Not another retrospective

My title’s slightly cheeky as I actually enjoy the flurry of retrospectives from photographers at this time of year; it gives me a chance to catch up on photographs I may have missed or simply to enjoy again old favourites. But, after having had to do a lot of self-promotion this Autumn, I expect folk are a bit bored of me (I am bored of myself!) so, like last year, I thought that I’d mention instead a few of the folk who’ve inspired me this year.

Simon Baxter (and Meg)

I don’t have time to watch a lot of You Tube vlogs but I make an exception for Simon’s. His photography is superb; I have nothing but respect for a photographer who can make compelling compositions out of tangled woodland and Simon makes it look easy. I also like the way he presents his shows; they are quiet, understated and uplifting. If that’s not enough to persuade you, Meg the dog is an absolute superstar. If you haven’t watched any of Simon’s vlogs, a good place to start would be this episode.

Simon

Colin Bell, ‘Healing’

As mentioned last time, I like to buy photobooks and this year has not helped me kick the habit! I have bought so many I have literally lost count. I can’t list them all here so I’m just going to mention one. Colin’s book is a tour de force. His photographs are simple, evocative, emotional. The poetry of Dom Conlon, written for the book, compliments the images beautifully. The presentation reflects the incredible care and attention Colin lavished on this project from beginning to end. It’s a book that rewards repeated visits and I am very glad to own a copy.

colin bell

The Togcast

The Togcast is a series of fortnightly, free podcasts about landscape and travel photography, created by Sam Gregory and Paul Sanders. Sam and Paul are very nice chaps and they do a great job. Most episodes feature an interview with a well-known photographer but Sam and Paul have cleverly managed to direct and adapt each interview to give variety. There is never a sense of there being a standard list of questions and I think that must mean there’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes. I like to download episodes so that I can listen to them in the car.

togcast

Fleeting Reflections

As usual, I went to a lot of superb exhibitions this year, including Valda Bailey’s beautiful Fragile at The Bosham Gallery and the powerful Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, still on at the Natural History Museum. In September, I headed up to Greenwich for Mike Curry’s Fleeting Reflections. Mike’s work is very strong and his book shows it off beautifully but it was even better to see large prints of the series on the simple, white walls of the Greenwich Gallery. I was also mesmerised by the video Mike had on a loop – I could have watched it for hours. It was very good to meet Mike there and to hear some behind the scenes stories.

mike curry

The ‘Ninja’ Togs

Landscape photography can be quite a solitary occupation. Mostly, I’m happy with that, but it is also nice to connect with others who share this enthusiasm. In September, I enjoyed a long weekend in Anglesey with a group of landscape photographers. We took a lot of photos, laughed a great deal (nobody mention the chilli!) and, I think it’s fair to say, we also inspired each other. I’m not sure I brought home any ‘keepers’ but it was one of the highlights of my year. Verity Milligan, Helen Isles, Claire Zaffin, Sarah Medway, Lorraine Heaysman, Jenifer Bunnett, you’re all awesome. Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to the next weekend.

Newborough I

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.

Yachts from the Air

Round the Island-7
Earlier this month, the annual Round the Island yacht race took place. 1,533 boats set off from Cowes to circumnavigate the Isle of Wight.
Round the Island again again
It’s a spectacular sight, literally a sea of sails. Rather excitingly, I had the opportunity to shoot the race from the air, from a helicopter owned by  Phoenix Helicopters, Goodwood.
Round the Island-4
It wasn’t my first time shooting from a helicopter without doors so I wasn’t phased when we took off and headed out over the Solent. I love flying in helicopters!
Round the Island-5
Phoenix had obtained a low fly permit for me so we were able to fly fairly close to the yachts, although there are of course limits and I was glad to have my 70-200mm zoom with me.
Round the Island-2
Using two cameras, the other one with my 24-70mm lens, enabled me to capture wider views as well.
Round the Island-9
I had particularly wanted to photograph the yachts rounding The Needles, arguably the Island’s most iconic landmark and certainly one that looms large in my memories from a childhood spent sailing the Solent.

In addition to the big ‘race’ shots, I hoped to capture some closer pictures that would work in black and white for a more timeless feel.

Round the Island-11

In addition to all the many yachts on the sea, the RNLI lifeboats were kept busy attending to boats struggling in the challenging conditions on the day.

Round the Island again-4

It was an exhilarating experience, and one I hope to repeat. Many thanks to Max from Phoenix for his excellent piloting.

Round the Island-6

Round the Island-12

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.

 

 

 

Back to normal

spotlight

After all the excitement of Surrey Artists Open Studios and my talk at Patchings Festival last weekend, it’s been good to get back to the normal business of fulfilling print orders, organising workshops and, last but most definitely not least, a couple of much-needed coastal trips. The light wasn’t especially awesome this week, certainly nothing as dramatic as I had on my last trip before Open Studios (above) but, as I said at my talk on Sunday, even if you come home with nothing very special on your memory card, a day by the sea is never wasted. Psychological batteries recharged.

Below are a couple of pictures of our studio in action.

Open Studio event

It’s been a while since my last blog post, but I haven’t been idle. Among the many projects on the go, this coming week sees me participating in Surrey Artists’ Open Studios for the first time. Together with my friend, Jenifer Bunnett, I am opening my studio to the public. The Open Studios project offers the public access to artists and makers by visiting studios, meeting artists and makers, browsing completed works and learning about their method and work in progress.  Our first open day is tomorrow, Sunday 5th June, and our studio is ready and waiting.  In addition to sharing our printed work, there’s a slideshow of other photographs, a demonstration of the on-camera filter system we both use, and drinks and homemade cake served in my courtyard garden (weather permitting!).  If you are able to make it, you will be very welcome. Dates and opening times in the flyer below.

SAOS flyer

A new year, yet another new start

When I first started this blog, back in April 2012, I had a particular reason.  An injury meant that I was not able to get out with my camera to make new images.  Blogging gave me an outlet for my frustrated creativity and a new lease of life for images I had already taken.  Nearly 4 years later and the injury is still troublesome, but I have learned to live with it.  The brain is amazingly good at learning to live with things, even pain. The problem no longer stops me doing what I want and what I want hasn’t changed – I still love (am obsessed with) photography.

misty minimal picture from Venice

‘Five’: Venice

As I slowly returned to making new images, this blog became more and more sporadic. In the end, I will always choose to go out with my camera rather than spend time at the computer.  That is not going to change, but I would like to see if I can combine the two more effectively.  So I have signed up for Blogging 101 with good intentions.

Norwegian landsape

Still morning, Hamnøya, Lofoten Islands

Perhaps paradoxically, since starting a photography blog, I have obtained a Masters Degree in Victorian Literature and Art from the University of London. Yes, I like to read and write! Accordingly, I never intended Focused Moments to be a picture-of-the-day kind of blog. (Nothing wrong with those, by the way, just not what I intended.) Looking back at the early days, I see the posts that were most enthusiastically received usually had plenty of words as well as images.  A good example is my article about the relationship between photography and mindfulness.  So I plan to make time for more posts like that. I am also interested in exploring how the literature I enjoy and have studied may influence the images I make.

seascape

Tempest

Standard blogging advice is to write about oneself, to ‘make it personal’. I am not so sure about that. I am quite a private person and this is a public blog. The images will always be the heart of Focused Moments; I hope they are more interesting than me! Nonetheless, there are aspects of my photographic life that might merit more exploration. I enjoy exhibiting and have already written about some of my experiences in that area. Some readers want to know more about other things, my role as a camera club judge, for example, or what it is like to lead photography workshops. More on those, and other ‘stories’, will follow.

wey navigation

Frost on the Wey

2015 was an epic year for me photographically. I hope that 2016 will be equally exciting and, if any of you share at least part of the adventure with me here at Focused Moments, this blog will have succeeded. It is up to me, now, to make it worth your time.

norway

Aurora over Skagsanden