What do you do on holiday for relaxation? Are you an active type, climbing hills, trekking across town or visiting the sights, or do you prefer to laze on a beach, rejuvenate in a spa or sit down with a cool drink and a good book? As a full time professional photographer, on holiday I like to …. create photographs. There’s a time and a place of course. I’m a great believer of being in the moment, experiencing something without gadgets or looking through a viewfinder. For our recent holiday in Cornwall I used my cameraphone for a few record photo of what we were up to and to pop up an occasional shot on Instagram. The aim of a family holiday is just that; time with the family, reconnecting after the busyness of life, having fun together. You can either be an observer, or a participant. The ‘real’ camera was left in the house most of the time and only taken out for two dedicated evenings of photographing landscapes, well, seascapes really. Creating a series of 30 second exposures to show time passing within a frame really gives you time & space to appreciate a place and all the small subtle details about it. The crashing waves, the swaying flowers, the tang of the salt in the air, it all gets distilled into the final image.
Other times you see a moment, reach quickly for your camera(phone) to capture it, then it’s gone. Passing moments, preserved. Memories of a day together, a snapshot in time.
If I won the lottery (unlikely as I don’t play it 😉 I’d still photograph people and places. There’s just something about observing a person or place carefully and compassionately that creates an understanding, an appreciation of them. A photo, well crafted , can capture more than a moment; it can show a deeper truth, or at least show the viewer a glimpse of the way the creator sees it. A photo can be both disposable and indispensable; it all depends on the subject and the meaning to the viewer. Personally, I seek out beauty, joy, a sense of place & time, a glimpse of truth and seek to share them. Sometimes it even connects. That’s the power of a simple photo.
Photography is a funny old thing. The act of talking a photo preserves a moment and can often help you to cherish something or someone just a little more. It’s an act of remembrance. There’s a lot of things we take for granted. Once something becomes part of your life it can cease to noticed and appreciated. It’s true of both large and small things and is one reason why the advice ‘stop and smell the roses’ is so wise and also so under-appreciated.
We moved to Cheltenham in 2005 and one of the things that immediately stuck us was the elegant regency architecture and the tree lined streets. It really is a green and pleasant town. If you look at a satellite map of Cheltenham you’ll see the large areas of parks, connected by green corridors. One of these is the route that most people enter Cheltenham; via the M5 to the A40, past GCHQ towards Lansdown road and the center of the town. You pass over a kilometer of mature trees and hedgerows, which provide wildlife habitat, absorbs sound & pollution and hides a large stretch of 1950’s housing called Benhall. However this is under threat as Stagecoach West is trying to get Gloucestershire council to widen the A40 to shave a few minutes off journey times. You can read about it in the Gloucestershire Echo and at the excellent ‘Save Cheltenham’s Trees’ Facebook page. (Please do click and Like the page).
As soon as I heard about the proposal I went out and photographed some of the area. Landscape photography is a way of compressing and composing reality into two dimensions and more than just preserving memories, it can make a difference. I’m a visual person and so rather than running through the many reasons that this scheme should not go ahead, I thought I’d show you with images. Imagine what you’d be seeing if the greenery wasn’t there. This hedgerow is worth saving.
The trees and hedgerow have taken decades to get to their present state and any remedial work to install a token barrier just won’t replace what would be lost. Gloucestershire County Council described the hedgerow as a ‘wildlife corridor’ and a I’ve seen a lot of birds flying in & out, though my specialty is photographing people & places.
A bus lane running eastwards into town was built a few years ago by taking out a tuning lane and slightly widening the A40. It’s caused a number of accidents since then with people tuning on & off the A40 and being hit by buses and taxis ‘undertaking’ the traffic. The traffic on the A40 is significantly worse since then and this scheme would exacerbate that. Westbound here’s a bridge over the rail line which is a major choke point, so adding in a second lane really isn’t going to achieve much. If Stagecoach was serious about wanting to have more people travel by bus they would reduce the prices. That would make a far bigger difference to most people that cutting a bus journey by a few minutes. The scheme would cause over a year of traffic disruption and is set to cost over £1.5 million, which is money that would be far better spent on improving Cheltenham’s cycling lanes etc.
Could I please encourage you to click and and especially contact your political representatives on Gloucestershire country council and Cheltenham Borough Council (click and identify them) and ask them to stop Stagecoach wrecking the entrance to Cheltenham. All of the political candidates in the recent general election opposed the bus lane plans, including the new MP Alex Chalk. Please do also tell others about this proposal and encourage others to get involved. The A40 hedgerow isn’t paradise, but if it’s paved over, we will miss it. There is still time to protect what we’ve got.
Solar eclipses do not occur very often over the UK, so I wanted to capture the moment from somewhere with a great view over the Gloucestershire landscape. The sun rises in the east, so to capture great images I needed a hill facing the west. Chosen Hill in Churchdown is a location I use for family portraits with a great view, so was a logical choice. There were a number of photographers and spectators by St. Bartholomew’s Church with viewing equipment ranging from card with a pinhole, to sophisticated cameras with large telephoto lenses.
It’s not advisable to photograph the sun directly without special equipment, but I happen to have the right tool for the job. There’s a special filter called a Big Stopper which holds back 99.9% of the light which I use to create special effects with long 30 second exposures in broad daylight. It was perfect to protect the camera sensor and allow a good view of the moon moving over the face of the sun and is why some of the images below look so dark.
It was a great experience, thought it didn’t get quite as dark as I had expected. That’s the amazing things about human eyes, which are wonderfully adaptable and can work well from bright light to twilight. How was your eclipse experience?
Over the years I’ve photographed many events at Cheltenham Racecourse, from the Wychwood and Greenbelt festivals, product launches, award dinners, networking events, business shows, seminars and concerts to name a few. Some of the resulting images were pretty spectacular and it was a real pleasure to be asked to supply over thirty large framed art prints to hang in the public areas of the racecourse. You can see a few of these in the images below. When you’re next at the Racecourse, see how many you can spot.
Photography is all about memories. Images have great power to remind us of places and people we love. That’s especially true of family, which is why it’s such a privilege to be entrusted with creating multi-generational portraits. Having a group photo with new babies and grandparents is making a statement about what’s important, what matters. It’s a chance to get together, laugh, catch up and stand together, literally.
I’ve created several four generational family portraits, which have all been pretty special. When Jackie phoned up asking if I could photograph five generations of her family the next day, the answer was an emphatic yes! As you can see from the image below it worked out beautifully and it was a real pleasure to take everyone into the hills overlooking Cheltenham. The liquid gold of the late afternoon sun certainly adds to the story of precious family time together.