Hailstones lashed down from the graphite-grey sky, stinging my face; I winced as the wind whipped the storm up into a blazing fusillade of ice. Above the rattling of hail on my raincoat I heard the Atlantic exploding furiously against serrated cliffs. Then, as though a switch had been flicked, the storm was over. I uncapped my lens, fitted an ND filter, and captured one of my favourite photographs: the Svörtuloft lighthouse at Öndverðarnes, gleaming bright orange against the stormy sky.Read More
This is a story of an air crash, wild beauty, film photography and selfies. It’s my recollection of a visit to the famous Iceland plane wreck site at Sólheimasandur – and of my view on the popularity of ‘abandoned’ places and the ubiquity of the selfie.
The story behind the Iceland plane wreck might already be roughly familiar to you. In November 1973 a small US Navy DC-3 transport aircraft ran out of fuel over southern Iceland, and ditched on the pristine black sand beach at Sólheimasandur. The wreck is still there – a weather-worn, graffiti-clad monument to Iceland’s inhospitable terrain.
I visited the Iceland plane wreck in 2016 during a two-week solo tour of the country via the ring road. It was my first ‘proper’ photography expedition; I’d been seduced by countless blog posts and travel stories pitching Iceland as a pristine wilderness: a place where I might find limitless solitude amid the glaciers and snow. For much of my trip, that’s precisely what I found – but not always. And the DC-3 wreck rings in my memory as an example of what can be a dispiriting experience at the hands of people who wield selfie sticks like rapiers.Read More
2018 has been quite a year for photography: it’s taken me through the bogs and fells of the Pennine Way, to the peak of Ben Nevis, across Great Gable and to the summit of a Japanese volcano. A year-in-review article is tricky at the best of times. Narrowing 2018 down to my top five adventure photography moments has been especially challenging, so I’ve abandoned any pretence at rating my favourites: instead, they are presented here in chronological order. Here goes…
April: Cauldron Snout and High Cup Nick, England
The Pennine Way is so many things: gruelling, occasionally beastly, often magnificent. Certainly perfect for adventure photography – as long as the rain holds off. My walk from Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton was all of these things (see my route on OS Maps). Principally I remember the roughness of the ground: bare rocks litter a long path by the River Tees, practically inviting toes to be stubbed, ankles twisted and spirits broken. The traipse is worthwhile, though, because this route passes two of the Pennine Way’s most spectacular sights: hearty rewards for the weary wayfarer.Read More
No visit to Japan could be complete without spending time relaxing in onsen. These hot volcanic baths play a huge role in Japanese culture. The only other place I’ve visited that is so attached to hot baths is Iceland, and there the baths tend to be slightly rowdier than Japan’s respectfully quiet onsen: these are places to relax in contented silence. And I found nowhere better to do that than the Iya Valley – a hidden gem, fairly well off the beaten track. Perfect for a complete disconnection from the world, and a spot of hilltop photography.
I visited the Iya Valley while writing an article and shooting travel photography for Pride Life magazine, needing somewhere to take a break from endlessly writing notes and making photographs (note taking is a bit of an obsession for me). Unfortunately, my stay at the amazing Hotel Iyaonsen actually led to more note-taking, and more pictures, because it’s one of the best hotels I’ve ever visited.Read More
I’ll be honest: when I visited Japan on a travel journalism assignment back in September, I was expecting to get more out of street photography than I did. Perhaps it’s just that the hyper-charged sprawls of Tokyo and Osaka are just too absorbing for me to even want to raise my camera; maybe I’m just out of practice. What I know is that I came away with landscape, wildlife and and mountain photography that far better tells the story of my trip to the country. And few places had quite the photogenic beauty of Kamikochi.
Kamikochi sits at the heart of Japan’s Chūbu-Sangaku National Park, high in the Hida Mountain’s – the country’s ‘Northern Alps’. I always feel at home in mountains, whether they’re the towering spikes of the Himalayas or the rolling, bleak fells of the Lake District and Pennine Way – and Kamikochi quickly lulled me into that familiar feeling. This was where I was meant to be – resting in a woodland cabin, taking walks alongside the startling blue water of the Azusa River, and making mountain photography – day and night – of the incredible scenery.Read More