Wild, places

The Wild Places is a wonderful book by Robert Macfarlane about the idea of wildness in the British isles. He goes on numerous adventures, from Scotland to Dorset exploring what remains of wildness in a landscape that is heavily sanitised and populated by people.  This e-book is my take on the interpretation of the idea ‘wild places’. 

Please feel free to download a copy of this e-book.

The end of the show

Hare Warren, Autumn

It’s been quite a colourful and seemingly long autumn this year. But in the last week or so there has been a noticeable change in the woodlands that surround me. Most of the leaves have fallen, the trees are becoming bare and winter is looking much closer every day. The fantastic light show that is autumn is coming to an end. The stark, twisted, infrastructure is all that will be left behind. 

A quick search on Google images show many landscape photographs of woodlands in seemingly pristine condition. The image I have posted here shows the latter stages of autumn when the leaves are mostly gone and the skeletons of the trees are showing through. The evergreens continue going about their business, unaffected by the changes in seasons.

Whilst this is not the typical autumnal woodland photograph, it is one for me that captures a sense of change in trees as they batten down for winter.

The slow return of film photography

For much of the last year I have primarily shooting in digital. However, in the last few weeks there has been a slowly returning interest in shooting some film again.

I am really enjoying shooting digital, it’s so easy and convenient. But, I have also got lazier when out and about doing street photography. My style (with digital) has been to just point and shoot at any interesting subject passing by. I do quite enjoy doing this. But, there is a nagging part of me which doesn’t like this less considered approach. I find it quite difficult to shoot digital like a film camera as I know I can just keep firing away to get another image (or a sequence of images).

A friend and I have decided to do a project based on Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places. In this book, I particularly like the idea that wildness does not have to be the classic vast landscape wilderness. It can also be a very local area, where nature is just doing its thing without human interference (at least for a little while).

The idea of this project is to shoot it from the 1st October until the end of the month. Then, we’ll see what comes out of it in the following month. I am going to shoot film (Kodak Tri-X and Portra) on a Nikon F3. I am going to keep the project local, in line with Macfarlane’s comments about ‘the local wilderness’ (so to say). Most likely, I will just keep to Salisbury and see what I can find there (hopefully not discarded perform bottles left by Russian agents…). I have spotted a few potential images already. In part, this is because the town is very easy to access for me. But, it is also because I am so bored of shooting in Salisbury after 6 years that I need to do something different just to try and make the (relentlessly) familiar unfamiliar again.

This little glimmer of resurgence for film has been partly fuelled by me missing my Leica M camera. It’s pretty obvious to me that once I sold the Leica, I stopped shooting film shortly afterwards. I am some way off buying another Leica at the moment, but you never know…

There are no recent film shots to post up at the moment, mainly because I haven’t processed any yet. However, here are some recent digital images where I have been playing with under exposure. Enjoy!

 

 

Protecting their young

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I was out for a walk with the dog last night in Lorenzo’s walk, Hare Warren. It’s an interesting little stretch of woodland and part of the larger Grovely landscape. When I came across this scene, I thought that the adult trees were trying to gather round and protect the little sapling in the foreground. I quite liked that thought anyway!

Nature and disconnection

One of the things that I have struggled with living in Wiltshire until fairly recently is feeling disconnected from nature. I grew up in Porthleven, a fishing village in Cornwall, where the sound of the sea was my evening lullaby. Whilst living there I always kept my window open at night, so that I could listen to the percussion of the sea. The endlessly repeating motion of the tide was very comforting and reassuring to me.

In winter, the village’s inner harbour was closed off to the sea by massive wooden beams  (known locally as the ‘bock’). At night, I remember hearing the sea smashing against the beams trying to dislodge them. On a few occasions the sea would achieve its aim. Once the storms were gone, boats would go out to recover the wooden beams from various parts of the sea.

In the last major storm a couple of years ago, the sea broke through the bock. There, my father watched his day sailing boat break free of its mooring and float out to sea, never to be seen again. There was nothing he could do to rescue it. It was named after my two daughters, and was a boat that I never got the chance to see as it was taken before I could do so.

Being in nature was something that I took for granted, as in Cornwall it’s almost impossible not to be aware of nature’s influence. Moving to Bristol in 2006, really highlighted a feeling of disconnection from nature for me. Seasons would pass, but I would almost not notice them – certainly not in the same way that I was used to. At the time, I put it down to the lack of presence of the wind, as in Cornwall the main times you notice the wind is when it is not there.

In the last few months I have been using the local woodlands as photographic subjects more, needing a break and a different challenge to the usual street photography.

Up until now, I have not really liked woodlands that much. I have tended to find them quite sterile. However, shooting my recent project Verdant in Grovely Woods was a good experience for me. Taking the time to just be in the woodland, to just be in nature, was at some points quite profound. The longstanding feeling of disconnection passed. In my mind, up until that point, I was of the belief that this unsettled emotion could only be counteracted by the rhythms of the sea. However, this proved not to be the case.

Returning to an enjoyment and respect for nature has been a searching experience for me, and one that brings me back somewhat to why I started photography in the first place – to capture the nature and landscapes that surround me.

Yesterday, I returned to the New Forest for the first time in a long time. I used to work in the New Forest a couple of years ago, and the daily 90 mile round trip to work put me off the place for quite a long time. We went to the Turf Hill area to walk the dog, his first walk in a week as he escaped from his lead in an attempt to chase down a rabbit and ended up shredding his feet on the rough ground. It seems that whilst Grey Hounds are fast, they are also quite poorly made and prone to breaking down. He didn’t get the rabbit, I am pleased to report.

I returned to the area in the evening (again with dog in tow), but this time I was armed with some camera equipment. My main focus was to just survey the area and search out potential compositions. It was also to think about how I want to approach shooting this area. At the moment, I am not entirely sure, but part of me would like to photograph it in poor weather. I am sure as I visit the area more, the project will take shape.

The main point for me is not the photography, but the act of being in nature. Years ago, I would often go out with cameras ready to get a sunset shot only to find that I would leave the cameras in the bag and just enjoy the experience of being there.

So, for me, returning to nature has been a sort of familiar homecoming, a kind of feeling of ‘rightness’. However, for my children, and the different world they are growing up in in comparison to the world I grew up in, things are very different. I hope that they can learn to appreciate, value and respect our natural environment as well. I hope that they realise it is much more than a resource for our pleasure, or a commodity to be used and exploited as we see fit. But actually realise that in and of itself it is of fundamental importance to our quality of life, let alone survival.

The world that our children are growing up in seems to me to be increasingly disconnected without awareness. Children (and adults) are disconnected from nature, and quite unaware of it in many circumstances. It’s something that happens ‘elsewhere’, not ‘here’. My children (and probably many others in the UK) are more influenced by media and social media, than nature. Their world on one level is much more connected than mine was as a child, but also much less connected in other ways.

I don’t think they will have this unsettled feeling of disconnection that I have, at least not in the same way, as the nature in this area does not seem to be so raw or pervasive as it is in Cornwall. However, I do hope that over time I can instil some sense of the importance of such things to them, but also keep that feeling of connection alive in myself.

A little update…

It’s been a little while since I last posted up on the blog (though not as long as on other occasions). I have been quite productive on the photography front, I just haven’t quite got it all ready to go just yet. So, I thought I would post up an image from the recent project and explain what I am trying to do.

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Verdant

This project is called Verdant. All of the photographs for it were taken during June in Grovely wood. I was out walking the dog one evening. I had a 70-200 telephoto lens with me as I was hoping to capture some images of the deer that can often be seen in the wood. I did get some photos of deer, but they were pretty average to say the least. Whilst I was there, I did capture some interesting images of the trees that caught my attention.

During the last month, I have tried to create a body of work using the greenery of the wood as a key theme. I have tried to construct images that work together using the idea of light, form and hue. The aim of the work is to try to build a series that is subtle in its focus, where the viewer looks at the images to see the similarities and differences between them. The work is about diversity, not in terms of the variety of images themselves but what they intend to illustrate.

I am quite a cognitive person, by and large. However, for this project I wanted to drop as many preconceptions as possible and go with the ‘flow’. I wanted all the images to have a family resemblance. The unpicking of what it all meant to me was to come later. For the project I just wanted to go with my feelings about the images. In my view, I think it worked well. It’s certainly an approach I will use again and develop more over time. Along with the winter images I took of the snow storms in Porthleven earlier this year, this has been my favourite work to date.

I will release more about the project, such as a video (and possibly some kind of Podcast), as I am looking to shake this blog up in the coming months and shift its focus a little. More on that to come…

 

 

 

Dartmoor

Sunday involved a nice walk across some of Dartmoor along a route that started in Belstone. It was really nice to see some friends again that I have not seen for ages, far too long!

Dartmoor is such a great place to visit, with a lot of history. It’s a place that I would like to come back to much more often (particularly as it is only about 2hrs drive away). The scenery was stunning, felt remote (from a UK perspective!) and presented with some nice photo opportunities. It’s definitely somewhere that has a lot of potential, as well as just so much character (including in the pubs!)

I am not  sure what the building is in the bottom picture or why it is in the middle of nowhere. It was on the military firing range, so naturally the most like guess is that it had some kind of army purpose!

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