In my five-year journey as into landscape photography I have done my fair share of photographic karaoke, going to popular Lake District locations and making ‘covers’ of the classic images. It has been useful as an exercise in learning the technical aspects whilst still returning with decent landscape images that people seem to like. Looking back though, there are only a couple of these photographs that have made the leap over to my new website simply because, in the main, I do not feel that these compositions aren’t mine. The one or two that have made the leap, Rydal Tree for example, are there because I think there’s at least enough of my own interpretation to consider them my own. I should add that none of this should come across in any way judgmental about how other folks do things; this is just how I feel about my own photography. During this time I’d created some photographs that I really liked, they had stood the test of time and typically they were images that I had ‘seen’ and made my own. Last year I made a conscious effort to create more work that I could truly consider my own.
I think, at least to some extent, I’ve started to achieve that with my ‘Thirlmere: Paradise Lost?’ project and a secondary project at Holme Fell. What I have discovered about myself is that I like returning to the same place, over and over. The more I went to Thirlmere, over 50 visits in 2014, the more I thought I was only scratching the surface about my appreciation of the landscape. It became somewhat of a standing joke when I returned from a trip out: “Where have you been this morning?” my wife would ask, knowing full well the answer. The more the year went on the more I started to question why the landscape was like it was, what is the history here? I loved feeling part of it, watching the subtle change over the year. Don’t get me wrong, the year ebbed and flowed as any other, with my insecurity as a photographer inhibiting progress whilst other times I felt good about what I was doing. Overall though I considered that I was going in the right direction for me and, more to the point, I was enjoying it; producing more work that lifted my spirits when I pondered over it months later rather than becoming disheartened with it. That’s not to say the work is anything special, just that I like it and have enjoyed creating it.
Shoulthwaite Moss, Thirlmere.
But I don’t live in Cumbria (one day…), I live in Cheshire. From March to November we spend a lot of time at our static caravan situated at Skelwith Fold so both Thirlmere and Holme Fell are ‘local’ projects for when I’m based there. I’ve long envied those that have been able to establish photographic projects locally. Joe Wright's Stories from the Woods, for example, or John Irvine with his West Lothian landscapes to name but two, but there are many more. I don’t long at all for the travel involved in some landscape photography, the overnight drives to catch dawn at a beauty spot doesn’t appeal. Landscape to be photographed is on my doorstep, I know it, but for two years I just couldn’t find anywhere that I enjoyed being in order to make interesting photographs. I love it around Teggs Nose, the Goyt Valley and Wildboarclough but that’s over an hour away from where I am. A project there wouldn’t get enough traction because I would resent the travelling on a regular basis.
Goyt Valley Sunset.
I’ve made some interesting photographs up near to Billinge Hill and Crank but despite trying hard I just didn’t feel stimulated enough to spend time there. I’d tried Delamere Forest on several occasions, just 20 minutes away for me, but I had struggled with the evergreen landscape and the sheer popularity of the place with walkers, dogs and cyclists to feel comfortable in the surroundings.
In hope, more than anticipation, I made another trip to Delamere Forest a couple of weeks into the New Year. I think it helped that conditions were just perfect for wintry photography but I stumbled upon a small body of water that was just perfect that morning; iced over with interesting trees and a bit of mist. The edges of the water are characterized by a combination of thriving trees, trees that are almost horizontal, looping into the water, and dead stumps; a fascinating mix. There are a couple of trees like telegraph poles about 20m into the water with the base almost ‘eaten’ away to just above the water level, then widening out above. Fascinating. A little research on returning showed that the lake is known, enigmatically, as Dead Lake. The western half of the lake is within Delamere Forest Park with the eastern half owned by the adjacent Windyhowe Farm. It is thought that the lake was created in the 1930s and is man made. Since there is no defined inflow or outflow to the water the lake is dependent on rainfall and seepage; it’s not difficult to see how it became known as Dead Lake! Photographically speaking I find it a fascinating place and, despite having only a couple of hundred metres of publically accessible shoreline, somewhere I’m enjoying visiting and crafting photographs.
Dead Lake, Delamere
So at last, I’ve found my local project and I shall enjoy revisiting it over the year to see how it changes. I hope other people like the work (do tell me if you do, it will do my insecurity no end of good), but whatever, I’ll keep at it and hopefully it will yield a body of work that stands the test of time in my eyes.
See more from Dead Lake, Delamere here.