Working on Guardian Of The Forest has been a love-hate relationship for me. It’s both one of my favourite ever images and also my nemesis. Allow me to explain…
A few years ago now, I was dabbling with some photos I’d taken and decided that a landscape I’d photographed would be better with something added to it. I chose a deer. Some (very amateur) Photoshop later and I had my first composite. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge stepping stone in my photographic journey. My “A-Ha!” moment if you will.
It was at this point I fell in love with compositing; with making fantasy images full of magic and mystery. I realised I don’t just want to show a landscape as-is. I like to show them how I imagine them – as if they’re a location in a fairytale.
Skip forward a few years and my Photoshop and image planning has improved massively. Through sheer grunt work and determination I’ve taught myself enough that when I look back at some of those older images, I feel like I could do so much better if I were to remake them.
For the majority of images, I like to let that feeling linger. I look back on them, see my growth and feel good about where I’ve come. I leave them as they are and they become part of my photographic diary.
That first deer composite is different though. It’s so special to me. It’s become part of my photographic identity. Hell, even my brand logo is a (symmetrical) version of the same deer’s head. I couldn’t let it go. I had to try it again.
The remake of Guardian Of The Forest has taken many, many months to get right. I’ve had to try and let go of the old edit – the colours, the style, and bring it up to my current standards as best I can. I’ve wanted to give up SO MANY TIMES, but I persisted. Perhaps foolishly. However I felt I owed it to myself, and to the deer, and even to the original image, to see it through, no matter how difficult the process might be.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few months as I ramp up to my exhibition, particularly as I was determined to have a remake of this image done in time. It’s not been easy. There have been tears and sleepless nights. There have been times I’ve wanted to quit. But I haven’t. We made it.
My muse, the magnificent stag I photographed so many years ago, has been brought to current standards and is ready to print. I shall hang his updated image in the pride of place during my exhibition. There’s something rather poetic about it being my first ever composite, but the last image completed for this gallery show.