Inside this issue
Favourite Images from 2022
A “Baker’s Dozen”
Being asked to choose your favourite images of the year is a great opportunity to return to your picture files, remember some great times and experiences, and discover forgotten gems that might have been passed by in an earlier edit. So many thanks, Tim and Charlotte. However, as I discovered, if you were to choose your real favourites of the year, they wouldn’t necessarily be landscapes.
Sam’s PhD graduation portrait, standing with his proud Mum…or my mother, still bright and sharp, orchestrating her entire family on the occasion of her 90th birthday…or more poignantly Jenny’s family gathered together to scatter the ashes of her Mum on the moorland hills above the landscape where she lived most of her life. These exceptional family album moments pull so hard on our emotions that creative forays in the landscape, however memorable, may not necessarily be our personal favourites.
In photography’s now nearly 200 years of existence, human stories and the unfolding of history have spearheaded the medium’s artistic and cultural contribution to society. And before the coming of photography, Joshua Reynolds (the Royal Academy’s first president) declared that History painting was the highest ranking art, and that genres such as landscape were less worthy.
And yet landscape photographers (Simon Norfolk, Garth Lenz, Edward Burtynsky and Andreas Gursky spring to mind) have created some the most significant images of our time as we edge closer to an environmental abyss. The story of our aggressive and materialist obsessions is written in the landscapes that we have exploited, bombed, poisoned and stripped naked. These photographers show that landscape photography is not just some “nice-to-have” but a living art of protest and concern that questions our assumptions and forces us to consider the impact of our ways of life.
Focussing on those who use it as a weapon of resistance against apathy and inaction is a reminder of the landscape’s potential. It also has the ability to inspire and bring change in other ways, offering the irresistible beauty of nature as a force to encourage us to reconnect with the wild world. For most in the Onlandscape community, our photography is life-affirming, therapeutic, and an escape from the dreary routines that may dominate our daily lives.
I have the good fortune to review the portfolios of other photographers on a regular basis, and invariably they are more cohesive and thematically consistent than my own. When I showed work with Simon Baxter (see Woodland Sanctuary Exhibition article) earlier this year, I couldn’t help feeling an element of imposter syndrome. For while I love trees and photographing woodland, it’s only one theme I enjoy. Simon has really dedicated his photographic life to woodlands. Or David Ward, whose work I have the pleasure of printing regularly, concentrates almost completely on the intimate studies of decay, dereliction and close-up landscapes that have established his global reputation. By comparison, my own work may appear to be having an identity crisis. I can only admit to being a General Practitioner, landscape-wise.
But does this matter, or is it wrong? Perhaps so, but it is a fair reflection of who I am. I still relish each landscape and travel opportunity and love the variety of challenges each brings. There is a philosophical justification for this General Practice as well: I genuinely believe in the interconnectedness of things in the world and that everything – great and small – matters. All subjects and themes are worthy of attention, and to return to Joshua Reynolds, I respectfully disagree with him. There should be no hierarchy of (thematic) value in the arts. A rock detail, a lichen, a tree, a moor, a mountain…or indeed how they all relate to one another visually…these quiet studies of nature also count.
If the news agenda is our guide, then the world judges that a street protest in Tehran, or a political dispute in London, or a missile attack in Odessa, or strike rallies in Edinburgh matter more. They are the immediate theatre of our lives. But if we don’t pay close attention to our relationship with nature, then what future can we honestly expect? Whether we focus on catastrophe or the healing powers of beauty, artists must reflect on these concerns too.
So, for better or worse, here is my selection, all of which have some meaning for me, as I hope the captions will explain. It should have been twelve, but I never was great at maths, and there is always something appealing about a “Baker’s Dozen”.
Send us your favourite image from 2022
Send us your favourite image from 2022, and put together a gallery of all the submissions we receive in issue 271.
If you can, send the following to the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Image 2048px alongside, either via Dropbox or wetransfer. (sending via email tends to compress the image)
- Caption - 2-3 sentences.
- Full name
The closing date is 5th January 2023.
Thanks, and we look forward to seeing all your images!
Bamburgh dune slack poppies
When younger, I’d probably have rejected these poppies as “past it”. Something changes as we get older and start to feel the effects of ageing and our bodies decay. These experiences echoed in the natural world seem more appealing somehow. Or perhaps the wiggly poppy stems were simply irresistible?
While my commitment to the general principle of the eyewitness tradition remains strong, I still want to experiment and play with photographic techniques and ideas. Water flowing around rock emphasises sculptural qualities and energy. The ambiguity of these shapes creates a certain tension and a possibly sinister interpretation.
Last leaves of autumn
This beautiful beech is in the Birks of Aberfeldy, a lovely location for photography. As each November day went by and fewer and fewer leaves were left, so the place became more and more striking; this composition summarises that excitement.
Lean and Slender
I’d expect to always find ancient trees the bigger source of inspiration, yet young trees also have their appeal. This is a study of line, texture and colour, and also of gesture, as the leaning sapling could be seen as broken or, alternatively, reaching out. Very soft light and drizzle made ideal conditions.
Lichen and eddy
This picture was taken in the edge zone beside a flooding river, whose rushing white water I found far too overwhelming to tackle. A rock-colonising lichen sat above an area of slack-ish water that was rotating gently. It was a good example of avoiding the obvious, as well as an opportunity to experiment with shutter speed, allowing the water to describe different patterns during each exposure.
Lines of Age
Sedimentary rocks can occasionally produce amazing patterns and designs when exposed in the intertidal zone. Is this a pure abstraction or a very literal depiction of a slightly devilish character?
Lone pine dawn
I’ve been lucky enough to go out with friends John and Rosamund on a number of morning photo excursions near their home, and this was from the most recent. We climbed uphill, out of the valley fog, to find ourselves above what seemed like a rolling sea. I am fond of this picture, but John’s wonderful time lapse (on Instagram) does its restless movement far more justice.
The Cleveland Hills is a local landmark for me, an essential theme of my local practice. Summer is pretty tough photographically with its overwhelming greens, but this dramatic rain-stormy weather provides enough contrast for a good counterpoint (to the green).
It feels like sometimes we wait years for decent valley fog, and then, all of a sudden, there comes day after day of it. This late autumn and early winter have produced just such weather patterns. When it happens, it is totally compelling. I focussed on this scene rather than those photogenic mountains, Skiddaw and Blencathra, which lay in diametrically the opposite direction.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal have been a special location for me this year, with a major exhibition there throughout the spring, summer, autumn and now winter seasons. The more I visit this landscape, the more it surprises and delights. This sweet chestnut is not some long hike away but just above the car park by the lake.
Scotland’s woods always seem that little bit more colourful and characterful than those further south, and the extremely damp, unpolluted northern air may have something to do with it. The shaggy turquoise lichens appear like a coat of fur, perhaps to protect the trees from the coming winter.
Hawnby Moor hoar frost
Freezing fog may not sound that appealing to regular folk, but no other condition is more likely to create hoar frost, weather phenomena highlighted for any landscape photographer. Although I had not intended to include anything so recent, this photo was, as I write, shot today!
Rievaulx Moor hoar frost
As hoar frost is so rare and often short-lived it’s a subject that can encourage an “I must shoot everything” panic mode. However, solutions that reveal form in a new or interesting way remains as fundamental to good composition as it always is.