I’m finding, with my landscape photography, that I’m increasingly drawn to a minimalist approach. Sometimes to the point of abstraction. It’s not necessarily about simplicity. Some images can be very busy. It’s more about honing in on one thing. Landscape photography is not just about the grand vistas and dramatic scenery. That has its place, for sure. But if you have a dramatic scene in front of you, then getting a dramatic picture takes very little skill or effort. What […]
The title of this post might sound like an expensive new shade of paint from Farrow & Ball. What it’s actually about is finding beauty in even the apparently dullest light. It’s hardly a surprise to be met with overcast skies in Brittany in November. But there is a richness in that light, too. Ignore those people who tell you that landscape photography is all about shooting during ‘Golden Hour’. Flat, grey light has a stillness that can be, at […]
Autumn isn’t just about brown leaves. I think the yellow in this shot is blackthorn. The rest is heather, bracken, ivy and more. This was taken on the Côte d’Armor in Brittany, not far from Paimpol. And slightly further along the coast was this cliff. There’s a lot of green in there, for Autumn. By the way, this post marks a new direction for the blog – using it more like a notebook or sketchbook. So expect to find images […]
There are times when you want to trip the shutter of your camera with as little trauma as possible. When using long exposure times, long lenses or shooting close-ups with macro lenses, for example, pressing the shutter button can introduce vibration that might degrade the image quality, or even ruin it altogether. The easiest way of avoiding this issue is with the humble cable release. This screws into a threaded hole in the shutter button and provides a plunger you […]
This island is a strange place. It hugs the base of cliffs on the Crozon peninsula in Finistère, Brittany. This particular part of the Crozon is a narrow finger of land pointing to nearby Brest. And the proximity of that port town is significant. Brest has been strategically important to France for centuries. And this explains why the Crozon peninsula, which overlooks the approaches to the port, is heavily militarised. It is littered with fortifications, most dating from the 19th […]
On occasion, a camera captures a little too much. Its ability to freeze time creates detail of a somewhat arbitrary nature – waves stilled at the moment of breaking, for example, or the leaves of trees being blown by the wind rendered with exquisite precision that doesn’t necessarily match the mood of the scene or the emotion you’re trying to convey. The technique of using long exposure times to allow moving subjects to blur has a long pedigree in the […]
This is a shot taken on a recent trip to Brittany. I’m pleased with it – which is just as well because it took me nine years to get it. These are the remains of a pier or jetty sticking out into the Rade de Brest – the confluence of several rivers where they meet the Atlantic. It’s shot from the shore of the Crozon peninsula, a beautifully rugged part of Finistère. I was attracted to these pillars because of […]
At last, my new book is here. Finistère Insolite (Exceptional Finistère) is a collection of 133 images across 100 pages exploring the wildness, vastness and serenity of, for me, Brittany’s most spectacular department. The photographs were shot over the course of the past few years, with all of the visits having been made during Autumn – a time when Brittany is relatively empty of people and even more ruggedly beautiful. Publishing this book was an educational experience. Having spent my whole […]
There’s something about poplar plantations that appeals to me. It has to do, I think, with their monumental appearance. I took these pictures on a bike ride we took down to towpath of the Mayenne river, which snakes down through the department of the same name in the Pays de la Loire region of France. The towpath has been converted into a voie verte (greenway) for walkers and cyclists. You can read more about the ride and the river on our […]
I wasn’t expecting to get anything on this trip. Trish & I went out for the day just to explore. An hour down the road is an area known as the Suisse Normande, a hilly part of Normandy on the Orne/Calvados border that is cut into rocky ravines by a number of rivers. One of those rivers is the Rouvre and I’ve decided that I want to use it as the basis for a photography project (about which I’ll be […]
Having put a roll of film through my much-loved Canon FTb, it was time to drag out another old classic, the Nikon F3. I still think of this as one of the best cameras I’ve ever owned. I converted to Nikon in 1985 (and if that sounds like a religious experience, well it was), after having been an Olympus OM-2 aficionado for many years. But then all my Olympus gear was stolen in New York and it was time to […]
It would grieve me to find that someone has mistaken me for a hipster. But I realise I’m running that risk writing this post. Because, you see, I’m shooting on film again. Not much. Just the odd roll now and then. I can handle it. This is not about nostalgia. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? This is entirely about nostalgia. I’m at an age where I’m entitled to gaze back at that ‘foreign country’ that is the past […]
Pushkin adopted us a few months ago. Although we already had two cats and a dog, he simply knocked at the door, walked in and asked to see his room. According to the vet, he’s about four years old and neutered, so was obviously someone’s pet. We tried hard to find out whose but ultimately came to the conclusion he’d been dumped. Why, I don’t know. He’s a sweet, mild-mannered soul. He avoids fights and tries to gets on with […]
It was a weird June. First cold. Then torrential rain. Then blazing heat. And now, as we slide into July, blazing heat with torrential rain. The other night we had a thunderstorm the likes of which I’ve never experienced outside of the tropics. It wasn’t the thunder and lightning so much, although there was plenty of both. It was the rain. It felt like the house was underwater. By the time I came to give the dog his last walk […]
May was beautiful. But then June rumbled in, grey and grumpy. Temperatures barely made it to 20ºC, and that was on the good days. So the moment the sun peeked out, Trish and I knew we had to get on our bikes. Cycling is such a great way to see the landscape. You can cover more ground than you would walking, but you’re still fully immersed in the environment, in a way you never are in a car. And when […]
Back in the days when I used to participate in forums on RedBubble (hint: don’t bother) there were two phrases that cropped up a lot and that I came to loathe – ‘nice capture’ and ‘great bokeh’. Now, I’m not suggesting that the use of these phrases with no attempt to mitigate them through irony should be grounds for instant execution. That’s for other people to decide. And I might even concede that the term ‘bokeh’, referring to how out-of-focus […]
Sometimes you have an idea for an image in your head. But when your subject matter is the landscape, nature doesn’t always cooperate.
I’m generally not all that interested in plastering my photographs on mugs, bags and other merchandise. At the risk of sounding pompous, my work means too much to me to subject it to that kind of treatment. But then… there are some images that actually cry out to be shared in this way. Maybe this is where art and craft diverge. Take this one, for instance. This is our sprollie Cézanne. (A sprollie is a springer spaniel crossed with a […]
I’m pleased to say that two of my pictures are now on display at La Toque aux Vins, a very fine restaurant on the outskirts of Avranches, Normandy. One of the images – of riders at Le Bec d’Andaine with a view of Mont St Michel (above) – is now hanging in the reception area. The other, of a poplar wood near the village of St Cyr, is in the main dining room. Both images have connections with the restaurant. […]
Having bought a new tripod, I needed something to put on top of it.
Today is the 178th birthday of photography. Give or take. On 19 August 1839, scientist and politician François Arago made an announcement to a joint meeting of the Académie des Sciences and the Académie des Bueaux Arts at the Institut de France. It concerned a process recently bought by the state from showman Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre and inevitably dubbed the Daguerrotype (or Daguerrotypie in French). This was the first official recognition of the invention of photography, and it created a sensation, […]
You generally want two things from a tripod – you want it to hold the camera rock-steady and you want it to be light enough to carry around. Pick one.
This is something you don’t see every day – your neighbour’s field on fire. Although it turns out that this is more common than you’d think.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about having an exhibition (L’Esprit Insolite) has been watching people’s reactions to my pictures and getting feedback. I touched on this before, when the show had run its first week. Now it’s over and it’s time to take stock. It’s certainly been quite an educational experience.
Sometimes boredom is a useful thing. It makes you start looking around, searching for some stimulation.
At the vernissage of my exhibition with sculptor Sue Riley, L’Esprit Insolite, I was momentarily left speechless by an unexpected request.
Putting on an exhibition can be a daunting undertaking. You can feel exposed in more ways than one. And with L’Esprit Insolite, my joint show with sculptor Sue Riley, there’s no getting away from people’s reactions to the work.
L’Esprit Insolite, at the Casino de Bagnoles de l’Orne, is the first exhibition I’ve done in decades, and the first where I’ve had to mount the pictures myself since my graduate show. The secret to making it all go smoothly? Make sure you have the help of some strong women.
Will photographers be replaced by robots one day? It’s not as fanciful as you might think. In fact, it has already happened in some small ways.
A while back I wrote about how it all started for me. And I said that the first proper camera I owned was the Canon FTb. Which is true.
This is a continuation of yesterday’s post because this image was shot on the same foggy morning. Having shot a number of photographs of a very bare and simply landscape, I turned my attention to the trees lining one of the several rivers that feed into this estuary. One of my reasons for this is that this is a scene not entirely devoid of mankind’s presence. If you squint very hard you’ll see some boats moored at the river’s opening. […]
Sometimes you look out of the window, see the weather and think, ‘there has to be a picture waiting for me’. That’s what happened here.
We stopped here just to give the dog a run. We’d been out exploring the Finistère coast all day and, with the light fading, had decided to head back to the gîte. But our old dog Zola needed to stretch his legs. We threw the ball for him a few hundred times (so it seemed), and just as we were all feeling tired and eager to get back in the car, nature decided to put on a show. Now I […]
Of all the images in the exhibition, L’Esprit Insolite, this has the simplest story. And it’s another of those ‘always carry a camera’ moments. It was a beautiful day in September. We drove to the nearby town of St-Fraimbault, mainly to walk the dog around the lake (he does so love to go for a swim), and also to take a look at the damage wrought by recent storms. Our bit of Normandy had taken something of a battering. I […]
Le Bec d’Andaine is strange, as beaches go. It’s at the base of the Cotentin peninsula, on the west coast of the Normandy department of the Manche. It has a fine view of Mont St Michel. And the beach is wide and spacious. Very wide. Maybe too wide. In fact, in the many times we’ve visited the Bec d’Andaine we’ve rarely had a proper glimpse of the sea. This is La Baie du Mont St Michel and it has some […]
They say that familiarity breeds contempt. It can also make you blind to what’s right on your doorstep. This is also a lesson about always making time to grab that photograph. It was early in the morning. I had the car loaded with filmmaking gear and was on my way to start work on the first day of shooting a short film, Cigarette. Making films, even amateur ones like ours, is a complex and exhausting endeavour, so my mind was […]
This is an example of why you should always carry a camera. We were on holiday in Brittany. In the late autumn we like to get to the coast for a week. Most often we head for Finistère, but this time we decided to stay closer to home. Our dog Zola was old and wouldn’t have liked the long haul to the west coast. But that was okay because the Côtes d’Armor is another of our favourite areas of Brittany. […]
A significant proportion of my landscape work is about the traces that mankind leaves in the environment – or, as I call it, the Layered Land. Some of the signs are obvious, others less so.
We didn’t get much in the way of snow this past winter but we did get the hardest frost I’ve ever seen. I first wrote about this back in January, when it happened. The weather had been bitingly cold for a few days. Each night, when I took the dog for his final walk of the day, I’d see a strange glittering effect as the torch beam caught the frost forming on every leaf and blade of grass. I kept […]
Sometimes, when you’re looking for one thing you find another. This was quite a magical day. We were at La Pointe de la Torche, a small headland poking out into the sea at the southern end of the Plage de Tronoan in Finistère, Brittany.
I’ve passed this bit of woodland many times, but rarely without photographing it. It stands beside the voie verte (greenway) that runs for 70-plus kilometres from the Normandy town of Domfront to Mont St Michel.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be exhibiting my landscape photographs in July/August. There are full details on the exhibition page.
Looking to beautify your home or workplace? Now you can. I’ve selected some of my favourite photographs and am making them available as large, limited edition prints.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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. […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]