Waiting for the right cloud

2011-05-24 00:00

FIRST-TIME visitors to the Underberg Studio might expect to find only images of the Drakensberg, but there is a surprise in store. Photographic images from across South Africa adorn the walls of the intimate gallery, including stark desert scenes, forest glades and expansive Richtersveldt landscapes.

Here in this intimate gallery that Lawrence Brennon shares with his ceramic-artist wife Catherine, he shares his love of nature and photography. Despite having photographed the majestic Southern Drakensberg, he is continually drawn back to the stark loneliness of untamed vistas. He tries to exclude footprints, fences, roads and power lines which he finds intrusive, and has travelled to some remote spots to get the images he visualises. Brennon describes himself as a patient and persistent person — an attribute that is essential for this type of photography.

More often than not it is a matter of waiting for the right light or cloud conditions, and only then pressing the shutter. For Brennon, capturing the perfect image is an elusive task that has taken him many years of study and practice. Even with top-class camera technology available to most people, they don’t have the patience or the skill. The average tourist wants an instant image of a glorious scene, while Brennon may take several hours or even days and return visits to capture the image he has in mind.

He says that when he goes to an area he does not take any pictures on the first few days, as he tries to acclimatise to the colours, textures and the sights of the area. Once he has a feel for the area then he starts to plan his landscape shots.

He explains: “My love of the landscape grew from childhood. I always loved nature and the way you could capture it on a photograph. When I was 14 years old, I got my first Pentax camera and I began to practise photography as a hobby, and from there on there was no turning back.

As time went by I experimented with different techniques and cameras in order to capture the subtleties of my favourite subject matter. Although I have embraced the digital era in my commercial images, I still use conventional film and traditional darkroom work in my work.”

Brennon says: “The thrill of working in a dimly lit darkroom and seeing a latent image slowly emerge on a piece of photographic paper is an experience that I never tire of. Photographic paper has a tactile feel which is hard to explain or replicate. It also has the advantage of longevity. Black- and-white photographs have been around for well over 100 years, but I am not sure if digital prints will match this test of time.”

For the past year Brennon has concentrated on pinhole photography. Turning the clock back over a century, he has revisited the early days of photography before the introduction of lenses. The camera obscura was the forerunner of the camera as we know it today. Light passes through a minute pinhole forming an image on sensitised paper. The resulting images are soft and ethereal, possessing an infinite depth of field.

This is slow and contemplative photography at its best, and Brennon has hand built a number of cameras in his pursuit of this quest. To date, Brennon has had two pinhole photography exhibitions with the theme of “Disintegration”.

The images he has produced using this simple method are breathtaking and masterful. His favourite is one of a seagull corpse that has been washed up on the beach. For Brennon it reflects the circle of life as the tides wash in and out behind it.

But he smiles and reflects that even though he usually captures and takes great images that he is proud of, from time to time even he has made mistakes, like the time he forgot to take the lens cap off his Leica Rangefinder and wasted a roll of film.



• To see more images by Lawrance Brennon visit www.underbergstudio.co.za



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