I’ve written often enough about how much I love landscape photography in stormy weather. The challenge of capturing the drama of a good storm, or emphasising the threat from glowering grey clouds, is enough to get me out of the door in the worst possible conditions. Every so often, though, I have to settle for sunshine and clear skies – exactly the conditions I enjoyed during a recent walk from Seaford to Eastbourne on England’s south coast. It was a chance to enjoy some of England’s best coastal views, a new lens, and a few unexpected visits from a masterpiece of British engineering.
Few places demand repeat exploration with quite the force of Dungeness. This peculiar wilderness on the coast of Kent combines eerie desolation, good food and spectacular biodiversity. It’s a gift of a place for anyone interested in wildlife photography. And I’m hooked.
Dungeness is a triangular outcrop of shingle by Romney Marsh in Kent. It’s reasonably easy to reach by road – less so if, like me, you’re dependent on public transport. A train via Ashford to beautiful Rye gets you close, before a short bus ride takes you to the quiet little garrison town of Lydd. The nearby artillery range reverberates with the occasional crump or thud, adding to Dungeness’s otherworldly air as you walk past acres of rich farmland to the shingle beach.
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