The new season begins

September heralds the start of the busiest season at f11 Workshops and, this Autumn, I’m running more workshops than ever before. So, yesterday being the first of the month, it seemed like a good day to head down to the coast to check on the locations for the first workshop. Places can change, even in a few months, and pre-workshop recces are one of the hidden but essential expenses of this business. 

evening_

Well, it’s never exactly a chore to spend time at the coast and I also felt obliged to check that standards hadn’t fallen at various essential eateries, so I can’t complain! My son had lost a bet with me and I called in my marker, so he became my ‘photo-slave’ for the day, providing kit-carrying services and witty banter in equal measure.

Littlehampton evening 2.jpg

I don’t usually bring my camera when leading workshops as I prefer to concentrate on the clients rather than making my own images but, of course, this doesn’t apply to recces and, once all the essential business stuff had been taken care of, I had half an hour before last light. Luck was with me and the evening turned out nice, reminding me why I bring clients to this beautiful place.

Littlehampton evening 4

All is ready for my busiest workshops season yet – bring it on!

No pictures please, this is Iceland

I spent 4 weeks of the last year in Iceland. I love it there. That’s hardly surprising for a photographer who shoots the coast – Iceland’s coast is … well … no superlative is adequate. But it’s so very much photographed. And there lies a potential problem. I find it hard to dim in my mind’s eye the beautiful images of others. Chips of ice on black sand – done, and done, and done. Mini icebergs floating in still water on the edge of a glacier… also done. Aerial views of colourful deltas that look like the most beautiful abstract art – so very done. Moody, misty receding mountains – well, you can guess what comes next. So, it’s not surprising that relatively few images from my trips to Iceland, so far, have made it to my website. Still, I’ll go back, probably more than once, even if I bring home no keepers at all, and here’s why.

In September, I spent a week in the WestFjords area. It’s relatively quiet, compared with the south coast, and we rarely encountered other photographers. But it’s also a frustrating place because, while the coast is stunning, and there’s lots of it with all those inlets, it’s hard to find anywhere to pull over. Time and time again we drove through the most incredible scenery without being able to stop. There was this one drive, however, along the shore towards Patreksfjord, that has stayed with me.  It was pouring with rain and there was nowhere to pull over on our sliver of road, sandwiched between mountain and ocean. But I was listening to some great tunes and looking out of the window at mountains soaring straight from the sea, shore grass billowing in the wind and foam-topped waves silvering the curves of the strand. It was an ineffably wild place, so very different from anywhere closer to home. Uncompromising and uncompromised. Then, as we swung round a corner, something magical happened; a hawk shot out of nowhere, no doubt surprised by our van, and sailed above us before melting into the mist. An ordinary enough thing, I suppose, but that moment has lodged itself in my mind’s eye.  When we got to our motel and my companions sensibly had a rest before dinner, I walked along the shore for an hour in the pouring rain. I had to – I didn’t want the magic to end. I made no photographs at that place, not one. But it has informed every picture I’ve made since, in Iceland or closer to home.

So this is why I travel. I often say that the secret to making strong images lies in shooting close to home, in going to places to which we can return, again and again. We relax in the knowledge that we’ll be back and this means we’re not afraid to spend time taking risks, trying new compositions that might not work at all. We can move on from the obvious and seek difference, the things that mean something to us as individuals. That’s what art should communicate, in my opinion. But that doesn’t mean I dismiss the value of travel. Far from it. I will continue to travel, even if my hit rate of images is lower than when I’m at home. I will continue to do it, with enthusiasm, as often as I can afford. For moments like this.

Time spent developing our own connection with the landscape, on nurturing that spark inside us that makes us want to make beautiful photographs, is just as valuable as time spent actually making them. I think it’s fair to say that most landscape photographers do it because they love the landscape; there’s not enough money in it these days to make it a pragmatic career choice. Time spent feeding that love is time well spent. Put most simply, that fleeting encounter with a wild thing on a dismal day in Iceland made me happy.

Worth it.

fairy falls

Not a picture from the journey in this blog, because I didn’t make one (that’s the point), but Iceland nonetheless.

Tides and Tempests

I had a great time at Patchings Art Festival earlier this month.  I had been asked by Outdoor Photography Magazine to give a talk. The Festival clashed with my prior commitment to Surrey Artists Open Studios so I could only make the last day, but I am glad I made the effort.  It was a lovely event, despite the relentless rain (where has summer gone?). I wasn’t nervous about talking as I am accustomed to giving presentations but I did wonder if anyone would bother to attend. I needn’t have worried – it was standing room only!  I have now published the introductory slideshow from my talk on YouTube and it can be viewed below or here.

I would like to thank Crywolf for giving me permission to use his epic music and Outdoor Photography Magazine for inviting me to talk.

 

 

 

Chalk and sea

One of the clients on my most recent workshop pointed out to me that it has been a long time since the last post on this blog! Shame on me!  So here’s a little summary of what I have been up to in the last few weeks, and some of my latest images.

desert island

Priory Bay, Isle of Wight

In my last post, I shared some pictures from Birling Gap, and I have been back there, as well as other locations nearby, a few times since.  My eye seems to be particularly drawn to chalk cliffs at the moment. Having been brought up on the south coast, they are very much the landscape of my youth and I now enjoy rediscovering them with my camera.

Seven Sisters evening

Seven sisters at dusk

While beguilingly beautiful, the South coast can also be dangerous, as I was reminded on one of my recent trips to Birling Gap.  I was, fortunately, standing out on the sand at low tide, when a huge chunk of the cliff came crashing down. No-one was hurt although there was a group of very shocked foreign students on the beach at the time. It was a sobering sight and, from now on, I will be more careful about heeding warnings not to stray too close to the cliffs.

C2C-49

Seven Sisters

Last week, I spent a few days in another chalky place, the Isle of Wight. Although the weather was trying, to say the least, there were some moments of good light and, let’s face it, it’s hard not to get a picture when at the coast.  It will take me a while to get through all the images I took, but here are a few ‘tasters’.

In other news, I was delighted to find out that one of my pictures has been selected for inclusion in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year book.  It is a year since I first submitted work to Outdoor Photography Magazine, easily my favourite photography publication. Since then, the magazine has published several of my images and commissioned a short article.  I have been bowled over by the enthusiasm and support I have received from them.

Fistral 1

Fistral beach – selected for Outdoor Photographer of the Year book

Regular readers will already be familiar with the work of my friend Jenifer Bunnett, who continues to be a great pal and enthusiastic companion on our photographic expeditions.  If you haven’t seen her work before, you can access her website by clicking on her name above.  I have also recently enjoyed outings with two other photographers, Sarah Medway and Lorraine Heaysmon, both committed landscape shooters with impressive portfolios. Photography can be a solitary activity and, while I really enjoy that solitude, it is also nice sometimes to share the adventure.

tog on the shore

A capture of Jen capturing a seascape on the Isle of Wight

My spare time (what spare time?) continues to be filled with judging at Surrey camera clubs and giving talks.  I recently presented a new talk,  ‘From Canal to Coast’ to Guildford Photographic Society which was well-received.  As a judge I am obliged also to compete in camera club competitions, which is fair enough when you think about it.  So, last month, I was pleased to win the Best Image trophy at Surrey Photographic Association’s 2015 Open Print competition.  I have shared the picture here before but I think a second airing is justified.

seascape

Of course, this is also the main season for f11 Workshops and we have had some great days out with our clients.  Our last workshop of the year was in West Sussex and, although the weather seemed determined to be gloomy, our persistence was eventually rewarded with some really special light.  My business partner, Tony Antoniou, and I will not make our own images when leading workshops, so I have no picture to share, but I have seen a few of our clients’ shots and am glad to say they did it justice.

east head sunset 2

The location of our workshop, but taken on another occasion.

Finally, Jen and I have had a couple of productive meetings about our pro bono project with the Basingstoke Canal and there will hopefully be some big developments on that front in the near future.

Phew! What a busy few weeks it has been!  What has been your best photographic adventure so far this winter?  Feel free to share in the comments below. 🙂

Dungeness, finally

Dungeness, Kent

16mm, f/11, 1/6, ISo 100, .9 soft grad.

Having holidayed in the mountains this year, I have been feeling in need of a coast ‘fix’.  So, on Thursday, Jen and I made an evening dash south. We chose Dungeness, honeypot location for landscape photographers.  Having lived in the south of England for most of my life, I am not sure how I managed never to go to Dungeness before!

hut detail

102mm, f/7.1, 1.6″, ISO 400

The forecast predicted changeable weather and dramatic skies so we had high expectations. We should have known better. There was a small amount of texture in the sky on our arrival and the promise of some lightning, but in the end the rain washed in and the sky smoothed over.

dungeness

200mm, f/8, 0.8″, ISO 400

I took all the usual shots anyway.  The scene below is particularly oft-captured, as I know only too well from my evenings judging at camera clubs.  But, hey, I’d never been there before!  Had to take The Shot.  Would have been rude not to.

dungeness

58mm, f/11, 2″, ISO 100

When the sky gets boring, the long lens comes out for some detail work.  Dungeness certainly offers lots of potential there.  It’s not my usual style but I enjoyed capturing some images of the netting against the hut.

dungeness

200mm, f/11, 1.6″, ISO 400

I am thinking these two might make a nice diptych.

200mm, f/11, 5", ISO 100

200mm, f/11, 5″, ISO 100

I liked the texture of the partially burnt hut wall.

dungeness

200mm, f/7.1, 3.2″, ISO 400

I can finally see what everyone else has known for ages: Dungeness is cool – weird, but definitely cool.  I will be back.

dungeness

blend of 5 exposures, 200mm, f/2.8, 1/4, ISO 800

Surf’s up

waves and breakwater

f/11, .5″, ISO 100, 200mm

On Friday, Jenifer and I found time to head down to the coast.  Despite the bitter cold, we had loads of fun capturing the surf at Climping Beach.  A longer post from this shoot is in the pipeline, all about shutter speeds and waves.

Time to catch up with my 365 redux.  365/37 and 39 are from 2009.  Neither awfully good, but it seems I don’t take many pictures on 6th and 8th February in any year except for the year of my original project 365.  In keeping with my ‘rules’, I have attempted a better edit at least.  365/38 is from 2014.  I enjoy flipping reflections and cropping out the ‘original’.

Walton on Thames

365/37

London

365/38

surrey

365/39

Happy snapping Sunday

West Wittering

f/7.1, 1/60. 25mm, ISO 200

This is why I didn’t post yesterday: an epic full day of shooting in West Sussex.  More anon.   Yesterday’s and today’s 365 at the end.

 West Wittering

f/7.1, 1/80, 19mm, ISO 200

 West Wittering

f/7.1, 1/50, 35mm, ISO 200

 West Wittering

f/11, 0.3″, 16mm, ISO 100

 West Wittering

f/11, 0.3″, 16mm, ISO 100

365/4 and 5 are from January 2009.  I was a digital newbie, just learning my way around pixels and processing.  I would convert to shooting exclusively RAW later that month.  Never looked back really.

bird

365/4

snow

365/4