In July I won a prestigious Association of Photographers award for my landscape photography of a Scottish lighthouse dwarfed by storm clouds and a rainbow. That picture is on show with other winners from the AOP Awards at the ‘Beyond the Lens’ festival from Friday 13 – Monday 16 October, at the Old Truman Brewery in London. Here’s how I made it.
In 16 years of Royal Air Force service, regular and reserve, I have served in Afghanistan, throughout the Middle East and at various spots in Africa and beyond. None of this prepared me for what I found when I deployed to the Caribbean on 8 September – at 12 hours’ notice – to support the UK’s massive humanitarian aid and disaster relief operation in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Irma – a violent, Category Five hurricane – cut a swathe through the region in early September and was followed within a fortnight by Hurricane Maria. Hard as I tried, my photography could scarcely capture the sense of loss and devastation the islands suffered.
My deployment took me to countries throughout the Caribbean, where I had to help record the story and the relief effort. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) linger in my mind for many reasons. Hurricane Irma stripped BVI’s trees bare, tore rooves from sturdy houses and lobbed cars, cargo containers and aircraft around like Matchbox toys. This was formerly a place of rolling green hills and neat houses, turned into a traumatised wasteland painted in shades of brown and grey.Read More
Often in travel photography unplanned diversions deliver some of the best opportunities to make photographs. While I was visiting Dunnet Head – the northernmost point in Great Britain – for a personal photography project, I stumbled upon a desolate piece of wartime history. It made for an absorbing opportunity to refine my black and white digital photography work, and to explore a little-known piece of Scottish history. This is the story of Burifa Hill Gee Station – and of the pictures I made there.
Burifa Hill was an experimental radio station set up by the Air Ministry to guide Royal Air Force Bomber Command crews to targets in occupied Europe. Since German civil defence enforced blackouts, navigation was challenging. The Gee system helped aircrew to navigate by transmitting radio pulses from stations set across Great Britain: by comparing the pulse timings to a master station’s pulses, the aircrew could triangulate their positions. (The same kind of principle is at work today in GPS.) Using this system Bomber Command was able to launch raids into blacked-out occupied territory many hundreds of miles from the UK; in 1943 Burifa Hill itself was cited as having helped one crew launch a raid 620 miles from the base.Read More
On Monday 22 May at 0810, I stepped on to a half-submerged concrete jetty in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Awash with seawater and slick with seaweed, this tiny walkway is the easternmost point in Great Britain – and journey’s end for my trip to the four extreme points of the mainland. I looked out to a glittering horizon beneath the blazing sun as my trusty OM-4Ti’s timer beeped behind me. At 0815 the shutter clicked, setting the seal on a personal project that has seen me travel nearly 2,200 miles by road, rail, foot and flight.
Many of the pictures I’ve posted about this project so far have been digital, but my chosen medium for the actual project was film – specifically Ilford PAN F, a low-speed, fine-grain black and white film. 35mm film was the dominant photographic medium for much of the 20th Century, and most readers will remember having used it for holiday snaps at some point. For a film enthusiast, though, the attachment to the medium runs a little deeper than holiday snaps, and it involves quite a bit more thought.Read More
This week I learned that two of my travel photographs have made it through to the finals of the Association of Photographers Student Awards. The pictures are both of lighthouses – a subject that I seem to return to time and time again – from travels over the last 18 months to Scotland and Iceland. Both pictures will be on show at Downstairs at Mother London, a creative agency in Shoreditch, from 6 to 28 July.
One thing I sincerely love about travel is the opportunity to endure all kinds of weather (I wrote about this a little in my recent post about a visit to the north of Scotland). Landscapes are often at their best beneath cloudy or stormy skies, and for both of my AOP finalist pictures I had to get quite wet. The orange lighthouse is at Svörtuloft, near Öndverðarnes, the westernmost tip of Iceland’s storm-lashed Snæfellsnes Peninsula.Read More