on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Facets of Light

Sheffield Botanical Gardens

For more than thirty years I have been a professional photographer/artist, and for the past twenty years I have concentrated on my gallery work. To date I have held more than forty exhibitions in painters' galleries around the UK and have never had an exhibition in a photographers' gallery! I have also undertaken many art projects with museums, national collections, the stately home 'Chatsworth', RIBA, individual artists and collectors. I have worked on seven book projects with a variety of publishers and self published more than twenty books.

From a photographic point of view my images have always been very painterly even when I was using film. When I started to use digital cameras this painterly way of working increased because of the absolute control that working digitally affords. Interestingly 95% of the images I create are taken with lenses of 300mm to 600mm (35mm equivalent).

Then the iPad arrived! This for me was the final piece in the jigsaw as for the first time there was a digital device that was truly intuitive (with the correct software apps). This allowed me to experiment and create more abstract images. There were initially some teething problems around image storage and file sizes, but these have now been dealt with. I am not obsessed with cameras or computers with ever more complex software, for me the most important thing is the final image on the gallery wall.

The first photographer to deliberately create abstract photographs was Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966). His vortographs (1916-1917) reproduced images of small objects like pebbles and broken glass reflected in three mirrors creating a kaleidoscope effect. Man Ray also pioneered more photographic methods of making abstract images.

Throughout the history of photography, the structure of the image has fascinated photographers. In the early days it was known as "Formalism". From the 1920's through to the 1970's Edward Weston, Siskind and others spent some part of their photographic careers experimenting with the structure of the image, whether they were photographing ice shapes, rocks, weathered wood or other simplified subjects. One of the interesting aspects of photographs created in this style has been their success in fine art galleries. It is no longer called "formalism", but images created in this way rely on elegance of design and are timeless in their appeal.


My own "Liquidlight" series of images draw their inspiration from the extraordinary properties of water. More than two-thirds of the earth's surface is covered with liquid water. Pure water has no colour, taste, or smell. A pinhead-sized drop of water contains about one billion billion molecules, these strongly attract each other especially at the surface, where their mutual attraction forms a strong skin, known as surface tension. Water is always on the move. My "Liquidlight" (book/ebook/film) work attempts to capture natural abstract designs from the fleeting moment when light is reflected off the surface of water.

In December 2012 I published my latest book/ebook/PDFbook "Sheffield Botanical Gardens" a contemporary view. This book is a very personal contemporary view of the garden, finding new viewpoints in order to develop more abstract compositions. This is not a botanical book, nor does it provide sweeping open vistas of the garden, instead I take a minimalist view and focus on detail, texture, shape, natural abstract design and colour.

My inspiration each time I visited the garden was the quality of light on that day. I was not trying to create images of particular trees, plants or views, but to be free to be led by the elements on any given day. This also gave me the freedom to interpret each image to create a visual essay of the garden in 2012. The impressionist painters visited their locations over and over again, and following on from that tradition I have visited the garden more than fifty times. Considering we have had the wettest year on record, actually the garden has never failed to supply an extraordinary range of colour and effects thoughout the year.


The images in this book are a mixture of painting and photography. The starting point for all the imagery is a digital photograph, which was then downloaded to my iPad for interpretation, painting, composite work and large scale exhibition artwork. The artist David Hockney RA used his iPad in a similar way to produce some of his artworks for his recent exhibition "A Bigger Picture" at the Royal Academy of Arts.

St Ives in Cornwall is often spoken about by artists as having a special quality of light and this is true, but this quality of light can also appear in any part of the UK even in Sheffield, maybe not as often but it still exists from time to time. Experience has taught me that by concentrating on smaller pieces of the landscape has the effect of increasing the intensity of the light, also by using back lit subjects with strong contrast helps to bring out natural elements of abstract design, particularly in spring and autumn.

As you browse through this book you will realise that I love trees, and I have spent a good part of my life capturing the hauntingly beautiful aspect of them. The trees on our own doorstep are familiar objects, and I hope that I have captured the trees here in a new and penetrating light. Having finished the book that would normally be the end, but I do not see it that way. The garden is ever changing and I would like to add new material to the book and would invite other artists to interpret their views of the garden:- painters, writers, poets, and film makers and others.

In 2013 I will be exhibiting the original artworks from this book at - Art in the Garden which takes place in September at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

The gardens afford the visitor a space to think, a space to dream, a space to be inspired but above all a space to enjoy - and don't forget to look up !

City Abstracts

This is an extraordinary time for photographers, and I am enjoying my work more than ever. Now is the time when we have the opportunity to experiment and bring together still images, video, graphics, text and music.

My next book/ebook/PDFbook/film "Sheffield City Abstracts" to be published in March 2013, will endeavour to achieve this.

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