Kenna, LPOTY and London

Two trips to London in one week and this time to specifically go to a couple of exhibitions that I wanted to visit. For the first time in seven years the world famous photographer Michael Kenna was holding a retrospective exhibition of his work at Chris Beetles Gallery in Piccadilly, London.

Like many other amateur photographers I had always admired Kenna’s work. I guess he has inspired me with his square format, black and white images, often reduced to very simple and quite beautiful compositions, full of mood and atmosphere. Having looked at many of his images on a computer screen it was a real treat to actually see his signed limited edition prints. There were fifty on display including some of what must be his finest works. Seeing them for ‘real’ and I could fully appreciate the quality of the printing and the superb and at times subtle tones. Amateurs like me have a tendency to over sharpen their images but it was clear from Kenna’s work that whilst they were pin sharp and full of detail, they had not been over sharpened, but what do you expect from a master photographer who has been practising his fine art for many, many years? It was a superb exhibition and well worth the trip to the capital.

Michael Kenna Exhibition


When I arrived at the gallery I was handed a price list. I knew Michael Kenna’s work would be expensive but naively I had no comprehension of just how much they would be. They ranged from £1,350 to £5,510 for one out of forty five limited edition prints, all signed of course. Fortunately these prices put temptation out of reach but it made the decision to buy a catalogue for £10 that much easier! Excellently produced by the gallery and including most, if not all the photographs on display, I will enjoy turning the pages in the days to come.

Michael Kenna Catalogue

Next stop, the Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) exhibition being staged at the National Theatre on the South Bank of The Thames. This competition is in its sixth year and the standard of work is always extremely high. Not all the images which appear in the annual book are chosen for display, but those that are selected are printed big and large, in complete contrast to Michael Kenna’s work. He never prints larger than 7 3/4inches by 7 3/4inches. Unfortunately the competition this year was marred when the ‘winning’ photograph was disqualified for excessive manipulation after the public announcement and following publication of the book. The photographer David Byrne was therefore stripped of the title and his £10,000 prize fund. Just thought, he could have bought two or three Kenna prints to celebrate……. Why the judging panel did not take a closer look at the photograph before announcing the winner we will never know, but I doubt they will ever make the same mistake again. Next year’s LPTOY winner will have his or her image scrutinised by several microscopes.

Landscape Photographer of the Year Exhibition

This trip up to London was always going to be about visiting and spending time at these two exhibitions and not taking my own photographs. The Olympus OMD with one or two lenses were in the bag and as luck would have it I did have the opportunity to take one pleasing shot. As I walked across Hungerford Bridge to get to the South Bank, the late afternoon sun lit up St Paul’s Cathedral and the cityscape of London. The broody clouds contrasted well with the buildings bathed in warm sunlight. The camera came out of the bag, I attached the Panasonic 45 to 100 telephoto zoom lens and took one or two shots. Thats all I had time for, because the sun quickly dropped below the horizon and the magical light was lost to the night. On returning home the image was imported into Lightroom and converted to B&W in Silver Efex Pro2. I may never have a winning picture for LPOTY let alone reach the standard set by Michael Kenna but I can still enjoy taking pictures like the one below.

Late afternoon light on St Paul's Cathedral

…..and a colour version….as the iconic red London Bus enters the frame.

Late afternoon light on St Paul's - colour version

One final comment to finish. The two Kenna shots in this entry were taken with an iPhone 5 with very little post production. The LPOTY exhibition picture and the one of St Paul’s were both taken with the Olympus OMD. I have been toying whether or not to buy a full frame camera which comes with a huge weight penalty, not to mention the damage it would do to the bank account. Why I ask would I want to go full frame when Kenna never prints larger than less than eight inches square, and inferior cameras to my OMD were used in the LOPTY exhibition and blown up to A1 or even larger? The subject of a future entry I think!

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