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.
I hope you like the remake as much as I do. If you trawl through my Facebook page you can likely find the original should you wish to compare.
If you’ve followed my work for a while you’ll know I have a thing for lone trees. I also love deer and birds. There’s something so majestic about these subjects that I’m constantly drawn to them and they focus often in my work.
I decided to create a piece to perhaps give you an idea of what it’s like for me when I’m out shooting landscapes to use in composite images.
This image is built from two main photographs – the scene (tree/foreground/sky) and a separate deer shot. I merged these in Photoshop and wanted to edit it in a way to make it feel somewhat surreal and day-dreamy.
When I go out shooting scenes like this, I’m always wondering “what would this look like with a deer/bird/wolf in it?” and try to frame it as such that I can add those elements to the story later in post-production. For me, deer are very much my imaginary friends. I’m never alone when I go on hikes as my brain is constantly picturing them stood next to trees, or birds flocking over a scene, or perhaps a wolf scrambling over a ruin.
My imaginary animal friends are a big part of my creativity and I hope you enjoy this glimpse into what my photography process is like.
For more works like this, please check out my gallery.
The Messenger is a fantasy composite featuring the stunning Eilean Donan Castle. I shot the backdrop (castle) image during a recent trip to Skye. The bird, as with most of my artworks has been placed afterwards in Photoshop using my own stock. I like to create stories with my images and turn them into something more than a traditional landscape shot.
For those wondering where the red kite was photographed – there’s a place just north of Inverness where they (and various other wild birds that tag along) are fed. It takes some patience, but it’s worth the wait. You’ll need a decent telephoto lens to catch them though!
The Tree In The Lake is a recent re-edit of an old image I shot at Lake Wanaka in New Zealand. I love this tree, this setting, and the entire of New Zealand.
Having previously edited this twice, it’s only in recent months that I finally had the vision I really wanted for this image.
If ever you can’t quite find your vision for a piece, or you feel like it isn’t “finished”, keep it. Look at it. Give it time to breathe; to grow. Eventually you’ll get there and you’ll love the result.