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15 Apr 2017

A breath of life

Ah, spring. The landscape starts coming back to life.

27 Feb 2017

Old-school exposures

Exposure is an art unto itself. Contrary to what the computer built into your modern digital camera might be telling you, there is no one ‘perfect’ or ‘correct’ exposure for any given shot. Choices made about exposure are as much a part of the creative decision-making as framing, lens selection and so on.

19 Feb 2017

Spring light

It’s only February, but as so often happens in this part of the world, we’ve been treated to a taste of what’s to come – spring. We still have the vicissitudes of March to survive. Yet pretty much every year, February treats us to a couple of weeks of mild, dry and – above all – bright weather. The birds are always fooled: they’re tweeting away like demented presidents. It inspires a sense of optimism and wellbeing. And you know […]

15 Feb 2017

Riding the landscape

As a photographer, there are many ways to travel in your search for images. A car allows you to cover distance quickly, presenting the maximum number of new opportunities in a limited time. But it somehow separates you from the world. And concentrating on the driving means you often miss things. Walking immerses you in the environment. You see details you wouldn’t notice when driving. And you can go truly off-road. But I’ve never been much of a hiker, and […]

02 Jan 2017

The big chill

We’d started to convince ourselves we were in for another mild winter. Maybe it’s wishful thinking: life in a 16th-century house is easier when it’s not bone-chillingly cold. The last couple of days of 2016 disabused of that notion. Two days of exceptionally hard frosts turned the landscape into something resembling one of my recurring dreams. I’ll spare you the gory details of that… You don’t normally see a landscape this white without a fall of snow. Bizarrely – and […]

20 Dec 2016

Review: Black Rapid Hybrid Breathe camera strap

This is the third Black Rapid strap I’ve bought – not because I break them or wear them out but because they suit the way I work so well. A little background first. There was a time when I thought nothing of hanging two SLRs fitted with motordrives (yes, that long ago) and heavy, fast lenses around my neck. Then, a few years ago, I started to realise that I couldn’t even wear one reasonably lightweight DSLR this way. Arthritis […]

19 Dec 2016

A short walk on a foggy day

Some days there are just no shadow tones to be had. While I usually strive to get a full tonal range in my photographs, without excessive clipping, occasionally nature has other ideas and you’re forced into trying something different. We often walk and cycle a local voie verte, a former railway line that has been converted into a greenway for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. While yesterday’s walk was mostly about exercising the dog (being part springer, part border collie, if […]

17 Dec 2016

Review: Sony RX10 III bridge camera

I’ve always been an SLR guy, to be honest. While I’ve had moments of lust for a Leica, and also love my Fuji X-100, the big bulky system camera is the tool of the real photographer. Or so I thought until recently… Bridge cameras seem like an uneasy compromise. You have the general form factor of a DSLR, although lighter and smaller. But they’re not as portable as a genuine compact. And they still make you stare at a screen to […]

16 Dec 2016

Real-world reviews

We photographers are picky about our equipment. Photography is a technical art and the equipment you use has a significant impact on the work you produce. It’s all about having the right tool for the job. And so one regular feature on this blog will be reviews of the gear I use. You won’t find any benchmarks or benchtests in these posts. There’ll be no lens test charts or resolution figures. The reviews will be my personal responses to the gear […]

27 Nov 2016

The ever-beautiful sea

The sea is captivating no matter what the season or weather. Which is just as well when you’re in Brittany in November. We saw the sea in all her moods during a week spent in Finistère, just outside Audierne. Those moods ranged from brooding skies over dark, heavy water, through raging waves crashing on the beach, to a dazzling placidity. The range of colours was impressive. Of course, there was every shade of grey. But also subtle hues of greens […]

21 Nov 2016

One place, many moods

Returning to a place that has previously impressed or moved you can be disappointing. What is held in your memory as a marvellous discovery can seem, on a second look, mundane. But that wasn’t the case with La Plage de Tronoan. We discovered this beach on a previous trip to Finistère. This November we returned, in part to revisit places we knew to be beautiful, but also as a way of saying a final farewell to our old dog Zola. […]

05 Nov 2016

Slow photography

I’ve never found the Lomography movement all that appealing,  mainly because of my hipster allergy. Yet I am re-discovering the joy of imperfect images. It’s so easy to be too precious about image quality – something that digital imaging encourages. There’s merit in rough edges and lack of control sometimes. This is a picture I snapped today on my (secondhand) iPhone 5. I was in the car park at Lidl and saw this dog behind the wheel of a car. […]

04 Nov 2016

Incidental monuments

Photography has the power to confer significance on objects and scenes, as I discussed in a recent post. And this characteristic is something I’m exploring in a sub-project of The Layered Land called Incidental Monuments. These pictures take modern objects and treat them as though they are ritual spaces, ancient monuments or perhaps accidental artworks. The picture above, for example, is a platform built to give tourists a spectacular view of the scenery of La Pointe du Raz in Finistère. […]

02 Nov 2016

Irresistible colours

There’s something both corny and irresistible about Autumn. The yellows and oranges of Autumn are an easy win for photographers. It’s as though we’re programmed to find these hues attractive. It’s like Golden Hour – a scene we would find mundane at any other time is rendered seductive by a touch of gold. And so Autumn photos easily slip into cliché. That said, who am I to resist? Trish & I took the dog to the local park the other […]

31 Oct 2016

Sacred Golf

In some woodland, near where I live, there are strange designs marked on the ground. In Autumn and Winter they are barely visible under the fallen leaves. Yet if you look hard enough you can still trace their outlines. In some places, tiny ziggurats climb above the shapes. And every one of these weird formations has a hole dug into the ground, placed in such a way that it cannot be by accident. Are these the remnants of a long-lost […]

29 Oct 2016

The unnatural landscape

What do you find acceptable in a landscape? It’s a somewhat strange question, I know, But not everyone comes up with the same answer. So let me tell you a story. Many years ago, we were spending our Christmas in Cornwall. It was our habit to book a National Trust (NT) cottage as a refuge from that otherwise family-infested time of year. On this occasion we were staying in a cottage by the side of the Loe Pool, a freshwater […]

01 Oct 2016

How it all started

This is the camera that started it all for me. The Zenit B, a Russian-made SLR built like a T-34 tank. Or not quite. The first camera that belonged to me was a Kodak Instamatic my father bought me just before I headed off to France on a school exchange trip. And the first camera I ever used to take ‘serious’ photos – something more than a snap – was my father’s Halina 35X. In fact, technically speaking, the Zenit […]

10 Feb 2016

Ritual spaces

If, like me, you’re a fan of Time Team, you’ll have witnessed archaeologists in the act of looking at a collection of stones or smudges in the earth marking post holes and saying something like, “This may have been a place where they performed their rituals.” And again, if you’re like me, there’s a small part of your brain shouting, “How do they know that? They’re making this up.” But there is way, somehow, that you can tell if a place […]

10 Feb 2016

Pointe de la Torche

The Plage de Tronoan, in the Bay of Audierne, Finistère, is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. It runs unbroken for something like 26km. It’s wide and gently shelving, but with waves big enough to attract surfers. On the day we were there, in November, the low light caught the wet sand and turned it into a gigantic mirror. At the southern end of the beach is the Pointe de la Torche, a small, rocky headland that […]

09 Feb 2016

Atlantic Wall

The French coastline is ringed with the relics of war. It’s staggering to contemplate the resources the German military put into building the concrete defences that became the Atlantic Wall. There’s barely a beach in Brittany that doesn’t have some lump of concrete slowly crumbling away. Some have been repurposed – we once found a large emplacement being used as a kayaking centre. But most are abandoned and decaying. These remains are the subject of my Dust & Shadow project. […]

08 Feb 2016

Mysterious shapes

These mounds appeared one day in a neighbour’s field. They were just piled-up earth that he left so long that grass grew on them. They reminded me of bronze-age tumuli. Because what is a tumulus other than a mound of earth? Well, yes, tumuli were also graves, but what I’m saying is that there’s nothing special in their structure or formation. There’s nothing mysterious or magical in their physical nature. The significance we ascribe to them (and I assume this […]

07 Feb 2016

Phantom tracks

I love tracks. They have a magnetic pull. You feel you are being led to something. And the more obscure that something is, the better. Some time ago, Trish & I discovered Normandy’s greenways. The voies vertes are mostly former railway lines that have been refurbished for pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and other forms of locomotion that don’t require engines. Much of our cycling is on these greenways, and we’re writing about that over on Bocage Biking. There are long stretches of […]

03 Oct 2015

The enchanted wood

There’s a particular piece of woodland I find myself drawn to time and again. It’s a plantation of poplars alongside a former railway track, now a voie verte – a greenway used by walkers and cyclists. We often cycle or walk the dogs there (and sometimes both). The trees were probably planted to soak up moisture from what otherwise would be a boggy field. A small stream meanders through it. Thanks to the trees, it’s dry enough for cattle to […]