John Lightbody prefers taking photographs of CalMac ferries that place them in the context of the glorious landscape in which they operate, rather than close-ups that virtually exclude their surroundings.
I have always had a great interest in the west coast landscape and the ships that sail there — an interest developed since childhood holidays on the west coast and islands, particularly Islay. My first experience of sailing the west coast was aboard MV Lochiel, and as a child I frequently made drawings of Lochiel and Lochnevis on any surface I could find, taking care to get the funnels and derricks in the correct position.
These drawings were never complete without putting them in the context of the west coast landscape. I subsequently became an art student, a potter and eventually a teacher. Landscape has always featured strongly in my work and I continue to have a keen interest in painting, and particularly photographing, the wonderful scenery of the west coast.
In the past year I have had the opportunity to work in Tobermory while commuting weekly from my home in Stirlingshire. As well as giving me a weekly return trip by ferry, it presents great opportunities for photographing ships. Although constrained by working hours and little daylight at present, I have had some success and look forward to the long light evenings and early mornings.
Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, there are far greater opportunities today to share photographs through social media and specialist sites. It is also possible to see many other enthusiasts’ photographs.
I have noticed in recent years a trend towards ship photographs which feature close-up views of the superstructure and very little of the surrounding landscape. While I have taken more than a few of these myself, they are of limited interest to me, as I believe that these ships belong in the landscape and as an element of it.
Any good image should have a focal point, and for me the colours of the west coast vessels — black hull, white superstructure and red funnel — make that perfect point and provide a contrast to the wonderfully rich colours of the coast and islands, without dominating the image.
I can see the potential for capturing a satisfying image in any weather conditions, exploiting the wonderful quality of light on the west coast that can change by the second.
The inclusion of a ferry is what really makes a landscape image special for me, even if it is a distant shape or a silhouette against a stunning sunrise. These ferries belong in the landscape whether one is viewing from a distance or travelling on board to some magical destination.
As the days slowly begin to lengthen, I look forward to being out with my camera photographing ships and landscapes in many different conditions, including some sunlit postcard shots — and even a close-up or two! I am very lucky to be able to do this on a daily basis, subject to the limitations of my contract of employment, the weather, the timetable and the available light. I have some vantage points to explore and I hope to contribute photographs from these over the coming months.
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Published on 30 January 2019