Photographs create moods. Take these Caucasian Wingnut trees. They look like they could have been photographed in a dense forest. In fact these trees are in the grounds of the Botanic Garden in Cambridge in the UK, the town where my wife and I live. And that goes to show that framing a photograph can create a mood that may be far removed from the reality shown in the surroundings outside the frame.
Image and Reality
I want to explore places where the reality meets my hopes. It doesn’t have to be exotic, but it should feel authentic and worthy of repaying deep investigation. That’s why I travel.
I was in my mid-teens when I caught the travel bug. Two years before, I went on a school trip walking in the Odenwald in Germany, including a trip down the Rhine sitting on the hatch covers of a coal barge, and a few days in Heidelberg. The next year I went with two others, an adult and a boy who had left school the year before. Again we went to Germany. Now I was ready for a trip the following year on my own or with a friend.
The two of us planned a walking and hitch-hiking trip around Northern France. We walked for two hours out of Boulogne and then got a lift from a man who drove us to his house in Switzerland where we stayed a couple of days. Then on down into Italy. Our map covered Northern France and we had travelled off the map on the first day. I had the travel bug and suddenly I understood that it was all in my grasp.
The longest I’ve been away on a single trip is a year. And often now my wife and I go for just a couple of weeks. Sometimes I go on my own, such as my trip to Nepal.
I started taking photographs even before that. I had a tiny half-frame camera because I wanted something small and easy to carry. My father and I developed my black and white film and I watched and helped while he developed his colour slide film. I couldn’t do much with my black and white negatives and I sold the camera, I don’t remember where or when.
I started again much later, and developed and printed my own black and white photos. I started digital photography with a little compact camera ‘as an experiment’ and slowly moved over to digital as the cameras improved. I bought a Nikon D70 and used it and sold it because I wasn’t happy with the results. I was taken with the Nikon D200 and all that it promised.
And then I saw some photographs taken by someone with a D70 and realised that the camera I had sold was fully capable of taking great shots. It was I, the photographer who had to improve.
I’ve been working on that ever since.