Wednesday 30 November 2011


On of the more enjoyable projects I've been involved with over the last fifteen months or so has been photographing a walking guide for Vertebrate Graphics. The book is now in print and we're all pretty chuffed with the result.

Original image here

It should be in local book shops soon, or buy direct from V-Publishing here.

The book is illustrated predominantly with landscape images, but shooting it was a very different experience from my normal landscape work. I normally go out for dawn or dusk with the object of getting one great image and ideally a few extras if conditions allow. All the books and magazines will assure you that 'slowing down' is an essential practice - the slower you go, the better the result. I've always been a little wary of this advice, but for this project it had to go firmly in the bin. With a budget stretching to about four days shooting, but no less than seventeen 'day walks' to cover (the author shot the other three, for a total of twenty), this was all about speeding up!

With the area being the North York Moors, it was important we got some great moorland shots. This meant catching the heather in bloom. Now with a book you have to work a fair way in advance - the book was laid out earlier this year in June, then sent to the printers in July. Heather blooms in August. So last August I got a rather hurried phone phone call offering the contract if I could get started immediately - before the heather went over. At that point the author hadn't written the text, so I had to work with was a list of villages the walks were loosely based around. Thankfully I managed to squeeze in a day the same week and the weather and my map-based guesswork came together... and we had some cover options in the bag.

I fitted in another day in autumn which got some nice moorland walks ticked off, though there were fewer trees than I'd hoped and autumn colour was mostly provided by bracken. Then time ticked by and we were into the new year. Late winter and spring are when the landscape are at its dullest, so I put the project on hold and waited for budburst. Carefully balancing a panicking editor and an improving landscape, I finally headed out in early May for a shoot that had to finish the job. Starting from Sheffield late morning, I shot all afternoon through to dusk after nine. A hurried drive to a chippy, then across the Moors to the coast and a short doss in the car saw me back up shooting sunrise at half four, followed by another full day shoot and back to Sheffield for dinner.

Sunrise at Boggle Hole

Shooting so intensively was a very useful experience which I'd wholeheartedly recommend. Its very easy when shooting for yourself to get into a perfectionist 'uninspired' frame of mind where nothing is quite right. Having an absolute need to get a publishable shot or three, and a limited time frame to do it in, really forces you to engage with the subject. Doing that repeatedly over a couple of days pushed me into a groove that became very productive. There were parallels with similarly sustained climbing trips I've had, where you feel permanently warmed up and get into a real rhythm - that combination of fast and slow that becomes 'flow', (or, as a mate quipped, 'medium') - above all effective, efficient and deeply satisfying.

Also out now is the JMT yearbook. Lovingly compiled in Bamford by John Beatty, its a must for every nature lover and makes booking dull business appointments somewhat more bearable. It's always an honour to be featured alongside the UK's finest nature photographers, but doubly so this year as John has used my image as one of the few used to promote the book. You can buy direct from here: