Photo of the Week 29 March 2021
The flatlands south of York, a key part of Elmet, are not totally flat. Sandstone hills still exist to the west of Selby, rising from the plain. Brayton Barff and Hambleton Hough are the two most notable examples. There is a nice creation myth that two witches, one in Hambleton and one in Bayton were feuding. They started to throw mud at each other, carried on and built the two hills as a result. Brayton is the bigger with a covered reservoir on its 55 metre summit. Hambleton is slightly lower and considerably smaller but offers better views across the plain. For many years the Hough was mainly covered in pine and larch and was a good place to see Siskins during the winter months. Part of the Hough has now been leased by Selby Council to the Wildlife Habitat Protection Trust for 99 years, in 2015 the Trust started a forest management scheme which resulted in the majority of the trees being felled. The felled trees will be replaced with a variety of native species to increase the diversity of the area. The denuded hill is a dramatic place which will in time revert to gentle woodland. I was intrigued as to how to pronounce hough, and got a clear response - "hoff" it is.
Photo of the Week 22 March 2021
Willows Reaching for the Light
Willow is a highly productive in terms of biomass and is grown for such purpose extensively in the US. So views such as this could become common.
Photo of the Week 15 March 2021
Beneath Leeds Station
Leeds has long outgrown Elmet, but this shot shows a great example of an Elmetic landscape. Above me were Leeds station platforms and track, built directly over the river Aire that is funnelled via these magnificent Victorian brickwork culverts to remerge and head to the sea. The force of water is strong, its roar echoing around the tunnels. In the midshot there is a typical modern glass and steel walkway to a new station entrance and a roadway that connects all this to a new retail area around the revitalised Leeds and Liverpool Canal basin. The remains of Leeds Central station lurk still further in the dark depths. So here are layers of history stacked on top of each other in a still functional mish-mash.
Photo of the Week 8 March 2021
Photo of the Week 1 March 2021
Skipwith Common is representative of what a lowland heath would have looked like before the Vale of York was subject to intensive agriculture. Together with Strensall and Allerthorpe Commons Skipwith is all that is now left. There is evidence of Bronze Age activity, then peat was extracted from the common in the middle ages. It was an RAF airfield from 1942 to 1957 (RAF Riccall) with lots of evidence of that activity. After the Air Force departed the common became overgrown with birch as it was not being actively managed. Swaledale sheep were introduced in 1983, which proved beneficial for keeping the scrub in check, but they were heavy-footed and so were replaced in 1986 with light-footed Hebridean sheep which caused less damage. The site is also grazed by English Longhorn cattle, as seen in this shot, and Exmoor ponies. It is now a 580 acre National Nature Reserve that Natural England describe as having "international importance for its wet and dry heathland."
Photo of the Week 22 Feb 2021
Hook Moor Windmills - taken in 2017
The irrational opposition to wind turbines seems to be pretty weak in Elmet, with a number of wind farms adding to the beauty and interest of the area. Hook Moor is open access land at Aberford that has now taken on a bit of the look of the Castile plain in Spain.
Forestry Workers - Montenegro
Taken in 1984 on The Walk from Greece to Spain. I had left Pec in Kosovo and headed into the mountains that form the border with Montenegro. As this was all still Yugoslavia at the time there was no border. But if felt different. The first people I met in Montenegro were these forestry workers up in the mountains for a month in a hut; one of the workers was a woman which was unusual. They were very welcoming, shared food with us and were happy to be photographed. I had a tiny Olympus camera - no flash - so used available light which fell beautifully on the woman's face. After lunch one of them walked down the mountain to show me the path leading to the village far far below.
Bamboo Eye - Venice
Taken in 2014
It was hot in August in Venice. A trip to the architecture biennale in the cool and empty park seemed a good idea. It was. The Finnish pavilion included this bamboo tent with an open top. It was very calming to rest in the tent. I looked up and took this shot.
Victoria Arch - Leeds
Taken in 2020
Deep in the woods of Headingley lies this unexpected folly. The exact truth is unknown but the tale most told is that when Queen Victoria was due to visit Leeds and Headingley in 1858 local rich banker William Beckett built this Arch to entice her to his estate. She didn't go. But the arch lives on. I love the incongruity of the location and was glad to get this strange light when I visited post-lockdown
Woman - Covent Garden
Taken in 1983
Some drummers from Burundi were playing outside at Covent Garden in London. At the time it was a happening sound and a bit of an event. So the plaza was packed and it was hard to see anything. This woman was getting a better view; there was something about her hand on the stone that caught my eye, as though she was crawling up and escaping from the throng. Over the years it has got a lot of reaction.
Woman with Grandfather
Taken in Montenegro in 1984
From my walk across Europe. I had just come down from the planina summer grazing lands, where I had stayed with some shepherds. Back in the valley a family invited me in for a drink and a chat. The young woman in the photograph had taken the unusual step of having her hair cut short. Her husband was up on the planina for a week and would be returning home later that evening. She was a little anxious about how the change would go down. Her grandfather reassured her; and wanted to be with her for this photograph. In 1984 there were no cameras around in these parts, so I would first ask if I could photograph people. They would almost always assent, and often ask for me to send them a copy when I could. I was more than happy to do this.
Taken in 2019 at the Barbican Estate, London
I love the way waters can vary so much in texture and state. When two different waters are side by side then the contrast can make for a good image.
I also love the casual geometry that a photo can create. Height and angle can give geometrical form to the most unlikely places.
Taken in 2019 at the Findhorn Community in north east Scotland. One of the good things about running this Photo a Week slot is that I can show photos I would not normally exhibit, but which I like people to see. This is one of those shots; ostensibly a pretty normal shot of a coastline, the multi-coloured lumps of heather gave the image an ambiguity of scale, distance and colour.
Taken in 2016 on Fuerteventura. The path is made of rocks of lava collected from the surrounding volcano side. The order given to the path is all that separates it from the surrounding slope, the rocks are the same.
By shooting from a low angle, the height, depth, perspective and slope become confused. A confusion that is enhanced by the uniformity of substance; the image can appear to be almost flat, or alternatively very steep.
Lake Vyrnwy 2008
June 8th 2020
Taken in mid Wales. I was sat in a hotel bar looking at the lovely lake: nothing particularly special. Then the sky changed, a storm loomed, the sun cast this light. The lovely lake had become Bluebeard's castle in my mind.
Storm at Denia 2016
June 1st 2020
Taken on the Costa Blanca in Spain. This shot was a bit normal for me, but I liked the looming doom in the sky, and the sense of movement, with the palms swaying and the waves crashing. It has proved really popular too.
Trees. Interlaken. 1981
23 November 2018
I was hitching through Europe in March, plenty of new images to capture. In Switzerland it was still winter and I loved the way the pollarded trees were etched against the snow with the three figures just right. This was another shot taken on my tiny 110 camera.
Harrow Road. London 1980
15 November 2018
This was the first photo I had published. I was across the street near the Westway, saw this old man about to start his delivery of milk with his bike. For the first 25 of its existence the shot was a hard-to-believe reminder of a world long gone. Since then the resurgence of delivery bicycles and delivery trailers has made it seem less bizarre, almost a normal part of central London life. Cupcakes instead of milk, hipster instead of old bloke, but essentially the same.
I used a tiny, much derided 110 camera for this shot.
A pool in the Rainforest. New South Wales
October 4th 2018
I often try to take context out of a shot, leaving features recognisable [water, ferns tree trunks etc] but making their relationship to each other unclear [achieved here by light reflected in water].
This shot was in a small piece of rainforest off the Sydney to Melbourne coastal highway. I am not sure how good a shot it is. Sometimes time to get to know the image, coupled with feedback from viewers will help me decide.
Sydney Opera House, Australia
September 20th 2018
Getting a shot of a world famous location that is not stale is not easy. I liked the arrangement of strangers in this shot, the brooding sky helped, and I just wanted a piece of the Opera House roof to give the context.
September 13th 2018
This shot was taken from Yarra Bends, an elevated area above the Yarra river. I saw the house in the foreground, the city in the background and the strange light. It was one of those shots that can look potentially great, then disappoint once looked at on the screen. If anything the light came through even better once I looked at the image. It really is very strange, hyper-real yet totally undoctored. Just one of those lucky shots.
August 16th 2018
The Road to Newthorpe
I continue to photograph the badlands, trying to capture what Elmet is to me. This lane seemed amazingly atmospheric to me, especially as it is such a non-dramatic landscape. That is the whole essence of the place, an intangible feel.
The road goes from Sherburn to a dead end and then some footpaths that get submerged in woodland. The brooding sky helps to depict what is so hard to describe.
August 13th 2018
Clissold Park. Hackney. London 1981
Taken at the Funk The Royal Wedding gig which was an alternative celebration. Always on the look out for a good angle and a different perspective.
July 12th 2018
Needle Eye Forest - North York Moors
Taken lying down on the quiet, dry forest floor looking up to the sky through the thick pine forest. The aim is to de-contextualise the shot so that it can be seen as an image abstracted from the familiar landscape, a pattern rather than a literal representation.
July 5th 2018
The Woods at Swin Dale - Yorkshire Wolds
Step aside from the open dry valley of Swin Dale and this strange thicket will engulf you. It feels a mystical place. Only a recent plantation but such a contrast to the bare grass slopes and scrub of much of the Wolds.
I have not been back since taking this shot; part of me imagines that it will not be easy to find. I like the idea of places that cannot be found again.
June 7th 2018
Worm Dale - Yorkshire Wolds
Another shot that will be on display at my Wolds show that opens in one weeks time at Pocklington Arts Centre.
Another technique that I have used in the Wolds is to shoot from down in the valley up to the edge of the Wold above. This allows hedges and trees to assume a dramatic sense of overlooking the land below. A sketchy hawthorne hedge can take on a Birnam Wood feel, trees can appear as sentinels guarding the slacks.
This shot is of a typical dry valley slack (a Nordic word for valley) that forms part of a complex systems of valleys near Thixendale.
May 31st 2018
Wan Dale - Yorkshire Wolds
Ahead of my Wolds show at Pocklington Arts Centre, see News tab, here is one of the shots that I'll be showing. Wan dale is public access land decreed by the Right to Roam. The two valleys of Wan Dale south west of Fimber were off limits prior to 2000. For access to an area so rich in archaeology and lonely beauty to be now gifted to us is quite something.
May 24th 2018
Cotton Grass - Thorne Moor
Thorne Moor is part of the Humberhead Peatlands, stretching north from Doncaster to the Humber. It is the most amazing, empty, beautiful place I know. Last week I saw a Crane and Hobbies flying there, walked for five hours and saw one other human. The cotton grass was out in force, giving me this shot. As it is a new shot it will take me a while to decide whether it is a runner or not, but for the moment I like it.
May 17th 2018
Taken at Settrington in the Yorkshire Wolds. This screen of trees high on the chalk escarpment of the Wolds caught my eye with its stark vertical form. The landscape can be seen through the screen – vague yet enticing. The colours of the fields below and the sky above, glimpsed as they penetrate the screen, give a series of horizontal bands that conflict with the monochromatic vertical bands created by the trees. An image that is obvious and just a little ambiguous at the same time.
This image has proved one of the most popular. Looks good on a chimney breast.
May 10th 2018
Pool at Bishop Wood
This is another image from what will become the Elmet/Doncaster Badlands series. Bishop Wood dates back to when the Archbishop of York lived at nearby Cawood on the Ouse, from the 12th century on. Now the wood has a nicely sub-rural feel, with caravan parks, lovely woodland and high-speed rail lines stitching it together all of a piece. This pool of water was doing its best to reflect the winter woodland around it. I exhibited it at York Open Studios and it got a far better reception than I had thought that it would; people really liked it.