Day One – The Arrival
There’s nothing wrong with living in Essex, let’s get that straight from the beginning. However, should you decide you need to photograph snowy peaks and the cold hard rock of a mountainside bursting from the edge of a vast gleaming lake you will have to go somewhere else. When God created the British Isles he punched out the basic shape with a pastry cutter and then sprinkled it with gigantic lumps of rubble to make the place more interesting to look at. I understand he started at the head-end, way up in the north, and sowed these massive boulders with the enthusiasm of a child feeding chickens in the yard – then discovered he’d run out by the time he’d got to that bit of Norfolk that juts out into the North Sea.
Finding himself at a loss for a solution, and having fully emptied the bucket of all but the most inadequate hillocks and half-formed mounds, he quickly raked over the south east and told us to grow corn and build shopping centres. Essex is a very flat county, but in fact it is not just me, the spray tanned and those named after medium-sweet table wines who head to the Lake District to sample its unique charms. There are few places in the UK that offer such a wealth of visual awe and wonder, and that’s why it has become such a magnet for photographers from all over the country and, indeed, the world.
That is why I drove uphill for six hours to be here for the next three days, with landscape master Charlie Waite and 14 Amateur Photographer readers. Obviously this will be a great chance to experience some of the country’s finest views with a collection of other photography obsessives, but more than that it will be an opportunity for everyone to share their views, knowledge and experience – and, of course, learn from The Man Himself.
Charlie is renowned for being generous with the vast knowledge he has laboured to accumulate over the years, and today, on our first evening together as a group, he spoke about the importance of thinking before pressing the shutter button. He explained that the most critical moments in a photograph’s creation unusually come before the camera is brought to the eye, while the brain mulls the stew of visual elements and emotional responses it encounters when the eyes set themselves on something impressive. And I think it will be that process, that analysis, that pulling-apart and studying, that we’ll be concentrating on during the days to come.
The great thing about study, of course, is that it can be done indoors. And, with the clouds pounding their drumsticks on the roof of the conference room with a passion to rival Charlie’s love of streaking light picking out a lone tree against a distant dark rock, that might be a very good thing. The forecast for tomorrow is for a natural disaster sweeping in from the west, followed by darkness and plague engulfing the land. Borrowdale, brace yourself and hold on to your hat.
I’m glad I brought a flash.