Inside this issue
A different direction
An interest in photography became a passion when I discovered landscape photography as a genre. Being able to connect with the physical world be it urban, rural, coastal, woodland or wilderness and have time to appreciate the varieties of light, weather and seasons and how they influence our environment keeps me engaged as photographer.
I view landscape photography as a privilege. It has allowed me to witness sunrises, sunsets, storms and many different events that will never be repeated and capture them. Viewing landscape photographs is a privilege, and I hope someone viewing my images takes enjoyment from them.
I questioned my motives for writing this article and thought long and hard before putting pen to paper. Was I doing it for sympathy or engaging in self-pity? If either of these were the motives, it was time to rip the page from my notepad. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I wanted to try to explain how the biggest change in my life that I feared would put an end to photography but has, instead, lead me in a different direction and help me to improve. I think I also wanted to articulate how photography has been a respite that’s enabled me to escape from the challenges that since 2014 have been my world.
Let me explain. In late November 2014, my wife, Tracey, had been unwell for a few days and was admitted to hospital with what we thought was a bug. In fact, it was cancer. She had emergency, life changing surgery later that day, followed by chemotherapy in 2015. 8 years and 3 major operations, radiotherapy and 3 rounds of chemotherapy later, with more chemo to come in 2023, the physical effects are there for all to see.
Landscape photography has been my passion for many years. Finding the time to make images and meet my caring responsibilities and work commitments has been difficult. After a period when photography was almost forgotten, I realised that I needed to pursue my passion for my own well-being. It was time for a plan. How could I fit photography into my life in the way I had before? I couldn’t. A plan wasn’t going to be enough; it needed to evolve into a whole new way of thinking. I had to find a way to stop feeling resentful of diminished opportunity and jealous of other photographers who were posting superb images on social media from wonderful locations in the UK and around the world.
I had to devise a whole new strategy. Travel was out of the question, and I knew I would have to fit photography around Tracey’s chemotherapy. Treatment was (and will be again) 2 weeks on treatment, with 2 weeks off. It takes around 7 to 10 days for her to recuperate before treatment begins again. I also knew from past experience that Tracey’s severe side effects would me to be on hand. Also, during the latter half of each previous round of chemotherapy, she has needed blood transfusions, adding to her care needs throughout the day.
The reality was I could only reliably plan for 1 Sunday morning per month for landscape photography and would need to be home for Tracey to get up. Shoot planning became a prerequisite. I couldn’t simply go out and see what I could see to make images; I didn’t have the time for this. Being born and raised by the coast, it’s unsurprising that I have an affinity with the sea and living near to the Lincolnshire coast made decision making about potential subjects quite easy.
Detailed shoot planning such as sunrise times and directions, tide and travel times (including how long it would take to walk for the car to the location), subject vantage points and accessibility were needed if I was to make the most of fleeting opportunities.
Locations are dictated by the time of year; during winter months, travel time was limited simply because the sun rises later, and I had to limit myself to be no more than 20 to 30 mins drive from home, which is just long enough to reach nearby locations. Summer months provide greater opportunity because I have more travel time available when sunrise is around 4:30 am. In effect this gives me around 2 hours travel radius, which brings East Yorkshire coast locations into play, including Flamborough Head, Withernsea, Hornsea, Bridlington and other smaller locations. Sadly, Spurn Point, one of my favourite places in the world, remains tantalizingly just out of reach because since its geography was changed in 2013 by the tidal surge access on foot and it now takes too long to walk from the car. Returning to locations has also allowed me to capture them in different conditions to create a selection of photographs of the same subject.
If I’m being honest with myself and those reading this, preparation and planning are vital tools in my photographic process, but working to overcome resentment of diminished opportunity and time and the jealousy of others was the game changer. I now look to distil time and embrace opportunity and celebrate the work of others. It’s not been an easy process, but it has helped me to resume my creative endeavours that now serve to bolster my wellbeing
The shortlisting of 8-10 images to submit with this article has been a difficult but affirming experience. I’m really pleased with so many of the images I’ve made and can see progression in my work, which I know comes from the additional application because each opportunity is precious and more keenly experienced.
I know what the future holds for my wife, and negativity around photography should not be part of that, but the positivity of engaging with my creativity should be, not only for my own wellbeing but to help me to care for her to the best of my ability.