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First Light – Joe Cornish

Book review

Peter Cook

Surrey Photographer who's had a life long love affair with the British landscape, mountains and water.


I first read Joe Cornish’s First Light about 7 years ago and it had a dramatic effect on my photography. First Light is not - as you might think - about the light first thing in the morning but about the light coming first. This could be first thing in the morning or the evening or infact any time of the day, but what is important is the quality of the light. The book is split into 7 chapters with each one having a theme, and has a forward by Charlie Waite.

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  • Chris Pattison

    First Light is a most inspiring book. When I first set out on the great adventure that is landscape photography Joe’s book was the first ‘guide’ I bought. From my bedroom window in Hartlepool I can see down the coast to Hunt Cliff at Saltburn which is featured in the book. Here was a great photographer championing my local landscape and setting it alongside such locations as Mesa Arch and Buchaille Etive Mor. I cannot tell you how motivating and great it is to stand at your window and gaze out a feature of the local landscape and then look down at a book in your hands and see it there wonderfully wrought by a fine photographer.

  • AndrewS

    Good review Peter, and enjoyed seeing the progression of your own Bamburgh images at the end.

    I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in saying that First Light was one of the inspirational books that really got me into my photography. Many people must have leafed through the book gazing at one fantastic image after another and felt inspired to get out there and create their own work.

  • John Hill

    First Light was one of my first book purchases and always provides admiration and inspiration every time I pick it up.

    I also enjoy reading Joe’s comments on the geology of the locations he shoots.

  • Anthony G

    I have lost count of how many times I have read and re-read this fabulous book. It never fails to inspire me as does all of Joe’s work. I can feel another browse coming along very soon.

  • adamp

    Allow me to also say how much Joe’s book(s) have taught me and inspired me to think more about my photography. Regarding Peter’s work in this article, I must say that my favourite is No.1 – there is a very pleasing simplicity in the structure and a serenity which makes it easy to just gaze out to the distance. Good work!

    • Thank you Adam for those kind comments. Since creating this review and re-evaluating the images used, I have grown to like the first one much more, and your thoughts have perhaps strengthened that. I said in my text that I would have preferred the sky of the last image with the sea and rocks of the first but since writing it I am not so sure, I am liking more just as it is.
      Just goes to show that its worth reviewing your work every so often as often your feelings will change.

  • LensView

    Peter, owning the book myself, I fully agree with what you say about it. Very inspirational and a great look “behind the scenes” of the work of a great photographer.
    As to your Bamburgh series, I agree with Adam as the first one is also my favourite, closely followed by #4.

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