Fellow Travelers


The idea of inhabiting a prison we cannot see, one that we have sneakily built around ourselves, to be chained by invisible constraints (as an artist at least) is a fascinating little topic to dwell upon. Day by day, year by year we grow and as we do we develop patterns, we learn what is “correct”… we become ourselves and that self develops a stable definition. But what if that definition is really a trap. Take for example the common question that photographers, myself included, have wrestled with: what is my style? As beginners it often feels like this is something that must be answered. How can we be any good if we don’t have a definitive style, a sense of exactly who or what we are? But what if in defining who we are we also inadvertently define who we aren’t, or won’t be? Often I am impressed by the work of carefree photographers. What they lack in experience or accumulated technical knowledge they more than make up for in one particular area. I don’t know what to call this other than they don’t yet know what they aren’t supposed to do, so they do everything. They don’t yet know who they are supposed to be as a photographer, so they try many things.


Having rules can be a great way to learn but at some point if that structure is clung on too tightly it easily becomes a cage and demonstrate this by posing questions such as; can every image in the world conform to rule of thirds? Of course not. So if all you know is that rule, think of all you will not be capable of knowing. Or should every image have odd number of elements? Should every image be colour?


I think the notion I am talking about is an interesting one to consider and wrestle with, or at least be aware of. It is not a question of depth versus breadth. And that is because, even if you are in favour of depth and focus, within that depth there are still certain constraints upon your creativity… certain blind spots that you are not capable of seeing. And it is really hard to identify something you cannot see. Like a missing tooth, after time we become so use to the gaps in our vision we don’t even see them.


What to do about this? I’m not entirely sure. I keep being fascinated by trying to be aware of the stuff that I am not aware of. I try to worry at the gaps in my vision and not become accustomed to them. I try to not let myself become too comfortable. Comfortable may be enjoyable but it is also anathema to creativity. And I endeavour to try something new constantly, be it new films or new cameras or new lenses, like this Daguerreotype Achromat Artlens.


And that is why I have been running around with this thing of recent. It isn’t because I have any particular images in mind I want to create, but rather it is because I want to explore and try to approach things a bit different than I would normally be inclined to do. Of course, my own internal devil’s advocate would say that experimentation and exploration are my normal tendencies so how is that really pushing any boundaries…



Everything To Gain


Nothing’s new no good no bad
The heat goes on and it drives you mad
Scornful thoughts that fly your way
Just turn away cause there’s nothing more to say

You gave the best you had to give
You only have one life to live
You fought so hard you were a slave
After all you gave there was nothing left to save

You read the book you turn the page
You change your life in a thousand ways
The dawn of reason lights your eyes
To the kingdom of the wise

Nothing ventured nothing gained
No more lingering doubt remained
Nothing sacred or profane
Everything to gain



In The Quiet Of The Crowd

QP3It occurs to me that these days one must go farther and farther to escape the crowds. I witnessed how larger and larger numbers of people are travelling and places are getting more and more crowded. In part this is driven by the internet and social media. It is easier to publicise a place and we are drawn like moths to a flame to the places that sites such as Instagram subtly tell us are the “it” places that one must visit in their life. Look at Iceland, look at New Zealand, sure. But even on a smaller, more local scale I see beaches and trails becoming more packed. I don’t know what I think of this. On one hand I find it repellent and annoying to navigate crowds of people when my goal is to get somewhere away from people. On the other hand, I can hardly fault these people for wanting to get out into beautiful places. They are doing the same thing I am doing and I can no more fault them than I can, or should, myself. But at the same time the increasing numbers present issues. The more individuals through an area the more wear on that area, the more litter, the more people climbing through alpine meadows off-trail, or scaling sea stacks at the beach disturbing the natural bird life. We slowly erode that which we love.

siena3On a photographic level the unwanted wanderer has long been a bane to the photographer wanting to get “the shot”. I remember struggling with this in my early days, waiting patiently and sometimes not so patiently, for that man in the red raincoat to get along his merry way and out of the frame I have been composing for the past ten minutes. But that was then. These days I rarely experience the issue and in large part that is because of the world of photography that long exposure and pinhole has opened up to me. When you are making 10 second, or eight minute exposures, crowds not present much less an issue but actually they create an opportunity. So many times the essence of a particular landscape image to me is based on the unpredictable blur of people moving within the frame. Now my struggles laughably tend toward the opposite end of the spectrum. I set up to make a long exposure of people within a landscape and I get a minute into a four minute exposure and they get up and leave the frame, barely registering as ghosts at that point. I want to run in and tell them to not get out of my way.

QP1The photographic aspect of this issue is a fun one to wrestle with, the non-photographic aspects of growing crowds though has me a little concerned at times.



Between No Longer And Not Yet


Morning broke on the day I looked most forward to, and it did not disappoint with its glorious Tuscan sunrise.

I selected and squeezed three oranges into four small glasses, took my coffee outside and made a couple of Photographs.


San Gusme was just appearing through the morning mist. I knew then that the magic here cannot be held at bay by Glass. It strikes deep and massages a tired soul. Once again the peace was overwhelming and my eyes filled with tears of bliss and joy. The anticipation of what lay ahead made my head spin.


Breakfast devoured we headed west to Siena to pick up the famous and scenic SR2 to San Quirico d’ Orcia. Driving through fields of curvaceous green plains. This is where the Unesco protected Val d’ Orcia begins.


About 5km south hot sulphurous water bubbles up into this picturesque pool in the centre of Bagno Vignoni.

We then headed 15 km further south to the tiny and beautiful (aren’t they all) village Bagni San Fillippo. A tiny path through the woods took us to sets of warm, tumbling cascades. Mudpools and Sulphur mountains. A most glorious spot.




It was fast approaching lunchtime and we headed for Monticchiello, a sleepy medieval hilltop village. Just inside the main Gate (doesn’t that sound brilliant – inside the village gate) stands the small and highly regarded Osteria La Porta. It has a small terrace  with the most overwhelming panoramic views of the Val d’ Orcia. This is the place to have Lunch.








We drove unhurried to Pienza, making several stops en route to enjoy and marvel at this wonderful scenery and to make photographs.


We could see our next stop from the terrace of Osteria La Porta.


Pienza is small and boost several Renaissance  buildings that should not be missed. We spent several relaxing hours here and strolled without a care and without any hurry through this beautiful village. Exploring with eyes, heart and soul.





I also found a plaque that stated that the Val d’ Orcia was an idea by several Renaissance painters. I for one will be forever grateful to them.

So we slowly made our way back to the Villa for our last night and a scrumptious BBQ.

I thank whoever needs thanking for making this trip possible.