Review - “Taming the Chaos”, an evening with Kieran Metcalfe, 15 Nov 2021

A review by Janine Scola - “Taming the Chaos”, an evening with Kieran Metcalfe, via Zoom, 15 Nov 2021
As Kieran’s main profession is a freelance graphic designer, this means he works from home for a substantial part of the day. This he found isolating, particularly during recent months and decided to look for a hobby which took him outside and enjoy the nature around him. With the Peak District on his doorstep and his love of walking, so photography became a significant part of that activity and the ability to record the glorious countryside before him.

As he openly admitted, his kit is not high-end, owning a Canon 80D, with a variety of second-hand Tokina, Sigma and Canon lenses – his favourite being the wide angle. As we all know, whatever the camera it is how we use it and the ‘eye’ that captures ‘the shot’! During the evening Kieran set out his way of what he endeavours to achieve when he goes out into the landscape, and how he tries to distil some sort of story, or even order, from what is in front of him.

The Subject – what are you taking a picture of? Is it the repetition through a scene, or the atmosphere within it? Once your decision has been made, where does the subject sit within the frame, as this will make a huge difference as to what story you are trying to tell from that picture. Throughout we were presented with a wide variety of images showing just that, be it a gnarled tree, the rugged rocks of the Peaks or a waterfall, by simply moving our position it provided a different viewpoint and thus a different story. The ‘rule of thirds’ is our guide, but if a magnificent tree should be centre stage within your image, then as we know, rules can be broken! From Kieran’s perspective, the upper third is more dominant, whilst the lower third is perhaps more submissive or passive, which he exampled by two images of the well-known ‘Salt Cellar’ in the Lake District.

Space – size matters when filling the frame, from a wide-angle view of the steep slate cliffs left standing from mining, to the closer shot showing a tree and workmen’s hut within the frame, miniscule in comparison with their vast backdrop. With negative space, be it behind or to one side of the frame, this can give gravitas to the main feature of your image, but in so doing, will also include its surrounding environment. Multiple elements within the frame, can be opposing, but equally giving balance to the image. Symmetry, particularly when taking architectural images, can offer striking images; reflections in water provide a different symmetry and perspective.

After a short break, Kieran talked on the subject of ‘leading lines’ - here again we were treated to wonderful images of the Peak District and how, by positioning the rocky paths in the frame, this can lead the eye up to the stunning outcrops of this area. Similarly, in a different way, with a coastal shot and the tide out, this revealed the rippled sand and reflection of Talacre Lighthouse and so led the eye through the image to this structure.

And finally, to composition and the framing of our image. Kieran presented photos of woodlands where trees were positioned on either side, leading the eye further into the frame and the light beyond. He highlighted to be aware of distractions – run your eye around the edges of your shot. Be mindful to look and see whether your shot could be better taken in portrait or landscape which would give a different dimension to the view before you, and also the chosen lens, whether you want the grand vista or a significant part of it. He talked of the use of polarisers, particularly to minimise the glare from water and your choice of shutter speed, especially if you are looking for that ethereal look of water.

An interesting evening, providing us with helpful advice, along with a vast array of photographs of the Peak District, as well as the Grand Canyon and an insight into how Kieran approaches his photography into the wonderful landscape.

~ Janine Scola