Dartmoor National Park

I am a 40-something web developer and technical consultant. I live on the northern flank of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, England. For as long as can remember I have had a deep love for the open countryside and wild coast, coupled with a fascination for both local history and folklore. In my spare time, when I’m not hiking, I am reading about those areas I wish to visit or poring over Ordnance Survey maps trying to find interesting places.

While I have been interested in photography and landscape art since early childhood it was not until buying my first DSLR in 2008 did my interest truly ignite. Being able to fully control the outcome of my photographs and being able to see them immediately, without having to develop film, was a revelation. I could take as many photos as I wanted without the worry of film costs and experiment much more freely with my photography.

Within 10-12 months I had learned my DSLR inside out and had become aware of the strengths and weaknesses of that particular model, it was then that I upgraded my Olympus E-510 to an Olympus E-3 (their flagship model at the time). The difference in quality and control was profound – I was hooked. I used every spare penny to save up for lenses, filters and other camera accessories as my thirst for photographic knowledge grew exponentially.

Skipping forward almost a decade I am now the owner of a Canon 7D MkII. The reason for my current choice of camera was three-fold, the ergonomics which suit my large hands, the solid weatherproofing (a constant worry when hiking and wild camping around Dartmoor) and the fast burst rate of 10 frames per second. While I am enjoying the 1.6x magnification of the cropped sensor, especially for wildlife close-ups and action shots, I am also now considering a full-frame system like the Canon 5D series for more detailed studies.

My pursuit of photography has changed a lot over the past decade. I used to carry a camera everywhere and take “snaps” of whatever caught my eye, often with little thought or composition. These days I am a lot fussier, I now go to great lengths to plan a “photoshoot” often based on the weather forecast, local knowledge, local history and mobile apps (like The Photographer’s Ephemeris). I am also keenly aware of natural light and my endless pursuit of dramatic shadows.

One of many peaceful nights that I have spent wild camping on Dartmoor.

Wild Camping on Dartmoor National Park

Photography has really opened my eyes to the world around me. I had always thought I had good observation skills having participated in many long hikes through the British Countryside. But now I am noticing more and more details, like how the light transforms a landscape throughout the day and with each passing season, patterns in the behaviour of wildlife and of the local Dartmoor ponies, the subtle differences in textures and tones … I could wax lyrical on this subject for quite some time! Photography has also taught me endless patience. I now hike and wild camp on Dartmoor just to get the best conditions for a photograph (rather than taking photos whilst hiking); often waiting hours for a blazing sunset, a dark starry sky or layers of mist at sunrise.

Going forward I hope to build upon my skills, to find new places to photographs and to better old compositions. My aim is still to promote this amazing part of the United Kingdom, but less for financial reasons and more as part of a spiritual journey. I continue to learn as much about myself as I do about the places I visit and nature therein.

Dedicated to Brian Smithson

I would like to express a deep debt of gratitude and loss for best friend, mentor and ex-business partner Brian Smithson. Without his unwavering faith in my photographic ability, his constant support and endless enthusiasm I might have given up my photography a long time ago. Very sadly Brian passed away in early 2016 having lost his fight against aggressive prostate cancer. Please take a few moments to look through Brian’s own photos at: Brian Smithon’s (Old Geordie) photo gallery on Flickr. Farewell, my friend, you are sorely missed.