Revealed: The Landscape Group's Best-Kept Secret
by David Travis
About four years ago, I felt that my landscape photography had reached a plateau. I was getting bored with visiting honeypot locations and I felt myself falling out of love with the genre. I knew there was something missing in my photographs but I couldn’t identify it.
Around that time, the Landscape Group launched its first critique circle. I was looking for something to motivate me and I also liked the idea of trying my hand at appraising photographs. So I signed up to join a circle.
A few months later, I looked over the critiques I had been receiving of my images. There was a common theme in many of them: my images were “objective”, “impersonal” and “detached”. In short, my photographs didn’t have much of me in them — they could have been taken by anyone.
Those insights helped me over that plateau. It also turned me into an evangelist for the Landscape Circles. I joined two different circles (one critique circle and one processing circle) and I later took on the role of Landscape Group Circles Co-ordinator.
Just Before Dawn On The Great Ridge © David Travis
The Big Secret
The Landscape Circles are free to join and fun to take part in. But here’s a puzzle: in a recent membership survey, I discovered that over 80% of Landscape Group members haven't joined a circle, and 36% are not even aware of them. The circles really are the Landscape Group's best-kept secret (but now you’re in the know). In this blog post, I'll describe the benefits of joining a circle and show you why you should sign up.
What types of Landscape Circle are there?
There are three types of circle and each one comprises 8-10 members.
- Digital critique: Each member sends in one image per month for other members to evaluate. The critiques you receive on your photographs go way beyond the comments you'll get on social media and will give you insight into how other people view your work. And the discipline of appraising other people's landscape photographs has the benefit of enriching your own photographic vision. Some critique circles work over email and some meet via Zoom.
- Print critique: Physical prints are circulated for constructive critique amongst the Print Circle members. Printing and circulating your photographs among a community of photographers not only helps you grow as an artist but also provides a tangible experience that enhances the connection between you and your work.
- Processing: One member each month submits a RAW image for the other members to edit. It’s fascinating to see first-hand the techniques used by fellow members as they interpret the same starting image in a variety of different ways. This exposure to different editing styles and ideas expands your horizons and encourages you to try new techniques with your images. Processing groups meet over Zoom.
Waiting For The Harvest © David Travis
What Are The Benefits Of Joining?
A key benefit of being a member of a circle is that it encourages you to create new work. For example, some critique circles run optional themed months such as "Urban landscapes", "Panoramas" or "Black & White". Another group runs an annual "same location" theme: each person tries to get to a specific location in the UK at least once in the year so members can share their interpretation of the same landscape with each other.
Although it's true that the core purpose of the circles is for RPS members to improve their landscape photography, the benefits go beyond that. Joining a Landscape Circle provides an opportunity for like-minded individuals to connect with each other. As an illustration, a critique circle that I’m part of recently organised a 3-day photography event in the Peak District. We had only met over Zoom in the past, so this event helped us establish a more personal connection with each other (both in the landscape and in the bar!) We’re currently creating a book of the event that we intend to submit to the RPS Zine project.
Pre Dawn At Mam Tor by David Travis
Some Misconceptions About Joining A Circle
One misconception is that being a member of a circle takes up considerable time, time that could be spent taking photographs. In reality, you need to dedicate just 1-2 hours per month.
Another misconception is that you need to submit only new work. In fact, it's fine to use photographs from your archive.
A third misconception is that these groups are for advanced landscape photographers only: in truth, each group has a mixture of skills from novice to expert.
How to join a Landscape Circle
If you’re at a plateau in your photography, or you just want to join a community of fellow enthusiasts who will inspire and motivate you, email me at email@example.com and let me know which kind of circle you would like to join.
All images © David Travis, RPS Landscape Group Circles Co-ordinator
Header Image: Last Light At Higger Tor © David Travis