I’ve been in Annonay, France for the past few days attending a Canson Infinity event at their headquarters. It’s a chance to see new and developing products, visit their amazing paper mill, and meet many of their distributors and customers who visit from around the world. I also give a presentation on my role as a Canson ambassador and why I love Canson paper.
The image above is a perfect example of how I choose papers try and make a statement about what I saw and felt at the moment I captured this scene. A dramatic storm moved in around the mountains where I’m staying, and luckily I had the time to grab my camera and tripod and head out to see what would develop. It was one of those storms where the sun is shining brightly where you are, but it’s also raining and nearby clouds are creating all sorts of dramatic and beautiful lighting conditions. I noticed these nearby hills receiving this wonderful, warm diffused light, and wanting to isolate this scene I attached an Olympus 75mm lens to my Olympus E-M1 (effectively making it a 150mm focal length).
In situations like these it’s imperative to think fast and most important keep your eye on the scene because the light changes so quickly, and because it was raining where I was standing I needed to continuously check the lens and wipe it dry. I shot this at f/4 to make the image as sharp as possible, and was not worried too much about depth of field since the scene (and my focus point) was at least 5 miles away.
From a compositional standpoint, the key element is the light hitting the center of the image creating a beautiful pastoral scene within the very dramatic clouds and darker foreground. Balance is everything here—more sky and the land loses its impact and confuses the viewer about what the image is about. It’s not about the clouds and that’s critical to make sure the viewer doesn’t get confused. The village on the right adds both an interesting human element and an accent to lead the eye towards the center. And the layers in the foreground create depth and dimension—always elements I look for in my images because they add that elusive third dimension to prints.
When choosing a paper for this image I’m looking for a few things—soft non-glare look, good dmax to retain the drama in the shadows, and also preserve the fine detail in the foreground landscape. A matte paper like Canson Edition Etching 310 works beautifullyt, and the preliminary proof I made here in France looks great. I want a painterly look that conveys the story of the image, but also maintains the richness of the colors and contrast with a fine art feel.
All I could think of was what would it feel like to come out of one of those homes and walk into a scene like that—and why. Questions are always better than answers in photography, and it’s always a great approach to try and elicit that in the images you create.
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