Northern Scotland. Yes, it was what the publishers were looking for and yes a contract would be with me shortly! Such events are once in a lifetime, but are worth waiting for.
Watson’s web site also includes a discussion of his preference for a slow speed, low grain photographic film for his work. Part of that discussion is found below.
Until recently I believed that only individually created Ilfochrome prints were capable of reproducing my work to the standard I require. Then not long ago my printer showed me a 30×40 print he had made from a 5×4 transparency which had just been processed. I was firstly surprised to see it because I had not commissioned the print. My second reaction was one of disbelief when I was told that what I was looking at was an archival inkjet print, not an Ilfochrome. The quality was remarkable. Pin sharp in every detail with superbly accurate colour rendition and saturation. My printer was justifiably proud of what he was showing me. It was time for me to revaluate my beliefs.
Since my introduction to the world of innovative printing techniques I have made careful comparisons of a number of my pictures produced both as Ilfochromes and as archival prints on watercolour paper. I personally favour the latter method. There seems to be an added depth, a resonance which crosses the threshold of traditional image making. This is not to decry the Ilfochrome print which is and always will be a very beautiful support for a fine photograph. Ultimately it is personal choice and I am happy to continue to produce my prints according to the wishes of my Clients. Please simply confirm your choice (Ilfochrome or Archival print) by email at the time of ordering. You can be assured that whichever you choose you will receive a faithful and authentic reproduction of the original transparency.
Light in the Landscape: A Photographer’s Year
A wintry seascape with a line of sunset pink shimmering in silky blue darkness. Sheets of brilliantly gleaming water cascading over cliffs. Golden skies illuminating rivers, green grass, and craggy rocks. All these astonishing images come from the camera of Peter Watson, one of the world’s finest photographers. But this is more than just a breathtaking coffee book: it’s an invaluable source of inspiration and instruction that will help you too capture the magnificence of a landscape. Through over 100 of his best works, he explains how he got the picture, what techniques and filters he used, the ways he developed depth and texture in the composition, and more. Month by month, it tracks seasonal changes, seizing nature in all its splendor.
Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Peter Watson (Photographer)…
Web Sites and Blogs:
Web Site: Peter Watson Photography…
Brainy Quote: Landscape Quotes…