With so many demands on our time these days it can sometimes be difficult to find the time and the impetus to go out and take photographs. One of the best ways to find motivation is to take on a project, and for Slough-based designer and landscape photographer Kevin Day that project was his local beauty spot, Slough’s Langley Park and, more specifically, a particularly gnarled tree that inhabits the park.
‘I often get up at five or six in the morning and go to the park, which is a ten-minute walk away,’ he says. ‘It’s a very small park, but I can wander round for an hour or two. It’s the light that interests me, and the way it affects the landscape. It’s constantly changing, at different times of the day, different times of year.’
Kevin’s tree is a classic example of how you can return to the same subject again and again and get a different picture every time. But for Kevin Day the tree represents more than that. It’s a symbol of his photographic renaissance.
‘I did photography at college as part of my graphic design course, but as soon as the kids came along I did what most people do and put it to one side, through lack of time, and just took snaps of the kids and holidays.’
Then about 18 months ago, with the kids grown up, Kevin Day booked a holiday to the Far East, which was the catalyst he needed to reacquaint himself with serious photography. Of course, in Kevin’s absence, cameras had gone digital.
‘I bought a Fujifilm Finepix S7000. It was my first decent camera for many years and I found it totally liberating. It’s a remarkable camera for what it cost, very impressive; its only drawback is the noise levels in low light, which is a bit of a problem because I do a lot of my photography at dawn.’
Kevin Day joined the photo-sharing website Flickr, which turned out to be his biggest inspiration. ‘Some of my pictures have been seen by three or four thousand people,’ he enthuses, ‘and the feedback I’ve received from others has been great. I’ve learned so much too – people have been very generous with their knowledge and advice, and the comments I’ve received have inspired me to go out and take more pictures, and to improve on what I’ve done.
I certainly wouldn’t have pushed myself so much if the pictures were simply for my own enjoyment.’
Kevin’s tree project evolved from comments and suggestions that his fellow ‘Flickrites’ posted about his earliest efforts. ‘I found people would say, “I’d have done it like this”, or “Have you tried that?”’ Kevin would then go off and give the tree another go. Soon he had enough pictures of the tree to group into an album.
Not all Kevin’s work is done in-camera. As a designer Kevin Day spends a lot of time using Photoshop on his Mac, and is something of an expert. But as well as making levels, curves and sharpening adjustments Kevin spends a lot of time using layer blend modes to maximise the dynamic range in his images. By taking three or four shots, on a tripod, at identical exposures, and then combining them into a single image, Kevin is able to capture shadow and highlight detail that would otherwise be impossible.
‘What I do isn’t HDR photography, which you can do at the press of a button in Photoshop CS2; it’s more complex. I do a lot of masking around the various elements – water, sky, foreground – and selectively blend them together to achieve an image closer to what I saw at the time, but which sensors are unable to capture straight.’
To see more of landscape photographer Kevin Day’s tree photos, and his other images, visit www.flickr.com/photos/kevinday. You may even like to post a comment.