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With Landscape in Mind

Joe Cornish presents a new film about Landscape Photography

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Last week my wife and I accompanied Joe Cornish to a small cinema in Hyde Park, Leeds. Despite the strong temptation, we weren't going to see 'Kung Fu Panda 3D' and definitely not 'Hangover 2'. This was 'Joe Cornish 1' in a leading role in 'With Landscape in Mind', a production by Environment Films.

Joe is only credited as 'presenter' but this is 'about' Joe Cornish and covers a few days early this year when Joe was accompanied by a cameraman and sound engineer on a photographic road tripd from East to West. I was unsure what to expect having been told by Joe that it tried to strike a balance between geeky photography stuff and a general documentary on the land and photography for the general viewer.

It all starts with Joe on the East coast, working on the edge of the land and the edge of the human population; the edge of industry and the edge of his home turf. The Corus steel plant in redcar is a strange place for a landscape photographer known for his sublime and bucolic vistas. However, Joe's working practices take him to all sorts of locations, it's just that his gallery and the popular press have him type cast in many ways.

The journey moves on, eloquently shot by Ben Todd, a cinematographer that knows his composition and light. This isn't a photographic tutorial video helping you to get your exposure right, it's a subtle engagement with a photographer relaxed in the familiarity of his craft. Joe is a natural orator and even despite his cold (although the ladies might like the husky voice), he communicates a relationship with the land that most other landscape photographers will recognise.

The whole works very well, the only part that I was unsure initially about was a section where we are invited into Joe's train of conciousness whilst he is composing a shot. To be honest it was a little unnatural to begin with although by the time it finished it was working fine (and someone commented that they would have liked more of it!). The remainder of the film was with Joe talking on location or narration.

I talked to Joe about the film and he answered a few questions for us..

The film comes across as a very natural portrayal of a photographer at work - did you worry that the film would be true to your approach?

Yes. Worry in the sense that right from the start in discussions with Ben (the film's director and cameraman) we agreed that it should be as real and authentic as possible. Some 'artifice' is unavoidable in film-making; clearly, working with a cameraman who will sometimes need you to do something again or follow a particular walking line, is not the same as being out there on your own. Nevertheless, we pursued a normal working pattern to each day, essentially 'business as usual'. Certainly the photographs I made were, as far as I know, exactly what I would have done if the film camera had not been there.

The concept was an absolutely authentic documentary, in which I could articulate some of my ideas and wider working philosophy both on location and via the device of the voice over.

You weren't treated to the best of weather in the production of the film, would this be a typical week of your photography or were you commited regardless and just worked with it?

Well, that is an interesting point. In some ways the film echoed how I work when I am on assignment in Scotland, where I am usually committed to be out and about with my camera, come what may. Most of the time on the film we were never more than a couple of hours from home so arguably without the obligation to the film crew I might have been tempted to 'bag it' and wait for better weather. interestingly, this was one of the pleasing outcomes of the film as one or two of the most interesting sequences are made in persistent rain, and they do show the benefits of persevering and working against the odds. Perseverance has often paid off in Scotland, especially in recent years with some of my most satisfying pictures being made in rain, or heavily overcast light.

In our original plans I was to climb Scafell Pike, with an overnight camp near the summit so I could shoot up there at dawn. However, the weather turned out so wet and so windy that we had to abandon this due to health and safety considerations (for the film crew of course!)

Anyway, aside from the proximity to home, yes it probably was a fairly typical working week.

Your cameraman had a great eye for a picture himself. Do you think he'd have much of a future as a landscape photographer?

I am already a fan of Ben Todd's still photography. Ben is a real artist and would undoubtedly be a brilliant landscape photographer. However, in the months before he shot the film with me he was director of photography in a TV series with Billie Piper, so I think it's unlikely he will short of rather more attractive work opportunities. He also has a young family and will need to make a reasonable living in the years ahead, not the easiest thing to do in landscape photography

Were you happy with the result and are there any things you would have liked to have had happen or done differently?

I am very happy with the result, and I have no regrets whatsoever. It would be interesting to know how or whether it would have been more successful if the weather had been more benign, but in some ways I think the weather makes it and gives it a special atmosphere, and quality of light. I do believe we succeeded in creating a true and honest picture of a week in the life of a landscape photographer.

Thanks Joe!

The DVD will be available in the next few weeks (hopefully in the next week) and will be accompanied by a bunch of extras including some from Great British Landscapes where we discuss some of the pictures taken during the DVD.

You can buy the DVD directly from the website at http://www.withlandscapeinmind.com/WLIM/DVD.html.

Would I buy it? Yes, unreservedly. It's firstly rare to see landscape photography given such exquisite attention. It might not teach you lots of photography tricks but it will give you a window into a rare profession being practised by an accomplished craftsmen.


With Landscape in Mind (TRAILER) from ENVIRONMENT FILMS on Vimeo.

  • Now that looks good! :-)

  • Already on my ‘Fathers day’ list :) Watched the trailer about a 100 times already!

  • Pete Bridgwood

    Wow !

  • MrPhil

    Already ordered – looking forward to watching it :-)

  • alex taylor

    mine is ordered it looks great

  • Rob

    Have ordered my copy, if only to remind me of how I used to work in the rain – now that I am living in a rain deprived Western Australia.

  • Will definitely be ordering this ! :-)

  • Julie

    Mine has been on order for a few weeks now – can’t wait for it to arrive!!

  • Just arrived. Hope there’s a trailer for Kung Fu Panda 3D on the disc somewhere.

  • Now that was a good use of money!

    I’ve just watched the film and I can’t imagine any landscape photographer not finding it excellent. I’m of the view that the ‘train of consciousness’ section worked very well and perhaps another, similar section could have been good. Even removing my natural bias, in that several sections were within ten miles of my house, I unequivocally recommend the film – I’ll be watching it again more than once, I’m sure!


  • My copy arrived today too but it’s being withheld until Father’s Day. :-(

  • howemick

    Hope to get my copy this Fathers Day watched the video clip loads, been a big fan of Joe’s for quite a while.
    Best regards Mick.

  • Just watched it (got permission to watch it a day early). :-)

    An hour of pure relaxation, quite inspirational. The film photography (by Ben Todd?) was pretty impressive too.

    Joe showed what’s possible in all sorts of locations and in all sorts of conditions. I really have no excuse for not getting out more…

  • Joe Cornish

    Douglas, Mike, thank-you, and to everyone who has posted here , thank-you for taking an interest. It was an extraordinary opportunity to work with such a talented film maker (and photographer) as Ben Todd. I really enjoyed ‘presenting’, though I realise I was working on pure enthusiasm and love for photography and no professional training in the dark arts of performance whatsoever! I hope that all of you who have the film or are thinking of getting it enjoy it, and are able to get something from it.
    Don’t forget to check out the video extras which feature our very own Tim Parkin doing much the same job as he does so ably on the video content on this site, teasing ideas and anecdotes out of yours truly. Many thanks to Tim, and also to the redoubtable Charlie Waite, for it was Charlie who proposed and has part-funded this film.
    If you feel it has been worthwhile, do tell your photographic comrades about it, and let us know if you have any thoughts about additions or improvements for future films. Then if I am lucky enough to have another such opportunity I can hopefully incorporate them.

    • Hi Joe. Excellence, sheer excellence.

      Can you come back to Gordale on a sunny day, preferably just after a long period of rain.

      Best Regards


  • Nuno Dias

    This is funny because I actually went to film school with Ben Todd, he’s a very talented cinematographer as I have had the opportunity to work with him on several projects after film school. He’s also been a dad very recently, so congratulations are in order!

    I must say I really enjoyed this film, and seeing Joe doing his thing is nothing short of spectacular. The way he sees an image, the thought process behind it, his honesty and technical expertise are truly a wonderful thing to watch . There is plenty of assignment diversity, lots of thoughts for discussion and learning.

    I only wished it was longer!

    Something tells me that the call Joe makes to his wife ant the end is scripted… and that is so, Joe needs to practice on his acting skills :)

  • I’m so pleased that there seems to be a good buzz about the film on this site. Thank you all so much for the support and for purchasing a copy if you have!

    It was a fantastic experience to film with Joe that week and see such a professional, creative and incredibly talented mind at work. He really got stuck in and help lead the way while we were filming and approached the whole adventure with a great attitude.

    Sometimes with this filming lark you have to cheat and fudge scenes to make them work, however in this case – refreshingly, it really was ‘all for real’ and just as it should be. We just told the story as it happened.

    There was more than one occasion when I was baffled as to how Joe would pull off one of his stunning images in such challenging weather conditions, yet he never got disheartened and seemed to turn every negative into a positive making the weather work for the picture as opposed to against it. Very inspiring stuff to watch!

    Please keep the constructive criticism coming so that if the film proves to be popular enough (fingers crossed) we can build these into the sequel?? It would be great to do it again some day soon…. possibly in 3D?

    Thanks again for watching and for the kind comments and hats-off to Joe, the Environment Films team and Charlie Waite for having the drive and commitment to make the whole thing happen!

  • mbmark

    I just watched it yesterday evening and I have to agree it was a fantastic hour of inspiring travels despite the weather conditions that would be force many to stay at home. At some moment I thought the DVD was broken but then I understood that this is the end of the movie … I will watch it again and I am pretty sure that I will find some new things every time I watch it, that is why I call it inspirational

    • Are you sure you got to the end? It should be pretty obvious as it fades to black and then there are rolling credits…
      If in doubt contact info.environmentfilms.org

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      • mbmark

        :D ha ha indeed no it was the end of the movie I would love it to last 54 minutes more :)

  • Tim hancock

    Fantastic and inspirational – and beautifully produced – I am sure even non photographers will enjoy watching it. My only grouse is that the photo critique DVD extra section doesn’t work for some reason.

    • Joe Cornish

      Tim, have you viewed the DVD on TV or on computer? I wonder if the extras formatting may not be compatible with some forms of TV? Just a thought, and perhaps Ben may have a solution for this. Meanwhile, do try it on another device/viewing environment if you have not already done so. And let us know if you get no joy from it.

  • trondk

    Is there a digital purchase/stream/download option available now in 2015?

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