Scotland and Iceland: Intentionality – Mini Photo Essay

In June of this year I joined my family for a two week trip to Scotland and Iceland. We spent ten days in Scotland travelling north from Glasgow, through the highlands, and making our way to Edinburgh before we jumped to Iceland for a four day adventure.

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I made this trip an opportunity to work on my intentionality when it comes to photography. I still consider myself as really new to film, even though I’ve been shooting for the better part of eight months. I primarily shoot to capture moments in my day to day life but as I learn more about this medium I try to shoot more and more with the intention of finding a scene, composing it, and capturing it. Maybe that seems like a nuanced difference but for me it’s an attempt to change my approach to photography.

I embarked with something a bit fancier than the usual “cheapest 400 speed you offer” so I ended up bringing five rolls of Portra 400, two HP5 Plus and two Tri-X 400. Why the variety? While I strive to become more intentional in my approach to photography I need to be purposeful about how I utilize a given stock of film. As for gear the only camera I owned at the time was my trusty Olympus OM10.

There are two things I noticed when I kept intentionality at top of mind,

  1. First was that I was more willing to take risks with composing because I was trying to shoot out of my norm, basically it forced me to get out of my comfort zone
  2. Second was that having constantly gorgeous new scenery all around you makes it harder to be purposeful because I wanted to capture everything!

These differences are what I think about when I go back to these shots. I can see some scenery shots here that didn’t challenge me as much, like this shot from the Quiraing landslip on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. It’s not necessarily hard to line up where you want the horizon, capture this rugged landscape, and get it in this shot. Could I have done more to add some character to this shot? I very well could have but it’s not something that was top of mind because of that second point above, sometimes you just want to mindlessly capture gorgeous sceneries like this.

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And I look at this one from the Reynisfjara black-sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. I was under a cave staying dry and just people watching and taking in the desolate scene. I knew I wanted to shoot something here that was more than just the sand and the cliffs because that wouldn’t do any justice to what I was seeing around me. I thought if I could contrast the ominous setting with something bright and warm then that would achieve my goals. I ran out into the rain to create this shot when the two vibrant ladies were contrasted with the sand – and in that way I challenged myself and got what I wanted from the scene.

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The more I think about it I figure it’s not hard to shoot with intentionality in mind. Does it require more focus on your subject and the composition? Certainly. That’s what it’s about by definition, but at that same time a requirement to focus gives you the time it takes to challenge yourself and to become a more vulnerable photographer.

It takes a whole lot more vulnerability to want to share the ladies in the poncho shot because it took me a lot more thinking and it’s more personal than the Quiraing shot. I’m sharing my own thoughts on what I wanted that image to look like and I get to benefit on a discussion related to those thoughts. So overall, being intentional and being vulnerable to share that intentionality forces you to grow and become a better photographer.

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Maybe this all seems like an obvious point but I just wanted to share where I’m going with my photography and I hope some of you connect to that approach, if not I hope you enjoyed the shots.

All shots developed at Kerrisdale Cameras in Vancouver BC, black and white shots scanned by me on an Epson perfection v550.

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