“Ancient trees are precious. There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism.”
Sir David Attenborough
Together with painter Richard Gilbert, I’ve been photographed these tree during February and March 2023. I’m grateful to him for introducing me to this wonderful landscape and obtaining permission from the landowner to return to photograph these Ancient, Veteran and Notable Trees.
Over the course of two months, I made six visits to this particular location in North Herefordshire to try to capture it’s unique and stunning beauty and mystery. At first, I was orientating myself and getting to know the trees, the landscape, the light and atmosphere. As well as exploring visually, I also became aware of the smells, sounds and feel of an ancient deer park.
The first visits were in cold winter days, with dull grey skies, with soft light. Seeing some of this ancient trees made me think about age and ageing, most of them are somewhat older than me, and will most likely outlive me by some margin!
Their broad, twisted trunks, cankered boughs, stag-headedness (dead, antler-like branches extending beyond the crown) and their bark, bearing the ‘scars’ of age became my photographic subjects.
Those early shoots were made with a digital camera and different lenses, taken in colour. However, it wasn’t working, something was amiss. So started converting some of these colour images into monochrome. There was some improvement they looked better, more graphic without the influence of colour they took on a different look.
When researching other photographers approaches to photographing trees and woodlands, I found great beauty and skill in their monochrome work.
The breakthrough came when I started using film and film cameras. First using some old 35mm cameras, then progressing to an ancient Mamiya 6 medium format film camera that I’ve had for the last 25 years but haven’t used that much. Using it lead me to work in a more considered way, slower, more aware of composition and light. Creating the image within the square viewfinder became easier whilst using one lens with a limited angle of view. Less seemed to allow me to concentrate on what was important.
I am a documentary photographer. I make pictures that capture moments and tell stories. My subject is the world that surrounds me, particularly people and the natural and man-made landscapes within which they live and work. My interest in heritage, stories and change over time informs my work. My eye is drawn to shape, light, pattern and form.