Spring tones, Gunnersbury Park.
Spring tones, Gunnersbury Park.
I have been asked to write about my favourite photograph in conjunction with a talk in early September. This must be one of the most difficult editing processes for a photographer. The decision will change on a daily basis, depending on current projects, work and new ideas that have found space in a notebook. I think the closest I can ever get is one of my favourites. So a few thoughts.
Pinhole Impressions 3 was taken in the winter of 2007. It was part of a series included in the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition in 2008, which was awarded second place in the portfolio category. As this was the inaugural IGPOTY competition, I still have fond memories of taking the photographs and the process leading to the awards.
I always get asked two questions when this image is on display. The first is, “how long did it take in Photoshop to blur the clouds?”. The second is, “how long did it take to sweep the leaves into a perfect circle?”. The answer to both questions is no time at all. With any location photography there is always a certain element of luck. And with experience, you create your own luck. You can’t always predict what will happen, but you know something special will. So you wait.
Gale force winds hit RHS Wisley on this particular day. I was experimenting with Zero 2000 pinhole camera and was about to give up, as the wind was buffeting the camera and tripod. With exposure times of 10 to 15 seconds, this was a problem. But the movement of the clouds grabbed my attention, and I knew there was a chance of capturing something interesting.
When I set the camera up, the tree was covered in leaves, but with the severity of the wind, it was stripped in 20 minutes. Instant ‘Land Art’ in the style of Andy Goldsworthy, but completely natural. As I was shooting film, I had no idea how good (or bad) the image might be, but I had a gut feeling something had happened. In the space of around 90 minutes, I took 5 rolls of film at other locations around Wisley, and this formed a large part the ‘Pinhole Impressions’ series. It’s rare that you have this kind of luck.
A few new images taken recently, which I might include in the selection for the Wildlings exhibition at Oxford House. I found these whilst rowing, returning later with a camera. There is a completely different perspective from a boat, offering views invisible from a footpath. These trees have chosen inhospitable places for themselves to grow. It’s not just a case of surviving. They obviously thrive.
Some more recent additions to the Coast of Light series, from Andalucia. This is an edit from a set taken in August 2013.
I received a copy of the International Garden Photographer of the Year ‘Collection Seven’ book yesterday. With the judges final choices for 2014, it is a beautiful presentation of work, especially for those whose images are represented.
A list of all the judges.
I really enjoyed meeting so many people over the two days I spent at The Photography Show as part of the IGPOTY programme of events. I lost count how many portfolio critiques I gave, but I saw many lovely images.
For anyone thinking of entering next year, I’ll repeat the main point of the talks I gave.
Tell a story. You have to do this without using words. Whether a single image or a portfolio, the idea is paramount. And don’t be too concerned with special techniques. These can distract and actually hide what you are trying to say. Keep it simple. Look for less obvious subjects too. People and environmental topics are all relevant.
Some of my favourite images from IGPOTY 2014
A group winner Jason Liske with ‘Native Coast’.
One of my favourite portfolios was by Sibylle Pietrek in the Greening the City category.
Another good story was from Matteo Carassale.
I have been updating my website over the last month and in particular, have added two new projects. Both of which are long term collections and relate to urban London.
The first is 51° 30′ N / 0° 7′ W, which is the longitude, latitude reference point at Charing Cross. Distances to and from the centre of London are usually measured from here. It is a selection of images and observations made on walks around the city. The current uploads are fairly recent, but this is an ongoing process, as I have film dating back to 1979, my first year as a student.
The second addition is ‘Confluence’. This is a photographic essay of the River Brent and the surrounding environment. Also ongoing, images will be added as I make further walks this year.
Some accompanying notes:
The name ‘Brent’ is apparently derived from Celtic and Old English, meaning ‘sacred waters’, which is rather sad given the river running through areas of West London has long been regarded, by many, as an inconvenience and just in the way. It has been channelled around Brent Cross shopping centre, straightened and contained by the North Circular Road, built over and diverted through a tunnel near Wembley Stadium and generally used as a tip or dump for anything from cars to chemical waste. And it’s only 16 miles long.
The name reflects the Celts’ belief that all rivers (and wells) were sacred. A belief which saw them throw valued items such as swords or shields into them as tributes to spirits. This practice has long disappeared in West London, unless you venerate the humble shopping trolley.
My interest in the Brent started with urban walks along the Grand Union Canal at Brentford, which itself is now part of the river. Some stretches, like this one, are green corridors which are so important for wildlife in cities. Other parts are included in The Dollis Valley Greenwalk, from Barnet to Brent Cross and which connects with the London Loop walk. Over the years some money has been available for work on London’s waterways and much has been done by volunteers, particularly on the canal networks, but a lot more needs to be done.
Although I started taking an interest from an environmental point of view, it dawned on me last summer, as I was photographing along it’s banks, that I have always lived or been near The Brent. As a child I used to fish (illegally) in the pond at Moat Mount, which is apparently the river’s source. My secondary school was next to Silkstream, a tributary. My first choice football team, Edgware Town, was also sited close enough to require balls to be fished out of it’s water. My first car was stolen and dumped by the river behind the football ground and a few years later I was married in St Mary’s Church, Hanwell, which is on a hill overlooking the Brent Valley and the Wharncliffe Viaduct. More recently, The Port of London Authority even pulled me out of the Thames after capsizing a boat near to where the two rivers meet at Brentford. All coincidence I suppose, but there is an affinity.
After my brief flirtation with a Leica M6, a set of test shots taken on a quick walk along the Thames between Chiswick and Kew Bridges last week. These are shop scans put through Lightroom. They have more jpg artifacts than you can shake a stick at, along with a very generous helping of sharpening from the person who scanned them, but they’re ok for reference.
Verdict…would I buy one? I’ll have to flip a very expensive coin on that!
The first walk I’ve done in a while…..