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Great Landscapes

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An enthralled monk watches a ritual dance performance, Jakar Dzong, Bhutan
Nikon D800E, 85mm lens, f2 @ 1/250 second, ISO 500.

Portraiture is a genre that inspires me and the inspiration is from photographers like Irving Penn who predominantly produced stylised portraits in the studio for advertising and magazines. I love Penn's quality of light, his challenging compositions and the beautiful rendering of tone in black and white. I look for it whenever I'm photographing people, even though I'm shooting on location with available light.

So, where am I going with this? Len Metcalf is a regular contributor to Better Photography magazine and he dropped down to the office last week with a mission and a challenge. The mission was to obtain a portfolio of my work for an upcoming edition of Len's Journal, a subscription-only portfolio magazine he publishes, but the challenge was a little more difficult.

Len wanted a portfolio that was representative of my work, but unexpected. I immediately thought he was going to lead me towards black and white, given my notoriety for colour, but as we sat and chatted about the photos on my website, a different idea arose: portraits!

On my website, there's a portfolio of black and whites from Bhutan titled 'Myth'. They are often dark, grainy and blurry and, given Len's penchant for monochrome, it started a conversation. And while I have some very serviceable B&W landscapes (if I don't say so myself), their format wasn't going to fit the square shape of Len's Journal.

When it comes to preparing work specifically for a publication, I have no trouble re-cropping images to fit the format. A photograph on a wall is one thing, a photograph reproduced in a book is something quite different. In a book, there's an opportunity to present our work with synergy, so the image works within the medium. I suggested to Len that I'd be happy to crop my landscapes square, but that's when the challenge arose and somehow my portfolio turned into square portraits.

Almost. The portrait above isn't square, but it will fit nicely on a square page. And it's a derivative of the 4x5 format which, for reasons unknown to even myself, resonates with me. So, as I write this blog post, I'm about halfway through preparing the images for Len's graphic designer.

If you'd like to see a bit more about Len's Journal or even subscribe, you'll find him at


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