A stroll along the banks of Pickering beck is one of my favourite local walks, but one I’ve neglected for a long time, so when I spotted a patch of bright yellow in the distance, I just had to investigate. We’d just returned from a day out in Swaledale shooting the wild-flower meadows, so it came as quite a surprise to have such a riot of colour on my own doorstep. Much as I do enjoy travelling, I derive a great deal of pleasure from finding scenes like this in my own patch. One of the many things I enjoy about photography is that it does teach you to “see”, so you can derive a great deal more pleasure out of your surroundings.
A few years ago I did a calendar on the theme of “Pickering’s hidden corners”. When you live in a place you get so familiar with your surroundings, you fail to “see” things, but this project helped me to open my eyes and actually see the beauty in the everyday scenes I was familiar with.
Pickering beck was just a stream I walked down regularly, a nice place to walk but not a place that shouted photographic potential to me. But having the calendar project forced me to look harder and now I’ve learned to “see” it’s a place that often offers up gems of beautiful light like this old packhorse bridge bathed in the warm evening light.
It all started when I saw a picture of Low Mill on a magazine front cover and as you do I thought “I can do a lot better than that”, but on this occasion I actually did set out to do just that. I took a walk down the beck to recce Low Mill and came to the conclusion that it would be at its best on a mid-winter morning. I returned a few months later one bright, crisp December morning only to discover that I was too early, so pressed on down the river walk to return an hour later. By this time the sun was higher in the sky and clearing the trees, bathing the mill in warm winter light: it wasn’t until my wife collected me in the car I later discovered it was actually minus 12 degrees!
The success of this image prompted me to return early one spring morning where I captured the shot of the fishermen’s hut in beautiful early spring light. It really was becoming apparent that good light was very much the key to lifting these scenes out of the nice but “ordinary” bracket and it was interesting to hear the reactions of the people that bought the calendars. The comments were very favourable, but few actually recognised the places I was recording! By now I’d got the bug and kept an eye on the light, ready to take another walk to see if that “ordinary” stretch of stream would offer up another gem of well-lit beauty. I was drawn to the old packhorse bridge at the end of the walk but getting it nicely lit was proving difficult. After several trips to the bridge it became apparent I would get a small window of opportunity late one evening in high summer and with a bit of persistence I eventually captured the image I was looking for.
I still keep walking down the beck with my camera and because I now go with my seeing eyes well open and I still occasionally manage to capture another image of the landscape bathed in that special light that lifts the most mundane of scene and just goes to prove that there is beauty all around us, we all just need to open our eyes to see it.