An Edinburgh wander

Thoughts and observations in words and pictures

Yesterday I went to Tête à Tête Photo on Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh, to see their current exhibition of Old Town photography. They have some very nice work on display; a mixture of black and white street photography, cyanotype contact prints and some semi-abstract colour work. Earlier that day, I'd been thinking about how I go about my work as a photographer - at least, the work I do for myself. Not always, but very often, my approach is to walk, observe, and keep an open mind and eye as to what I might find en route.

There are some photographers working more traditionally, particularly in the landscape field, who go out with an idea for one or two images, set up a tripod and wait for the perfect conditions. Maybe they wake up at 4 am and get to a location before anyone else is around, and wait for the sunrise. Some people have made amazing images that way, and I'm not about to dismiss an entire school of landscape photography which clearly has a lot of value when done well.

It's more a matter of personal preference, ability, mindset, or whatever you would call it. I'm not a morning person and I don't enjoy carrying lots of heavy equipment. But apart from that, I also think it could lead to disappointment. I can't control the weather, or anything else that's left to chance in the environment. I might also miss out on many other smaller details, or things I hadn't expected to find if I were to focus entirely on one image or disregard quieter scenes in search of that one epic photo.

Part of the enjoyment of being outdoors with a camera, for me, is the process of tuning in to my surroundings, slowing down and looking more at what is around me, and seeing things I wouldn't normally have time to stop and notice. I don't know where I'm going to find inspiration when I go out for a walk, but letting it happen and being aware of what I am drawn to in the environment is part of the process. I think that often the more dramatised, single-perspective landscape photography is celebrated the most in certain awards and publications, but that's not the only way to tell a story about being outdoors. And is that how we really experience the environment?

One book I own comes to mind, Sea Stories by Robert Adams. Adams photographed a walk through trees leading down to a beach, the birds and driftwood on the beach, and then a return inland into the trees again. It's about a journey, rather than a single moment. It's not overly dramatic, but it is beautiful and meditative. For a long time, this book has epitomised for me an alternative way of working as a photographer of landscape and natural environments. The same can be applied to urban environments, though I feel this approach is much more common in the history of street photography than it is in landscape photography.

Going back to the exhibition at Tête à Tête, perhaps their photography falls more into the 'street photography' category, but their images are made with a highly attuned sensitivity to composition and lighting. They don't feel overstated, but well balanced. They are also very nicely printed and framed, which is something I always pay attention to when seeing photography exhibitions. After my visit, I walked home on a scenic route towards Leith. I didn't photograph many things on the way, but these are a few scenes that caught my eye.

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