Friends Clump – Ashdown Forest

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Friends Clump on Ashdown Forest was planted in 1973. It is a collection of a few dozen Scott’s Pine within a clearing in Ashdown Forest. 1973 was the Year of the Tree and it was decided the introduction of this clump would be a good way to commemorate the event. It just happens to be the year my father decided to move his study into the garden shed, to put space between my newborn howls and his urgent revision for his exam finals.

Friends Clump Ashdown Forest

Into the light at Friends Clump

You would be forgiven for thinking of Friends Clump in the same sense as it’s more notable cousin ‘King’s Standing’, barely a mile down the road. King’s Standing is said to have been the sight of one of Henry the VIII’s hunting hides. Like Friend’s Clump, it is a circular plantation positioned atop the hill, with a view down over the valley below. Ideal for picking off Deer and Pheasant as they were driven past.

Straight lines and the mist

Ashdown Forest is well known for a number of clumps planted from the 1800s onwards. I first noticed Friends Clump from afar. Then it was more the ‘wider landscape’ I was training my camera on. I’ve since picnicked there, strung up a hammock there, run through it, sheltered from a blizzard in it and of course photographed it on numerous occasions.

Texture over colour.

I’ve been creating images at Friend’s Clump for a number of years now. It is, of course, an element of the landscape shaped by man, as are many of the Forests that surround us. It was this that made it quite interesting because the ‘planted’ clump had certain characteristics a normal wood would not have. The trees are planted in a more uniform style, they contain the same species and they are largely of the same age.  It could be argued that finding ‘order’ is therefore considerably easier.

Finding order in metaphor – Standing Out

Its size, maybe just 40-50m in diameter means it has no real depth, you won’t be getting lost within its realms. It does, however, offer a degree of shelter from the elements but it also somehow funnels the wind. [pullquote]The rising sun is visible on its fringes as it circumnavigates the clump[/pullquote] The rising sun is visible on its fringes as it circumnavigates the clump. At a lower angle combined with an early mist, it creates drama and impact.

Focusing on the detail

Friends Clump is not overly abundant with wildlife but as is often the case when you sit anywhere quietly for long enough, the wildlife starts to emerge. Rabbits scamper about, even a mole broke the ground inches from where I crouched one day framing a shot, just outside the line of trees. Deer have circled and the odd bird of prey has screeched from atop the pines. Usually, when I am within this small clump the horse riders, dog walkers and strollers tend to skirt around it, keeping to the paths.

Playing with the linearity

I know what I am getting with Friends Clump. It is easy to get to (the carpark is but 100m away) so it does allow me to visit with a more conceptual approach to creating images. It is, of course, limited in scale in some ways but it, therefore, demands that you think more about how you can create differing images. It provides the usual ingredients of changing light, of texture, tone but it offers structure and order. It just provides them in smaller quantities.

Considering how others may see it.

I have noticed that there are strong similarities in how many landscape photographers approach, what I would call ‘plantation woodlands’. The striking characteristics of a Scott’s Pine plantation are the uprightness and linearity of the trunks. This is often a strong feature of the images created. Most will have experimented with ICM, some prompted by the work of others and some just as a natural extension of the shapes within the woods. The woods naturally engender different emotional responses in different people. Shelter, protection, a life-giving resource to those who know it and of course the flip-side of fear, isolation, and confusion to those who don’t. A small evergreen wood such as this one tends not to summon up too much unease  (especially when you can see from one side to the other..) It lives and grows, it has constants but on its fringes, the elements are ever changing. The wind and rain provide a varying soundtrack which does, of course, amplify certain emotions.

An organic approach to representing form and the passage of time.

I personally see it as a canvas on which I can look to express myself. It is a structured environment which offers me a chance to present different concepts. I have many more ideas on how I would like to develop my work at this little clump. It is always a small port, often in a storm, where I can retreat to think and plan. I usually walk in without a plan and emerge full of ideas. (As is often the case, I’ve also entered with best intentions and walked out empty handed – such is photography).

 

 

Even in the time I’ve written this short piece, I’ve reached for my notebook and added different ideas for my next visit to Friends Clump

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Friends Clump Location

Useful Links

Ashdown Forest – https://www.ashdownforest.org/home/index.php

Friends Clump Walk Route – https://www.ashdownforest.org/enjoy/walking/docs/Friends_Layout.pdf

The Stream – Scafell Pike

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After a tough climb up Scafell Pike and a descent that really tested my knees, it was lovely to be able to slow things down and get the camera out. The Stream that runs alongside the path up to Scafell Pike was a wonderful blend of ingredients. The water level was low allowing access to various points within the stream. I imagine that isn’t always the case. There was a wonderful fallen tree that gave strong leading lines. It was covered in an interesting bracket fungus and it was hard to not be drawn in by it. 

The light was far from perfect but I tried to get a sense of how I might create something if I returned. With so much going on i sat for a while and tried to unravel what lay in front of me. I started to think I needed to head back by myself and started to dread the fact I was already considering getting up at first light to hobble back to this spot. 

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Even when I look at the images now I see such huge potential for creating a variety of different images. 

 

The Next Day

 

When I’m travelling with my wife, I know that early mornings offer a small window of opportunity for me to get out amongst it. I definitely had some unfinished business by the stream, so I set my alarm and packed my bag again. There was the small matter of whether I would be able to walk in the morning to consider. I had managed to drag myself to the pub after the descent so there was hope. It is always the second day when I struggle. When you are passing through a landscape like this, you have to take every opportunity to feed your creativity. The demoralising alternative is the regret you feel when you get back to your well-trodden locale thinking back over missed opportunities. 

 

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Thankfully my legs worked, just, and I was able to get back and re-consider the stream from a number of different positions. A couple of wonderful hours by the stream with not a soul about before returning to get the bacon on.

 

 

 

Climbing Scafell Pike

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Climb Scafell Pike?

This was not something we had planned on this brief trip, but after a beer or two at the Wasdale Head Inn we were suddenly considering tackling a mountain!

After a brief stint in the Highlands my wife and I had decided to spend a couple of nights at the wonderful National Trust Campsite at Wasdale. It was a great location, utterly away from it all and in an area of the Western Lakes I had not been to since I was a child. It also helped us break up an otherwise long car journey south. We took in such wonders as Sellafield Nuclear Power Station en route but after a four hour journey we arrived alongside the marvellous Wastwater and into a stunning valley, which was bathed in magnificent light. Alas we were were racing the fading light to get our tent pitched, so I didn’t get a chance to stop and stare for a while. Perhaps I should have because my eyes were out on stalks and on these narrow Cumbrian roads you need to keep them firmly on the road. I can still see so many of the images I framed in my mind on that gorgeous evening.

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The NT campsite at Wasdale is situated in a stunning spot at the head of Wastwater and the foot of Scafell and the Pike. With a pub just minutes away and the valley sides offering up a number of Cumbria’s best peaks, this was a very special place. We had no real plans but to relax, to explore, so we headed off to re-hydrate at the local pub. We chatted to a policeman and part-time Mountaineer from Liverpool, bonding over a crossword. A few tales were told and we started to warm to the idea of climbing Scafell Pike the following day. We really had no idea what to expect. We were now armed with a route or two and some dos and don’ts. There was a modicum of intrepidation. How long would it take to climb Scafell Pike? How hard would it be? We checked the weather, talked kit, checked maps and before long we were heading back and setting our alarms.

 

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I’d heard that the previous day it was gusting 50mph on the summit and the windchill was in the region of -20C. I knew that layers were important to climb Scafell Pike and I packed my gloves, as my hands never appreciate anything south of -2C.  I wanted to get a good carb-rich breakfast in early and make sure we had plenty of water and snacks to keep our energy levels high. I’m far from ‘unfit’ but I knew this ascent would prove difficult as I’ve always been designed more for speed. Couple that with a few extra kgs, short legs and an array of dodgy joints and Joss Naylor’s record was going to be quite safe. The stepping machine was not part of my gym routine.

Of course there was no chance of an ‘ascent’ without at least some of my camera gear coming. Now, this is usually where things get out of hand. I would do better this time, this was a mountain! After much deliberation I think I settled on a 5D MK 3 body, tried to shun the battery grip but found I hadn’t packed the battery door. Oops. I impressed myself by packing only one lens. After the single lens anxiety had abated in went the massively under-used GoPro.  You are supposed to record these things to bore your children in the future aren’t you?

I had spent a fair amount on a carbon fibre tripod for just such an occasion, so I added that too. A few batteries, a remote, the odd filter, a number of flapjacks and plenty of water.  Thankfully my Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L is compact and lightweight. It offered just enough storage and protection for a trip of this nature.  It is also orange so should something go awry I had something to wave frantically. The tripod strapped to the back and allowed my hands to be free to make use of my Leki poles which I knew would be very useful.

We set off at approximately 1030am, an hour later than our original ETD but that allowed us plenty of time for a leisurely ascent of about 3 hours. I mentioned layers earlier and both my wife and I learned very quickly that the idea is to add layers as it gets cooler, rather than to wear them all at the start. Now with several items of clothing hanging off my rucksack and waist we continued upwards mopping sweat from our brows. The overnight rain had made the almost cobbled paths very slippery and the going was slow. The paths ramped up quite quickly and we had to cross a ghyll to continue our progress upwards. My partner in crime is not a great fan of heights and also has a minor aversion to crossing fast flowing torrents by hopping from rock to rock. She had also been struggling with an upset tummy and it looked like our mission was over when she took ill after just 40 minutes. She had been sick and was now feeling very woozy. Vertigo?  This was no place to be feeling below par. I wanted to head back immediately. We decided to take a break, have a good rest and see how she felt. Ten minutes later she was re-hydrated and determined to continue. I did not argue.

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It was harder than I thought.  We struggled upwards, weighed down by excessive clothing and gear and some of the language was colourful. At one point we were overtaken by a gleeful 5 year old who looked at us as if to say “Daddy what is wrong with those people”? This was both demoralising and motivating. If we could up our pace the ankle-biter would fade later and we could pass her with a little wink. My wife reminded me were not racing. Chastised and with the visibility fast fading  I decided to pause to grab a few photos looking back down towards Wastwater as we trudged upwards along the route. It wasn’t long before the valley below vanished below the cloud. The visibility and temperature were dropping with every cairn. Thankfully a steady stream of people gave us a fair idea we were heading on the right track and we opted for a slightly longer but gentler route.

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It was at about this point we ran out of water and flapjacks. The flapjacks were less of an issue but I’d seen enough adventure films to know the water was serious(ish). We were unlikely to perish after a good breakfast and we were well hydrated but this was piddle poor planning. We had a bottle though and a mountain stream nearby, so no real danger. As we climbed on, the temperature started to drop further and we added layers slowly to remain comfortable. I was amazed to see people in shorts, trainers, thin shirts and with no water proofing at all. Knowing how quickly things can change this was a little foolhardy. I was mindful of the effect that the windchill would have at the summit.

There is something about the monotony of just placing one foot in front of the other and marching onwards that is very cleansing mentally. Your entire focus is on reaching the end, on looking where you place your feet and little else. It reminded me of how good (not for my knees) my trail running was a few years back. The physical struggle calms the mental struggle. Well except perhaps the mental struggle I  was having with my growing thirst.

The visibility was now becoming a little tricky as you could not see the next cairn from the last. You had to pause and wait until you caught a glimpse of the next marker. A couple of times we used ‘guesswork’ and erred very slightly off course. It is hard to fathom what it must be like to climb one of these mountains in a ‘white out’. I have heard the stories of those who could not see their hands in front of their faces and I’ve even seen the scars of some who were less fortunate in similar conditions. I have absolute respect for real climbers, real mountaineers but I’m not sure it is for me. I love to test myself but I think that is something I would be training very long and very hard towards. You could see how easy it would be to lose your bearings. The landscape was a constant, the horizon a blur but thankfully there weren’t too many sheer drops.

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There were times when I wondered if we would make it, where I cursed the fatigue and pain. I thought quickly of others who would face far harder challenges walking up this rock and I cast off any self pity I was feeling. Having watched multi limb amputees literally drag themselves up Kilimanjaro, I was not for a minute going to think of this as hard going. Onwards and forwards.

Looking at our watches we were fairly certain we were close to our target. We’d started to ask those descending and a few ummed and aahhed but the feedback was variable. The ground was now looser, the paths well below us and the cairns appeared closer together. The inability to see your destination was perhaps a blessing but it did have a strange affect on the mind as you trudged on into the milky abyss. We headed up over another rise there was a larger cairn where we found a couple sheltering from the growing windchill. They too were wondering where the summit was and whether this was it? Their phones suggested it was further ahead into the gloom. A gentleman trotted past carrying a GPS and we all decided to follow him rather than trust Google Maps.

The wind was really jacking up now and the windchill was biting. I was absolutely fine in a base layer, fleece and shirt jacket and thankful for the gloves and liners. After a few minutes navigating the boulder fields the dark outlines of a few people started to emerge through the cloud and there was a raised structure, the summit. We had made it.

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Most people were hunkered down sheltering from the windchill behind the summit. It was probably -10c in the wind. The gloves came off for the camera and my trigger hand was useless in just a couple of minutes. It is a wonderful feeling to reach a summit, to know the hardest part of the climb is over. A great sense of achievement and suddenly there was instant talk of wanting more and different challenges. Visibility was at best 20m so I tended more to the obligatory selfies and some atmospheric shots. There would be no sweeping panoramas today.

On account of the lack of visibility, the freezing wind, our lack of snacks and water we didn’t hang about long. We set our sights on the pub, something we do regularly and something that perhaps had slowed our ascent. A cold pint after a quick descent shone like a beacon.

Ironically the ascent had not been the hardest part of the climb for me. It was going to be every agonising step of the descent on knees that retain very little cartilage. I held out to the halfway point before I had to take a couple of Ibuprofen to try to take the edge of things. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. I was really thankful for my poles, I set them long and was able to take 25% of the weight off my screaming knees. After the ecstacy of reaching the top, I had not contemplated this issue. It was depressing that this could limit me from repeating this kind of adventure. I wasn’t the only one and we met others who had allowed far longer for the descent for the very same reasons. One poor woman put on a brave face but I could see that she was in terrible pain. Perhaps new knees one day will allow me to ascend and descend without that nagging feeling that I am wearing myself out one step at a time. I started to dread the following morning.

Three quarters of the way down we paused by the Ghyll, in a spot with 4G which meant my wife could get her fill of Tom Hardy, so to speak. I took a rest and decided to get the camera out. It was a stunning spot and I wanted to absorb my surroundings and get away from the negativity that had crept in with the pain of the descent. A babbling brook, waterfalls, the leading lines of fallen trees and wonderful bracket fungi were just the tonic to soothe the soul. I spent perhaps half an hour and knew I would need to come back.

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As fast as my legs allowed, which alas wasn’t very fast at all we made our way back to the tent and then onto a very well earned, memorable pint and dinner at The Strands Inn B&B I can warmly recommend the lamb burger! On the wall was a sign that said ‘Beer is proof that God loves us’. Amen.

We’ll definitely be back. We’ll hopefully climb other peaks and perhaps ‘over night’ higher up to have more time to capture first and last light. It is one of those places that you instantly fall in love with. If you get a chance do climb Scafell Pike. Do your own research and make sure you are properly prepared.

 

Trip Guide – Lanzarote

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Mixing Work and Play

We were only just back from 10 days of work/exploration in the gorgeous Hebrides.  My wife had previously made it clear that she needed a holiday in the sunshine too. To be specific she said sunshine, beach, pool and a sun lounger. After a tough first year as a Newly Qualified Teacher she had definitely earned herself a break. My only issue was I wasn’t sure I could do a fortnight on a sun lounger. This would require some thought.

So, Location?

So with Ailsa’s holiday list in mind I now needed to consider my own. Mine was fairly simple. We enjoyed similar things but I needed to find somewhere with bucket loads of photographic interest. Ideally a bearable climate and something a little different. With it being the school holidays flight costs were going to be prohibitive, so ideally the destination needed to be within the usual short haul distances.

The Hebrides had been fantastic, awe inspiring at times and baffling at other.  I’d perhaps seen too much of a good thing in too little a time.  Like a greedy kid in a sweet shop I never really had time to pause, think and truly ‘enter’ the landscape.  One of those occasions we all know where we know we have left far too many images behind. I will naturally be returning as soon as I can, as it was definitely love at first sight with this wild and varied corner of the UK.

I knew I wasn’t ready for 2 weeks of horizontal sun cream appliance. I need activity, exploration and I need to create. A bit of good old fashioned work/play balance. If I sit still for too long,  I’ll be shooting water abstracts in the pool and looking for shadow patterns among the sun loungers. (EDIT. This did actually happen..)

The location had to be affordable, warm, coastal and with a good blend of photographic interest. The location had to be affordable, warm, coastal and with a good blend of photographic interest. Enough interest to spend a week exploring perhaps? We love the Greek Islands, we’ve seen a few but we fancied something different.

Lanzarote – The Canary Islands

 

I thought of The Canary Islands because they certainly ticked a number of boxes.  I thought of them because of the climate, that ever present ‘breeze’ that takes the edge off the heat. 26 years earlier I’d been to Lanzarote as a fledgling teenager and I had some vague memories of what to expect from the landscape. It would certainly tick the ‘challenging’ and ‘different’ boxes. So I put it on the table and it wasn’t rebuffed. Lanzarote landscape photography here we come.

We checked a few of the usual websites, we scanned  tripadvisor for accommodation reviews and before I knew it we we had booked the Timanfaya Palace, in Playa Blanca (a stones throw from where I had stayed a quarter of a century before). It would be interesting to see how it had all changed. I booked a hire car for the second week, giving us a week of rest and relaxation and a chance to acclimatise a little before heading out to explore.

Flights to Lanzarote

Lanzarote is well served from throughout the UK by a large number of different airlines. The flight time is approx just over 4 hours and flights vary from about £100pp to £400pp depending on the time of year. Arrecife has good facilities and a number of leading car hire companies operate. Buses were plentiful and reasonably priced. We booked a coach connection in advance through our travel company to bring down the cost.


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The Island

Lanzarote doesn’t roll off the tongue when you think of Landscape Photography locations but it offers something quite unique. Lanzarote is a Spanish Island, it is the easternmost of the Canary islands in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 125 km off the coast of Africa. Covering 845.9 square kilometers, it is the fourth largest of the Canary Islands. The dimensions of the island are 60 km from north to south and 25 km from west to east. Lanzarote has 213 km of coastline, of which 10 km are sand, 16.5 km are beach, and the remainder is rocky.

Its landscape includes the mountain ranges of Famara (671 m) in the north and Ajaches (608 m) to the south. South of the Famara massif is the El Jable desert which separates Famara and the Montañas del Fuego. The highest peak is Peñas del Chache rising to 670 meters above sea level. Lanzarote’s volcanic birth is very much in evidence everywhere you travel on the island.

The island emerged about 15 million years ago as a product of what was known as the ‘Canary Hotspot’. Alfred Wegener, the noted geophysicist visited in 1912 and concluded that  the island fitted with his theory on continental drift. Lanzarote, along with others, had emerged after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates.

The greatest recorded eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736 in the area now designated as Timanfaya National Park. The force and scale of these eruptions is very evident within the immediate landscape.

75% of the population are Spanish but Brits account for about 4%. The currency is the Euro.

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The Climate

Lanzarote has a fabulous year round climate. The average winter temperatures are 17-20c with the summer hovering at about 25C+. For those who don’t like it too hot you’ll be pleased to know that the fairly constant breeze has a great cooling effect. Do be careful in the sun though because the wind can make it quite deceptive. Wear plenty of sunscreen and don’t forget your sun hat. We visited in September and  the sea temperature was also very pleasant.

Where to Stay?

Our hotel was in Playa Blanca, located on the Southern Tip of the Island. Heading out from Playa Blanca did mean that I found myself covering old ground regularly to reach different parts of the Island. Teguise and even the capital Arrecife are perhaps better located to ensure you are equidistant from all the action.  If you head north and choose to go via Arrecife then you will have to negotiate your way around the ring roads but it wasn’t too busy. We found good sat nav coverage using the Galaxy Note 3 and Google Maps (at the naturally extortionate roaming data charges).

The island is blessed with a lot of holiday accommodation. Prices naturally jump during the school holidays (I’m married to a teacher..) but their are lots of options in some of the smaller seaside towns away from the resorts. Lanzarote offers everything from the occasional campsite, to camper van hire, rentals at every price point and hotels for every budget. When I return it will be self catering and I will definitely look further afield. Food and drink was affordable and we came across many well stocked supermarkets along the main routes. We particularly liked the look of some of the seaside towns in the north east of the island, notably Arieta and Punta Mujeres. They had a more local feel and were less touristy.

Driving and Car Hire in Lanzarote

Driving is on the right. We found the roads well maintained and largely traffic free. Signage was good but we used Google Maps where possible as some of the ‘tourist’ maps were not entirely accurate. Motorways run from north to south on the island with a speed limit of 100kmh. When leaving the tarmac do be careful of the change in height as the majority of pull-ins and lay-bys were not tarmac. Tracks away from the main roads were best suited for a 4 x 4. It does get windy so take this into account. Cycling is also popular on the island so please give cyclists plenty of room. Drivers do need to ensure they carry their passport, driving license and hire agreement at all times. Passengers all need to buckle up and the drink driving limits are far lower than the UK. Barefoot and flip-flop driving is also illegal.

We booked our car hire through Holiday Autos in advance and collected our car from the airport. I took out excess protection for peace of mind. Always check over your hire car fully and photograph and report any damage you find before leaving. Our gear lever fell off on departure but this was remedied straight away and we were given an upgrade. Fuel prices have come down considerably in the Canary islands are on a par with the UK.

We only used public transport to pick up the hire car and we found it on time and reasonably priced.


What to Pack?

The tricky bit comes when trying to pack for a trip like this, especially when using budget airlines. I’d immediately topped up my baggage allowance but I still knew it would be a hard task. I had to consider my desire to bring snorkeling gear, a laptop, gym gear and enough clothing to at least maintain a little wardrobe variety. This being a downside of staying in a nicer hotel.

I opted to take my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with a Seido Obex waterproof housing. My main camera would be a Canon 5d Mk III and I packed my 24-70 f2.8 L II, a 14mm f2.8 and a 70-200 f2.8 L. Into the bag went a host of Formatt Hitech and Lee Filters. A spot of Gaff (never travel without it..) and a wireless remote. I travelled with a new Feisol CT-3472 tripod that I am trialing and a 44mm ballhead to keep weight down.

I dropped most of this into a lightweight and now bulging Lowepro Flipside Sport which would be my carry on case. Insurance aside, I was not willing to let my camera out of my sight. I knew I was taking a chance travelling with only one body but this was supposed to be R and R after all.  With the gear I had I felt that I could cover most eventualities. I also had some flexibility if I decided to cover things from more of a documentary perspective. I also needed all the gear to fit in the hotel safe. I’d checked ahead for dimensions, although the hotel were happy to assist with additional secure space should it be required.

Lanzarote Landscape Photography?

Initially my focus had been to capture the wider drama of the volcanic landscape inland.  Lovers of coastal photography won’t be disappointed. I was also toying with a more journalistic approach based around an idea I had in the Hebrides looking at crofting. Lanzarote and the Hebirdes both share the wind and they have adapted their agriculture accordingly. Look out for the wonderful vineyards sunken into the landscape and protected from the harsh drying winds by curved walls. The majesty of the volcanoes offered a fantastic backdrop in many locations but foreground interest can at times be tricky to come by.  Endless, largely flat lava fields can dominate much of the landscape. Leading lines were few and far between. The light changed dramatically throughout the day so it pays to vary when you head out to different locations. The textures and colours of the volcanic landscape were very interesting indeed with considerable potential for more abstract work. The town of Haria in the north was very picturesque with its white painted houses and green doors.

The Wind

Lanzarote’s climate is great all year around but it does get a little windy at times. There is certainly some variation in different areas of the island. I found the North slightly wilder and offering more reliable cloud across the volcanic spine that separates Orzola from Caleta de Famara. It can also be a little cooler down in the valley at Haria. The wind can be both a blessing to the sun-seeker and a hindrance to the Landscape Photographer. The wind is both a blessing to the sun-seeker and very much a hindrance to the Landscape Photographer.The breeze is fairly constant, often increasing later in the day. Achieving sharpness working at slower shutter speeds can be a challenge later in the day if you are using drop in filtration. I happened to have packed the largest of the lot. At times I was transported back to the Isles of Harris, Lewis and The Uists, desperately  holding a golf umbrella braced against the wind to try to mitigate its negative effects.

Lanzarote’s volcanic landscape in the interior can be repetitive and with little interest in the sky for the first few days I had the car, I found it quite testing. With limited time this was always going to be more about research.  I did made a note of a variety of spots I’ll certainly return to. As R and R was supposed to be the primary factor on the trip I was keen to not get too irked by things that were out of my control. I could sense great potential but often the crucial ingredients I wanted would not align. Of course good images come with a lot of trial and error and  a healthy dose of patience.

First Impressions

I must admit I didn’t do a great deal of photographic research and avoided looking at other photographer’s work of the island. I did of course scan Google Maps intently and TPE (The Photographers Ephemeris) and I checked the tide tables too. The weather forecast was looking great for the sun lounger portion of the trip but sometimes those cloudless, blue skies don’t always work for landscape photographers seeking drama!

Budget flights as part of package holidays often lead to horrendously early flight times.  I usually get no sleep and arrive on my last legs. A couple of breakfast beers on the flight while catching up with the latest issues of OnLandscape and Outdoor Photography ensured I was struggling.  Although I did have a vague recollection of the island, I was at first surprised at how arid and harsh the immediate landscape appeared. Lanzarote can appear very barren in places. Give it a chance though and you will find it equally spectacular. An almost lunar landscape but with its own unique variations. As the coach wound its way south through the lava fields from the airport towards Playa Blanca, I was a little worried whether my fiancee would approve and whether I was going to find what I was looking for. I needn’t have worried.

Exploring

I spent the lion’s share of my time on the outskirts of the Timanfaya National Park and along the stretch of coast from Salinas de Janubio to El Golfo. By car you are limited to a number of small pull-ins between the two locations. There is improved car parking at the Salt Flats and El Golfo. The majority of the attractions, which do offer some great photographic interest get very busy. Working first and last light is crucial if you want the area to yourself. A head torch is a must as the paths back to the car tend to be unlit.

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On my first visit I found a wonderful natural volcanic inlet about 1km West from Janubio, where a sea arch had formed along with an interesting blowhole. The light wasn’t ideal and a reccy suggested that the best spot was a small beach uncovered at low tide about a 10-15m climb down. There were some wonderful smooth boulders that offered a great contrast to the harsh jagged volcanic walls of the inlet. I returned the next day and after a very careful climb down, worked for an hour in this captivating spot. Attempts had been made to shore up the end of the inlet with crude concrete but this had since broken away. So if you do find the same spot please exercise care if you choose to climb down. Make sure you check the tides and wear appropriate footwear. I made my way further west along the same road towards El Golfo.

El Golfo

There were some wonderful locations along this road but few stopping places. Much of the land to the west of the road is protected and to be fair looks a little perilous. Great swathes of the strata have literally crumbled and folded down the slopes of the volcanic peaks. On the other side of these peaks lies the much photographed green, sulphurous lake at El Golfo. El Golfo is incredibly popular and one of the main tourist attractions on the island. You need to be there very early or at last light to beat the crowds. This is certainly the case if you want a wider shot.

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I’d chosen to visit at low tide and I was more taken with the fantastic variations in and around the rock pools. Again there was wonderful contrast between smooth black boulders that sat alongside jagged volcanic forms. The rocks all warrant a closer look as they contain a wonderful array of fiery reds and turmeric yellows.

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The rocks are also horribly slippy. I was rushing to make it around to the beach, racing the failing light. It is not a good place to be rushing, especially laden with equipment. With time not on my side, I set up to capture some of the rock pools. I found a spot blessed with wonderful curving, leading lines out towards the ocean. I left a lot behind at El Golfo and have strong ideas for when I return.  The black sand of the beach offers wonderful contrast to the varying hues within the rocks. The striated, layers of what must be a former caldera that surrounds the lake have great potential.

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Timanfaya National Park

On the outskirts of Timanfaya National Park I found an area where the lava fields were partially covered with ash. This gave a subtle change to the landscape with the ever present volcanic peaks in the distance. The ash provided not just a textural contrast but was also home to a myriad of lichen predominantly a vibrant yellow in appearance.  Arid and unforgiving it may appear but the volcanic ash and rock are very fertile. There was some good cloud movement above the mountains but the strength of the wind put paid to any ideas I had about longer exposures.

 We eventually got to Timanfaya National Park on our second attempt. The queue was well out the gate when we first arrived in the mid afternoon. We did a u-turn assisted by a helpful attendant and the ticket office kindly gave us a refund so we could return early the next day. All attractions in Lanzarote get very busy in the holidays. You want to get there first thing or late in the day to avoid the long waits. The idea is to beat the Coach parties!  Entry was Euros 9 per adult at all island attractions. A multi-visit ticket is an affordable way to see several of them.

I didn’t know what to expect beyond the geyser demonstrations and geothermal restaurant but it transpired that the trip is undertaken via a coach. The Coach offered Spanish, German and English commentary. This gave you the background of how the Islands were formed and when the volcanic events that shaped the island took place. All of this with an eerie, desolate sounding soundtrack designed to add drama!

The landscape was stunning, the scenery offered so much potential but it was going to be challenging to capture anything through the dusty coach windows. It was fun watching an army of other tourists rushing from one side of a bus to the other firing flashes into the windows and generally looking puzzled as their image preview gave them the bad news.  It was spectacular though and there was some impressive, mildly hair raising bus driving to enjoy en route. I’d love to know if it is possible to gain access out of hours to capture the majesty of the place.

Timanfaya is worth seeing but don’t bother thinking about proper landscape photography unless you are willing to covertly slip off over a wall. Saying that, there was something about the official’s uniforms that reminded me of a Bond villain’s henchmen.

I can be a bit of a sceptic and something about the whole ‘pouring water down a tube to create a burst of steam’ just didn’t seem right. I couldn’t help but think a man and a tap were down the hole! It is however well worth seeing and a fun spectacle.

Heading North

Exploring the North of the Island we visited the wonderful coastal town of Orzola which certainly had a lot to offer. The North of the island is split north to south by a ridge of volcanic peaks. At the north of this ridge is Mirador del Rio, a viewpoint designed by Cesar Manrique  affording a wonderful view across to the Island of La Graciosa and beyond. We didn’t quite make it there, preferring to explore a little off the beaten track.

This same ridge ends dramatically just north of Orzola with a huge cliff face leading to a number of interesting sea stacks beyond a horseshoe shaped volcanic bay. The coast here is a maze of jagged volcanic spikes, reminiscent of giant termite mounds eroded by the fierce onshore winds. (Seaspray, often my nemesis, was abundant….). There is also a ferry you can take from Orzola out to the nature reserve island of La Graciosa. It is well worth a visit but I only hope that the boat we saw fighting its way out through the surf wasn’t the ferry! If it was then it would be prudent to check the weather and do a little research. Not for the faint hearted.

For those seeking seascapes this area is a must. I used the area as an opportunity to test out some new Formatt Hitech ND filters. At 165mm x 200mm the very large size of these filters makes them a trickier proposition in breezy conditions. Setting out north from the main car park takes you through passable trails towards the water’s edge. There are some wonderful fisherman’s huts built into the loose volcanic rocks. There is a real other world feel due to the looming volcanic spires all around you. There was a local ‘dancathon’ going on in the town square which we narrowly avoided getting roped into.

To the south of Orzola the coastline was beautiful with small, rugged stretches of sandy beach. A natural lagoon existed along the same stretch, that provided a lovely sheltered area for a swim and snorkel. The very same windbreaks used to protect the grape vines on the island were in evidence here to keep the sunbathers out of the wind. As it was one of the cloudier days, the wind had a bit of a bite to it so I got busy with some of my own wall building. I note that the lighter weight volcanic rock with its rough edges is very good for wall building. It was a very popular beach with local families, with many making a day of it with tents, elaborate windbreaks and BBQs. This is definitely an area I would return to. It had plenty of pull-ins for camper vans and beaches you could have entirely to yourselves.

Seeking Waves

As a part time beach bum and surfer, a trip to the surfing spots of La Santa and Caleta de Famara were a must. The dunes at the latter offered some wonderful sand patterns as the sun lowered in the sky. The high mountainous ridge that runs alongside Famara beach does have the odd lofty cave offering magnificent views back along the coast. I look forward to checking them out in the future. The queues prevented us from seeing Cesar Manrique’s Jameos del Agua to the north of Arrecife on the east coast. We did park up to explore the coastal strip there. For surfers, just a few hundred yards SE of the carpark there is what looks like a great left hand point break, breaking over a sandy bottom with long rides possible. You can get quite close to the action from the shore with a longer lens if you fancy trying your hand at surf photography. There were some great rock pools too for kids.

A lone surfer working the point break down at Jameos Del Agua

 

Rest and Relaxation

Escaping the heat usually meant heading to the water. I spent a fair amount of time snorkeling in various spots on the island and I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. Just a yard from the swimming steps on the seafront of Playa Blanca there are a huge number of fish to see. We ventured further each day and eventually decided to take some bread with us to feed the fish. Wow! There is nothing quite like being in the sea surrounded by literally hundreds of fish. I was able to put my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 through its paces, utilising the Seido Obex waterproof case. I was impressed at the results from a camera phone.

We saw a good sized Octopus and on the day we fed the fish, a Barracuda cruised past to see what all the commotion was about. Naturally the Barracuda has grown since the tale was first told. A scuba diver I met, who had just returned from the Red Sea, was genuinely surprised at how much there was to see in the waters so close to shore. He showed me images of Morays, Stingrays, Atlantic Rays and both Lemon and Guitar Sharks. Had he shown me pictures of any more menacing sharks I would have done my snorkeling in the pool. He was kind enough to explain that you are far better off diving than snorkelling. As a diver you present yourself less as prey on the bottom than you do afloat on the surface as a silhouette. Duly noted.

Take Care

Apart from the access issues the lava is slow and dangerous to navigate. A very sturdy pair of hiking boots are a must, best worn on the way out to keep weight down. Some areas are prohibited as part of protected zones and others I imagine for safety reasons. The loose volcanic ground is very sharp, it takes few prisoners and varies considerably with regards to stability. It can be both solid and quite brittle. Where the ground has been forced up there can be hidden troughs and voids.  There are some tracks into the lava fields but they are basic and not suited to the average hire car. I was definitely missing my Land Rover.  Your feet will guide you best, just make sure you take plenty of water, sunscreen and pack a good lightweight hat.

I have a ruined pair of running shoes to show for a few forays I made into the lava. I can’t stress enough the potential for injury. Take Care!

I’ll Certainly be Returning

I will definitely return to Lanzarote and I feel there is great potential throughout the island. I have some projects I’d like to further there. After a good reccy, I have a better idea of where I’d like to base myself and how to get the best out of the locations I have found. I’d also like to explore the islands nearby, notably Furteventura and La Graciosa. It is of course all about the light and if you can get things to come together then there is much to enjoy.

Fuerteventura has considerably less light pollution so is very popular with stargazers and astro photographers. Lanzarote is a wonderfully textural, rugged landscape and I think the micro landscapes and abstracts on offer are excellent[pullquote]Lanzarote is a wonderfully textural, rugged landscape and I think the ‘micro landscapes’ on offer are excellent.[/pullquote]

You need to look past the barren, lunar landscape and do some exploring. You will of course find yourself yearning for a spot of greenery, a woodland or forest after a while.  I think the variation I sought in the landscape started to come with greater familiarity. As is often the case, the more I looked, the more I began to see.

If you can arrange travel outside of the main holiday season, flights and accommodation can be quite reasonable. Even during peak season, I booked a car for a week for under £100. I’d definitely recommend Lanzarote as a destination, especially with good access to the nearer islands. With winter temperatures hovering around 18-20C you can certainly see the allure. It won’t be for everyone but if you yearn for something a little bit different, that can be coupled with a traditional beach resort holiday then I’d give Lanzarote a go.

Summary

  • Book out of season. Save money out of the peak season and avoid the crowds.
  • Pack Light. Try to keep your gear flexible.
  • Location. Opt for somewhere more central.
  • Hire Cars. Shop about and take out excess protection.  Photograph the car on collection.
  • Uneven ground. Wear appropriate footwear.
  • Snorkel. Pack your snorkeling gear and take some bread to attract the fish.
  • The Sun. Cover up with sunscreen as the wind can be deceptive. Pack a hat.
  • Beer and Wine. Very reasonably priced and plentiful.

If I can give you any advice don’t hesitate to get in touch.     Read more

Visual Impairment – The Important Lenses

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Visual Impairment – The Important Lenses

 

We take a lot for granted in life. It is not a conscious decision, it is just how we are wired. As a photographer, there were numerous times when I was frustrated by my inability to see things ‘differently’ or to find a way to interpret what I could see in front of me. At these times I failed to think about how privileged I was to see anything at all. As a photographer I’m used to manipulating light, isolating detail or choosing how I present an image. For some though, just seeing is their quest. Your most important lenses are the ones you were born with.  They are the ones that allow us to enjoy what we do. 

 

 

To see is a gift. We’ve all probably been troubled by an eye condition or injury at some stage in our lives, yet it is more often than not treated or corrected. Recently my wife was suffering from a Corneal Ulcer which was located in a dangerous position close to the centre of her eye. Doctors were concerned, hourly antibiotics and several eye-drops were taken regularly for weeks. They spoke of potential sight-loss due to scarring and it brought back to me how imperative it is we look after our eyes.

This issue was a by-product of normal safe contact lens use. How many time though have I slept in my daily disposables? How many times did they stay in my eyes for a few days at a time? How often have I worked on cars, with wood, with chainsaws etc without eye protection? It was on one such occasion last Summer that a spark or foreign body scratched my own cornea. The recovery was unpleasant, to say the least, and every throb or stabbing pain was a reminder of just what I stood to lose if I did not look after this precious commodity. 

The human eye operates from f2.1 to f8.3 in bright light, it comes with advanced autofocus, it varies in sharpness from person to person. If you damage one beyond repair, if you don’t look after it, it can’t be replaced like a cherished bit of glass.  They should be, by far, your most important lenses. 

 

 

Out on The Forest

I was out working one morning on Ashdown Forest. I was re-visiting a spot for the umpteenth time, trying to see if I would react to it differently if I could find some visual cue I had not seen before. After a while, it dawned on me that I was void of that all important, creative spark. I grew impatient at my inability to see things differently. It was ironic really, here as here I was, in a wood, doing what I love, but still, I had managed to find time to forget where I was and how fortunate I was to be doing what I was doing. 

 

 

I decided to take a break, get out my lunch early and just enjoy the tranquillity for a while. Sandwich in hand I decided to just have a wander about without the mental barrier of a camera in hand. I noticed a small group of people skirting past the wood slowly in single file. It reminded me of a line of religious brethren making their way through the countryside on a pilgrimage. I was intrigued, although on closer inspection they were leading each other as a number of the group were visually impaired. I watched on as they reached a spot and paused to relax in the warmth of the sun.  This area was clearly a delight for the senses, the bird chatter, the distant squawk of a pheasant, the occasional bleat of a sheep carried over from further away on the breeze. Yet here I was fretting over my inability to extract something visual from my surroundings. I had mixed emotions. I was relieved that this aspect of the outdoors was available to them to enjoy but I felt a pang of guilt that I perhaps was occasionally taking it for granted. 

 

 

I spoke with one of the carers for a short while and I asked about the varying degrees of sight loss among the group. There were some who were profoundly blind and others with differing levels of sight-loss. I was interested in understanding what they could make out and how severely others were affected. Were these degenerative conditions or had this been all some had known since birth? It is hard to wrap your head around what a memory would be if there was no visual cue but then most do remember the scent of freshly cut grass and its promise of longer days.

In the back of my mind, I considered how as a photographer I look to control light in many of the images I create. How I work with motion and blur to give an impression of a time and place. As the gentleman shared some of what he had learned from those he supported, I felt I wanted to understand what it was a few could see. Reaching for my camera I took a quick monochrome, de-focused image and asked if this would be how some might see the forms of the landscape around us? He suggested it was quite close to what had been described to him. 

 

 

More and more I have learnt to appreciate what lies around me.  I already take great pleasure from the outdoors, from the beauty of nature, the variations within the landscape but after that short chat, I was looking at my surroundings differently. Seeing is a privilege that we sometimes take for granted. It is a true gift, as is good health, safety, love and happiness. 

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,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=200 thumbnail_width=200 post_date=no layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly post_thumb_above_content=yes post_title_header=h5 widget_title_header=h1 phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 150,thumbnail_width => 150,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=150 thumbnail_width=150 layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=200 thumbnail_width=200 post_date=no layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly post_thumb_above_content=yes post_title_header=h6 widget_title_header=h1 phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 200,thumbnail_width => 200,post_date => no,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,post_thumb_above_content => yes,post_title_header => h5,widget_title_header => h1,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 150,thumbnail_width => 150,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=150 thumbnail_width=150 layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=200 thumbnail_width=200 post_date=no layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly post_thumb_above_content=yes post_title_header=h5 widget_title_header=h1 phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 150,thumbnail_width => 150,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=150 thumbnail_width=150 layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
” shortcode_generator_area=”&amp;#91;srp widget_title=MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=200 thumbnail_width=200 post_date=no layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly post_thumb_above_content=yes post_title_header=h6 widget_title_header=h1 style_color_post_title=black style_font_size_post_title=12 phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 200,thumbnail_width => 200,post_date => no,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,post_thumb_above_content => yes,post_title_header => h6,widget_title_header => h1,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 200,thumbnail_width => 200,post_date => no,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,post_thumb_above_content => yes,post_title_header => h5,widget_title_header => h1,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 150,thumbnail_width => 150,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=150 thumbnail_width=150 layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=200 thumbnail_width=200 post_date=no layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly post_thumb_above_content=yes post_title_header=h5 widget_title_header=h1 phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 150,thumbnail_width => 150,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=150 thumbnail_width=150 layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=200 thumbnail_width=200 post_date=no layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly post_thumb_above_content=yes post_title_header=h6 widget_title_header=h1 phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 200,thumbnail_width => 200,post_date => no,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,post_thumb_above_content => yes,post_title_header => h5,widget_title_header => h1,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 150,thumbnail_width => 150,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=150 thumbnail_width=150 layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=200 thumbnail_width=200 post_date=no layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly post_thumb_above_content=yes post_title_header=h5 widget_title_header=h1 phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
widget_title => LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE,thumbnail_height => 150,thumbnail_width => 150,layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp widget_title=LATEST MUSINGS FROM THE LANDSCAPE thumbnail_height=150 thumbnail_width=150 layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
layout_mode => single_row,post_content_mode => titleonly,phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp layout_mode=single_row post_content_mode=titleonly phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
phpcode_generator_area => <?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
,shortcode_generator_area => &amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp phpcode_generator_area=<?php
$args = array(
);
special_recent_posts( $args );
?>
shortcode_generator_area=&amp;#91;srp&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;&amp;#93;”]

[siteorigin_widget class=”Halvfem_Separator_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

Litter – Keeping Britain Tidy

  •  

     

     

     

    LITTER AND THE TRIBE WHO DON’T APPEAR TO GIVE A DAMN

     

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Litter

I’ve lived in a lot of places and I’ve seen a lot of litter. I’ve lived in both cities and I’ve been fortunate enough to live in the countryside and even by the coast. I’ve seen everything from a cigarette butt flicked from a car window through to fly-tipping in beauty spots. I’ve seen the worst of people and thankfully I’ve also seen the best. 

In our cities we are better equipped to deal with the problems of litter. We collect refuse, we promote recycling more and more and we have the ability to clean our streets. In the country collecting refuse and cleaning comes at a much higher cost and the resources are not available to every land owner. 

As a photographer I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, especially around our coast. Within landscape our litter stands out, I see it, not just because my job is to ‘see’, but because it ‘jars’, it stands out in the natural world. It is not just a visual blight but also it is often harmful to the environment and the myriad of species that live within it. 

Bring a Bag

Where possible I pack a refuse sack or two and I try to remove the easily removable and take it out with me. I do this because if I walk past it, how can I expect the next person to stop and deal with it? I do this for the simple reason that I’m in these places because I love them.  I want our natural spaces to remain ‘natural’. 

Now of course, some littering is accidental. A wrapper escapes from a pocket, a plastic bag blows from a car window. It can’t of course account for the other 75% which is just down to sheer ignorance and bloody mindedness.

In the last couple of years I’ve travelled widely and I’ve seen the problem in many different countries and for many different reasons. Sometimes it is economic factors, educational factors and occasionally social factors exacerbate the issue. 

I’ve stood ankle deep in rubbish at Greek beauty spots, I’ve snorkelled over dead ocean floors littered with plastic, paper and other assorted detritus. In the sea on Rhodes a broadsheet newspaper lay open and almost unsullied on the ocean floor as if it was a somehow a monument to a perhaps inevitable news item about the failed future of our environment. I’ve walked around medieval castles festooned with graffiti and I’ve seen ancient rock formations tagged and carved wherever the surface was accessible to the scourge of the selfish and ignorant.

Litter at Durdle Door

A few weeks back I was down on the Jurassic Coast in beautiful Dorset. Of course we took a walk down to the ‘The Door’ (Durdle Door) and headed down to the beach. The large bins at the top of the stairs seemed new and were a welcome sight. The beach was ‘busyish’ with visitors from every corner of the globe enjoying this natural wonder. With them alas had come litter. 

There are great strides to reduce the amount of plastics enterring the ocean and it was the plastic I concentrated on.  It was mostly bottles and no doubt some had washed ashore but many were new and had been simply discarded. There are no bins on the beach but why would you just drop it for someone else to have to deal with? Why? Why in such a beautiful spot such as this?

Walking as far as the tide would allow us we collected a couple of dozen bottles, I did it openly, perhaps in the hope that someone might do the same one day, somewhere else. Some of course looked on at me perplexed, like I had a screw loose. No doubt part of the problem or maybe a stirring conscience?

The Caves

It was on the return back up the beach that we skirted past the numerous caves along the cliff edge. This is where we stopped in our tracks. Of course people had congregated in the caves, they had lit fires and they had enjoyed this aspect of the coastline and the outdoors. What stopped us cold was that every cave was strewn with garbage. Literally sacks full of rubbish. Some of it even bagged and left but the rest just left to enter the environment, to blow about until entering the ocean. There was too much to carry away and we were limited by time. We took what we could carry, people watched, nobody joined in at the time. What is the thought process that allows individuals or groups to come to a such a place, a site of such natural wonder and to leave it ankle deep in rubbish? 

I would imagine the rubbish would eventually be removed, probably by the Lulworth Cove Estate who own and manage the land. Yet if you take out what you take in then there would be little to no issue. For those who love the outdoors, who cherish these spaces it is a crying shame to witness this, repeatedly. 

Who is Responsible?

We have come along way in Britain. We work hard to educate, to promote and to provide the resources to tackle littering. So where did this come from? Is it a feral underclass who just don’t care? Is it some form of vague and confused protest? Is it visitors from further afield who just don’t know any better? Is it kids? Surely it is our youth who are leading the charge on environmental matters but somewhere along the way we must have missed out a demographic.

The education must continue but we have to act individually to eradicate the problem. When we see litter that can’t or won’t be removed we need to be responsible. Do our bit if we can.  Pack a bag and on your way out try to help out. If you see people litter, don’t be shy, make sure you are polite but firm. Let them know it is unacceptable.

I’ll take a deep breath later today when I pop out to one of my favourite spots.. I’ll expect litter and I will find it, where I can, I will remove it. 

How Can You Help?

I hope more and more people will mobilise, speak up and support the various bodies that work harder to protect our environment, keep the oceans cleaner, protect wildlife and maintain our green spaces. Join a litter pick, help with a beach clean and when you can, please do your bit. Groups are springing up all over the place, groups of fantastic people who are happy to give their time as volunteers to keep their villages, towns and green spaces free from litter.

If just a few of us did a little, it will amount to a lot. 

UPDATE

March 3-5th sees the Great British Spring Clean taking place throughout Britain.

Check out groups local to you and find out how you can take part. It will be a fun day out and you can join in and make a difference. The aim is to get 500,000 people involved over the weekend. You could make a day of it and head off to one of your favourite spots and help out there. 

 

Please also check out these wonderful organisations fighting to remove litter from our environment. I’m sure there are more so please feel free to share them in the comments. 

Keep Britain Tidy

Love where you Love. Keep Britain Tidy

 

 

 

2 Minute Beach Clean

June 11th is National #2minutebeachclean Day. Find out more

 

 

Marine Conservation Society

Protecting our seas and shores

 

 

Surfers Against Sewage

An environmental charity protecting UK waves, oceans and beaches. Big Spring Beach Clean 3-9 April 2017

 

 

 

What is Landscape Photography?

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    WHAT IS LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

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What is ‘Landscape Photography’?

I was asked last week ‘What is Landscape Photography’? It was a simple question with perhaps a simpler answer but to me it is a personal thing , so the answer wasn’t all that simple. 

 

The Defenition

We’ll start with simple definitions of landscape photography.

landscape
noun

  • all the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal. e.g. “the soft colours of the Northumbrian landscape”

 
photography
noun

  •  the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.

 

What does it mean to me?

Landscape photography should mean different things to different people. It will always be that way. It is broadly the photography of the landscape in its varying forms. To the individual it very much down to how they perceive the landscape, the enjoyment they take, the emotions it fosters and how the individual relates to them and shares them. 

‘Nature’ photography’ and ‘outdoor photography’ often crossover and include ‘landscape photography’. Both of these terms tend to include ‘wildlife’ photography too. I’ve never really set out to photograph animals in the wild. If you spend enough time out in the landscape then you are bound to chance upon a myriad of wild creatures. They will usually appear when I’m setup on a tripod framing something at my feeet or in the opposite direction. When I can, I love to capture the wildlife within the landscape but it is usually a response rather than a planned activity. 

 

Landscape photography to me is ‘fluid’. I largely create what I want to, the elements that resonate with me at that time.  It is about how I connect with the environment around me. From it I gain a greater understanding and respect of the landscape. I was always a ‘Why?’ person and the details I capture prompt me to ask questions, to seek knowledge. How was this formed? What is the geological term? From what period is it?

The images rarely fall at your feet, you have to go out and explore. Often people are drawn to the sites of stunning photographs they have seen previously. It could be Durdle Door, Hadrian’s Wall, Glencoe or another calendar favourite but there is so much more out there.

Details

It is also not just the wider landscape, or vistas that appeal to me. A traditional grounding in classical landscape art will define how many see and capture the landscape. I find what lies in the pattern of a leaf, or the tones of a rock at your feet can provide a more personal and intimate picture of the landscape. The landscape to me is not just rolling fields, sweeping mountains but the study of everything within it, be it natural or ‘made’. 

gc4a9734-edit

Often my photography of the landscape is less about the sharp detail, less about the formulaic and more an expression of a moment or passage of time within the landscape. Photography is one of the few mediums where we get to control time, where we can not only harness but mould light. It can be just about colour, shape, contrasting textures and often I won’t know what I will look to create until I am out amongst it. Sometimes I won’t be receptive to what is around me or I will feel shut-off from the creative process. It is at these times more important then ever to just enjoy the moment, the freedom and what lies around you. The spark always returns. 

Personal

I want my landscape photography to be an extension of  what I see and how I feel about what I see. I shoot largely for myself, unless working to a brief for my clients, or working more from a travel perspective. When shooting for myself there is sometimes a preamble or background to what I’m looking to create. Often though it is just an immediate response to what lies in front of me. Sometimes it is about extracting something from a scene, looking to isolate or frame the aesthetics as I see them. People talk of looking to find ‘order’ among chaos. Sometimes though I look to present chaos, or to visually challenge. There are of course guidelines to creating pictures, rules, tips but sometimes you need to be playful, to tease and to go with what you want to capture.The only rule to ‘photo club’ is that there are no rules.

The only rule to ‘landscape photo club’ is that there are no rules.

Perhaps turning your camera on is the only real rule. I’m just as happy with someone not liking what I have created as I am with someone liking it. It has at least promoted a response. Although I must say I’d prefer them to like it and want it hanging on their wall.

Flux - In Green

If people take enjoyment from the images I create then that is a huge bonus. I am of course looking to share the enjoyment I have experienced.  If they understand the message, when there is one, then that is wonderful.

We should not as photographers or artists be bound by a formula but should find our own way within the landscape. Getting outside amongst nature is hugely beneficial to people’s well-being and it will engender a greater appreciation for our natural environment and our wild places. Enjoy it, explore it, look after it and remain respectful of it and within it.

Most of all take your time to enjoy and study what lies around you. Don’t just look forward, look up, look down and look behind you because there are a myriad of opportunities out there. Be creative and have fun with ‘your’ landscape photography.

What does it mean to you?

Coastal Parking – Dorset

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Coastal Parking – Dorset

 
Dorset is a beautiful county. We visit regularly, drawn mainly to the Jurassic Coast. Something that I found increasingly annoying is the greed of some landowners in our coastal locations.  You are driving along, thinking about a coffee and perhaps a bacon sarnie and you see a sign for a ‘beach cafe’, this one happened to be at Ringstead. Your interest is piqued! It is a place you don’t remember having been to. You decide to investigate but as you draw closer you see a sign saying ‘Carpark £5‘. Oh! This was an issue on two fronts. Firstly we didn’t have enough change.  All we wanted was to get is a coffee and some breakfast, not make a day of it, so adding £5 to the bill for 30 minutes to an hour seemed a little over the top. 
 
Durdle Door - Dorset

Tourists at Durdle Door

 

It is only £5

Now £5 is great value for a day’s parking at a lovely beach but when you are stopping for a quick look or a cup of coffee £5 is just plain greedy. Especially, when as a business I expect you are looking to bring customers into your ‘beach cafe’? To make matters worse the miserable owners have changed the sign to say ‘£5 Toll Road and Carpark’. Perhaps a bitter attempt to extort money from those who take the road but then decide to do a u-turn unhappy at the charge? I think I would take issue at being charged £5 to follow a track to a beach cafe.
 
How many never use the Cafe? How many would have happily paid £1 or £2 but do that u-turn?  How about a sign saying ‘Spend £10 in the Cafe and get your parking free’? It shows a total lack of foresight. The Cafe apparently isn’t very good anyway (Trip Advisor) so perhaps their intentions are to spare people the poor tea and the average cakes. Maybe it is a good deed!
 
 
 

NATIONAL TRUST NEARBY

At Ringstead there is thankfully also a National Trust carpark further up the road to the left of the first turn off. It is a long walk down to the beach but I’m happier to support the National Trust and for a coastal photographer or regular traveller in the UK the National Trust fee can be worthwhile for the free parking alone. Throw in free entry to so many wonderful properties and locations and it becomes a no-brainer. 
 
 

Busy Ringstead

 

Check out the National Trust Dorset page for all attractions and car parks.

 
 
Kimmeridge Bay, which is a lovely spot is alas also blighted by the same parking issue. Again the fee is well worth it if you plan to spend some time exploring, go for a long walk, head in for a surf, do some rock pooling, some fossil hunting but £5 to find out what lies at the end of a road is prohibitive and well a bit greedy. Naturally, it is also a nightmare to turn around should you not have the cash.
 
Perhaps in future, technology will allow these carpark owners to become a little more flexible and accommodating. They forget that they don’t own a monopoly on great coastal locations and people will inevitably vote with their feet. 
 

USEFUL RESOURCES

 
 
 

ABC Cinema Blues – Tunbridge Wells

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Loss

I always considered it a shame that Tunbridge Wells was going to lose the ABC Cinema. To be fair, I’d never been but I just prefer the vibe of smaller independent cinemas. They are enjoying somewhat of a resurgence as people baulk at the wanton wallet rape and generic offerings practised so readily in the larger out of town cinemas.

No Entry signs up on the boards at ABC Cinema

For such a long time the decaying cinema was a blot on the Tunbridge Wells landscape. Plans came and went. In reality, the site was owned by an investment company as part of their property portfolio. With land prices soaring their duty was of course to maximise their return on investment, to serve their shareholders. The principal parties interested in the site are cut from the same cloth. On go the negotiations.

 

An Opportunity

While it lay there slowly crumbling I began to wonder what the interior might look like? Years had passed and I wondered how I would go about photographing the interior. What might I find? Peeling paint? A rich carpet of dust? Light rays filtering in through the detritus. The slow decay of a once grand building? [pullquote]Ghostly hints of former splendour, like the eerie ballroom of a long sunken ocean liner.[/pullquote] It was exciting, a little scary and I knew that I’d either have to ‘trespass’ ( Good heavens…in Tunbridge Wells) or deal with more red tape than a flag waver at a North Korean military parade. Did I have the time and stomach for it?

Time Ladies and Gentlemen

Time, or should I say procrastination and indecisiveness, eventually got the better of me. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council acted to force the owners to demolish the buildings. It felt like a missed opportunity. I had wanted to preserve a little bit of local history in my own way, probably from a more abstract perspective, to seek beauty amongst the decay. Not a portrait of a derelict building, not a documentary series but to carefully pick out but a few details and preserve them, like a householder rescuing a few treasured personal possessions from the rubble of a once loved family home.

I had ‘recced’ the site, studying the exterior on a number of occasions (okay I was looking for the best way in). I was intrigued by the fact that beyond the blue shuttering, lay this once vibrant, now sadly condemned building. Coffee was drunk, I paced, attracted the suspicion of many a passerby as I set my camera up making images of seemingly nothing that caused more than the odd furrowed brow. It appears that these days if you stand still for too long you ‘worry’ people.

What lies beyond?

Then suddenly there was activity, the hardhats and hi-vis vests began to multiply, the pigeon coo was replaced by the increasing hum of jackhammers and thumping diesel engines. As the pendulous wrecking balls began to sway, the cinema, that missed opportunity and a ‘project’ that would remain unfinished, was heavy on my mind. The finality of it all was starting to feel a little like an unwelcome metaphor for other ideas that had come and duly gone in my life.

Carpe Diem

The images I did come away with were made on one of these ‘planning’ days. Very much on the outside looking in. Blue was very much the dominant colour. It remains that way. A colourful reminder to seize opportunities, to knock down doors, to not be afraid of what lies on the other side of the hoardings.

 

Looking but not seeing.

Take your time

Occasionally we find ourselves within the landscape looking for inspiration, waiting for that all important creative spark. We can find ourselves ‘looking’ but not really seeing. When this strikes  I’ll focus more on the component parts of the landscape.  [pullquote]It is almost like changing your own personal focal length.[/pullquote]It is almost like changing your own personal focal length. Sometimes you will need to  just sit and try to take it all in.  What is the point of getting wound up and frustrated when you are surrounded by such beauty? It is a bit like getting pissed off with insomnia when it comes knocking. A pointless and wholly counterproductive exercise. Take your time to enter the landscape, to get a feel for it and in time it will open up to you.

IMG_8789

 

Breathe

Just being out there, we are slowly decoding what we see around us. We get a chance to breathe. We might not take the lens cap off this time around, we may leave empty handed. I believe in these cases it is more about the intangible gains that we should focus on. What is gained from banging your head against a tree? Just a headache.

Decoding the Landscape

Heading out with a rigid creative concept can at times leave us inflexible and unable to adapt to the situation. Or occasionally to adapt to our own negative mindset. In reality, every minute spent out thinking, enables us to see the landscape around us differently. Some landscapes may not inspire a personal response and therefore we don’t truly connect. Other scenes will lead us to look more for detail, texture and tone. There is always something within every landscape. You just might not see it immediately, at that moment, in that hour or on that day. I know that what inspires me at a given time is entirely dependent on my mood.

IMG_9000

I can be as stubborn as the next man when I head out with a preconceived idea but I think I might be ‘wising’ up a little, giving myself a bit of  a break.  I’m trying to think more about how strong images can be created in a myriad of ways. A strong image naturally requires ‘good’ (useful..) light and the ‘right’ composition but I think it is also very much about mood, our passion, our reason for making the image and our ability to connect with the subject.Slapton Sands

Every photographer, every artist, every musician, or creative will at some stage face a challenge. It could be a lack of direction, a lack of creativity, it could be a lack of self belief or just a falling out of love with something you have devoted yourself too. We have all looked at images left on the ‘maybe’ pile at a later date and seen something different that now resonates with. Usually I shoot what I like, what works for me in the moment, what I feel and I hope that someone, somewhere will get a similar feeling from.

Three Colours #2We all go through phases. Some are fleeting, momentary or can last for far longer than we would wish on anyone. We will always find a way to move through these patches. It just takes patience and understanding.

Review – Seido Obex Case

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Seido Obex Waterproof Case – For Samsung Galaxy Note 3

With a trip to Lanzarote in mind, I was thinking about what I might do when I wasn’t researching locations or out creating images. I’d snorkelled in Lanzarote some 20 years earlier and thought I’d pack my mask and flippers so I could give it another go. This after I hurriedly Googled ‘shark attack’ and ‘Lanzarote’ just to make sure. I didn’t turn up any results so I thought I would do some research on waterproof housings for my Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The Seido Obex had reasonable reviews and looked like a good option.

First Impressions

 

Out of the box, first impressions were that the Seido Obex was well built. The catches closed tightly with a reassuring click but were a little stiff to operate. I usually use an S-View Premium Case so this had to be removed before fitting the Seido Obex case. The phone sat comfortably within the case. The ports were all protected by well-fitting rubber grommets. The S pen is accessible using this case but quite hard to get at without talons. It was workable but tricky. Another perhaps downside is the clear plastic screen cover which doesn’t appear to have the highest level of scratch protection or any antiglare covering.

Once snugly inside the case does add a bit of bulk to your phone. It measures 90mm wide, 165mm high and approx. 16mm deep.

Testing

Before taking any risks in the swimming pool or ocean I made sure I followed the testing procedure in the manual and tried out the case in a basin and a bucket.

Using the Seido Obex

It was great to be able to shoot 4K video while snorkelling and the quality wasn’t noticeably hampered by the addition of the case. One of the biggest issues I wasn’t aware of is that the touchscreen becomes completely inoperable underwater or even when wet! This was certainly a major drawback using the case as it meant I had to start filming before entering the water and had no control while in the ocean. Oops.

I thought long and hard about the issue and managed to get around it by buying a Key Mapping app that allowed me to assign certain functions to the Galaxy Note 3’s volume buttons and power button. I was able to set different buttons to start and end recording or picture taking so I had physical control while the touchscreen was unusable.

My second issue came when my phone rang and a client was trying to get a hold of me. ‘Where are you?’, they asked quizzically. I was puzzled as I’d told them I was heading away for a fortnight to the Canary Islands. ‘Are you in a cave?’, they asked. They then explained that there was a heavy echo and that I sounded quite distant. This it transpires is a shortcoming of the case, even with its special membrane over the microphone. I removed the case and without it, the line was perfectly clear. This appears to be a known downside of the case. It meant that the case could not stay on the whole time which was very inconvenient. Removing the case to make a phone call, defeats the object. The screen was very difficult to read in bright sunlight and to regain touchscreen use you had to wipe the screen down.

On the plus side, the case remained watertight on several trips to the pool and a number of extended snorkelling trips. I didn’t head too deep but I did duck dive down to about 2 to 2.5m. I managed to shoot some fun video and grab some shots of the various marine life. Alas, I didn’t photograph the Octopus because I was too busy frantically trying to point it out to my oblivious fiancée. The Barracuda was also elusive but this was down to my heart stopping briefly until logic dictated that a Barracuda smaller than my arm was unlikely to eat me.

4k Images from shot using the Seido Obex

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Feeling a little Rothkoesque in the Pool

 


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I did provide some feedback to Seido regarding the case and I’m sure they will take it on board and work to iron out some of the issues in future models. What the case does well is it allows you to extend the enjoyment of your phone, getting it to places where it would otherwise not usually go. With waterproofing appearing as standard on some models, I’m not sure what the future will be for these cases. The waterproof case allows you to take the phone into the water but it doesn’t float![pullquote]The waterproof case allows you to take the phone into the water but it doesn’t float! [/pullquote]I had constant ‘dropping the phone to ocean floor’ anxiety which wasn’t ideal. There is a lanyard point on the bottom left of the case which I would suggest you use. As far as I know, one is not provided with the case and Seido does not sell one. I’d suggest something with a wrist strap so you can also have your hands free in the water.

I’m not sure I could fully recommend the Seido Obex case but it definitely serves a purpose if you are aware of the downsides. You certainly would need to look after the case, as I do not see the touchscreen cover as being hard wearing enough. I think regular use would probably make it harder to view after a certain amount of light scratching and abrasion.

The case costs approx. £44.

Useful Resources

Seido Website http://www.seidioonline.com/default.asp

Pros

  • Fully waterproofed to IP68 – Constant submersion at 1m or up to 30 minutes at 2m.
  • Allows me to take my Note 3 into the pool or ocean.
  • Access to S Pen and all buttons.
  • Lightweight.
  • Good protection and not too bulky.
  • Lanyard point.

Cons

  • Poor Sound Quality for Calls (Seido suggest a Noise Reduction fix for this but I have not yet tried it).
  • S Pen can be tricky to gain access to.
  • It doesn’t float!
  • The touchscreen doesn’t function or barely functions under water or when wet. (I will re-test this in freshwater).
  • Screen visibility not so good in bright light.
  • No lanyard supplied.

 

 

High Rocks - Mono II
High Rocks - Mono II

Photographing High Rocks

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Visiting High Rocks

I have driven past High Rocks on a number of occasions but oddly I had never ventured in. I’ve had a drink across the road and expected to climb there at some stage until an injury put paid to that.  For some reason I wasn’t thinking about the potential it might offer a Landscape Photographer. High Rocks is, after all, a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ and replete with wonderful formations, tones and textures of peri-glacial sandstone.

photocrati gallery

 

First Impressions

I had mixed feelings when I first explored the site. Perhaps the same mixed feelings I have when I see ‘captive’ wildlife photography. Shooting a lion in a cage to me lacks that special feeling of shooting in the wild. That said, these small wonders of mother nature should not be dismissed because they sit behind fences and a turnstile. They are well worth the small entrance fee.

I didn’t really know what to expect as I had chosen to limit my research. I often do this when visiting a location for the first time. I prefer not to have my expectations skewed and like to approach an area as a fresh canvas without pre-conceived ideas of how it has been photographed. This is not to say that most of the best photographers don’t, in their careers, tick off well-photographed scenes. For me, it is about creating an image that captures my feelings towards the scene.

photocrati gallery

I was actually gobsmacked when I first entered. This was here, all this time and I hadn’t seen it. Here in front of me were these giant looming sandstone structures. I use ‘giant’ sparingly but within our local landscapes, their scale and variation to the norm are quite striking. Again this is not a purely wild landscape and  I did attempt to limit the images I made to the more natural characteristics of the site, choosing to limit the ‘landscaping’ and more man-made elements.

photocrati gallery

Another ‘human’ downside found sadly at most sites is the wanton vandalism caused over decades, by visitors thinking it clever to carve their names in the soft rock faces. It is such a shame that such a wonderful natural resource is blighted in this way. Is it some peculiar throwback to prehistoric cave painting? Naturally, people evolve at different speeds and perhaps these peri-glacial formations uncover some subconscious desire to mark one’s territory? Needless to say, it is something I have seen the World Over. Humans needing to make sure others no they have passed by.

What you will definitely enjoy is the scale and variety of the site. I personally loved the way that trees, some perhaps introduced and others wild, were almost interwoven with the Ardingly Sandstone formations.  In places, the trees shape the rock and alternatively, the trees have yielded to the sandstone. The tension cracks formed between some of the giant stones are big enough to enter and walk through. High Rocks is one of the only sites in the UK where this geological phenomenon is visible. The variety of tones and textures in the rock faces are a joy to behold. The ability to traverse the top of the stones via aerial bridges may not be for the faint-hearted but is a lot of fun and affords you a very different perspective. I look forward to taking my trusty ‘assistant’ who is not one for heights. 😉 EDIT. I did take her and we had a number of refusals 🙂

I was also lucky enough to have the site pretty much to myself, bar a few squirrels, rabbits and a pair of deer. It is a wonderfully quiet and contemplative place.

When I returned from High Rocks and started to do more real research I learned of various sites that had similar sandstone outcrops, all minutes from my doorstep. They all form part of the wider ‘Wealden Group’ (see the resources at the bottom and especially the wonderful Sussex Geo Diversity Partnership site).I’ve decided to visit each one in turn and look to see what they offer ‘photographically’.

Creating Images

Photographing High Rocks I preferred to focus on presenting the Rocks as a wilder or more natural environment. As ever I was interested not just in the wider landscape but the components within the landscape. It was about the texture, the tones and the contrasts between them. I also wanted to keep the images I created quite timeless. The Sandstone offers up so much subtlety in colour and texture. The balance between the stones and the trees competing for water and light is a key feature of many of the images. Of course, the site comes alive in Autumn with added colour and the new textures of leaf fall. There are some nice wider vistas from atop the Rocks and it pays to get there early on a calmer day to concentrate on achieving sharper images using a decent tripod. It is wise to walk about and absorb the location, its features before deciding what aspect you would like to capture. The longer you spend the more you will naturally see and your approach will change.

My next port of call will be Eridge Rocks.

Useful Resources

Map https://goo.gl/maps/d3kLn

High Rocks is located on High Rocks Lane (just off Fairview Lane), TN3 9JJ. It is just a 5-minute drive from either the A26 or the A264.

High Rocks http://www.highrocks.co.uk/

The site features a restaurant, bar and is a popular Wedding Venue. Car parking is provided free of charge to patrons. The entrance to the rocks is located across from the main building. Tickets can be purchased from the Bar downstairs. Adult Tickets are £3 to enter the Rocks and climbers or boulderers pay £10.

High Rocks Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Rocks