Four days in the hills

I have enjoyed so many inspirations and experiences, some bordering on the life-changing, in just a few days in the wilderness that I find myself, several days after my return, still in a whirl of thoughts and emotions, trying to formulate them in my mind (difficult) and write them down in intelligible form (much harder). Just one thing is clear: I went to the hills to make images but came back with much more than photographs.

I have undertaken many journeys on foot over the years, some just a few yards in length, a couple extending to hundreds of miles. I have always returned with photographs of the trip, some good, some bad, but nearly all with a separateness about them. By which I mean that the photographs and the journey existed as distinct entities: there was the journey and there were also, just afterwards, the images – distinct, discrete and separate from one another.

The walk of some fifteen miles I undertook recently over the four days of Jubilee weekend has quite a different character – and I use the present tense because it feels that although I am now stationary in a physical sense I still have a strong, unquenchable sense of motion, exhilaration and connectedness as if the momentum has yet to diminish. The walking; the photography; the co-existing with falcons, finches, deer, clouds, frost, water, sun; the survival in inhospitable circumstances; the overcoming of physical pain (knees, shoulders, feet); the discoveries; all seem so inseparable, so integrally, tightly bound that I cannot write solely about the making of imagery. All are chapters of the same story, facets of the same diamond, clouds in the same sky, bogbeans in the same glassy, heart-shaped pool.

Bogbean - purity of form
Bogbean - purity of form

Over the next few posts, I hope I can crystallize and condense all this wordless sensation into something clear – much as the rising thermals eventually lift the morning cloud from the mountain peaks – about how the journey’s elements enmeshed: the landscape, my movement within it, the photographs I made, the shutter openings I rejected in favour of just looking, the encounters with wild animals and places, the predicaments and joys I experienced, the thoughts and emotions I discovered.

Grass-drawn curve

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From a beautiful, sunlit, evening in the dunes of Aberdyfi, Wales.

I am constantly astonished at the tonal range possible with paper negatives and at the sharpness obtainable with a well-made pinhole.

4×5 pinhole, paper negative. Click the image to view larger.

West Dart River – Swirling Water

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The Dart is a beautiful companion, continually moving, tracing lines, shapes, geometries of its own. Descending into the shallow moorland valleys hear the high, embracing pitch of the constant breeze punctuated by its roaring and gurgling. To be near it means to drink, to bathe; cool respite; thirst slaked by cold, peaty water of life.