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.
I must admit that shooting iconic well known scenes is not my favourite photographic genre, I tend to do it more for commercial reasons than artistic fulfilment. However, our continued association with The Old School Gallery in Muker has seen me grow to enjoy the delights of Swaledale more and more, so I couldn’t resist the chance to have a go at shooting the wild flower meadows.
We tried shooting the machair on Uist last June and found it a very hard subject to master and we’re finding the same here in Swaledale, it takes time to adjust to an unfamiliar environment. But hopefully with a bit more familiarity we’ll get further into it and produce some work that we are pleased with and by the time the winter comes we should be sufficiently au fait with the area to produce some of the simple monochrome images that we love to shoot.
We headed off towards the Wolds full of expectation for a highly productive day. We’d done our recce last year and knew exactly where the poppies and the Oxeye daises would be; only they weren’t! We had hoped to drive straight to them and not have to drive around to locate them, but it wasn’t to be. We parked at the top of a hill above Thixendale village and not a poppy to be seen! The irony of the situation was that that there are loads of poppy fields in Ryedale near where we live, but we expected even richer pickings on the Wolds.
After scanning the horizon for a while, I spotted a field of poppies in the distance, but as we drove in their general direction, I was faced with a long walk in the hope of gaining access to the field. As luck would have it there were gates and public rights of way all the way to the field. The day was really hot and bright, but I’d landed waist deep in poppy heaven, so I decided to shoot them anyway and come back later in the evening as well once the light had got less harsh.
Fortunately there were wide tram lines between some of the rows, so I was able to get right in amongst the poppies without causing any damage or incurring the wrath of the farmer. After a happy hour up to my waist shooting in poppy heaven, we drove off in search of daises, but drew a blank, so returned to the original field and had our picnic tea, before trekking back up the hill for another session with the poppies.
So after a faltering start I came away with a set of photos I’m really pleased with, which just goes to prove persistence always pays.
Aren’t fields full of wild flowers brilliant? Fortunately it’s been a great year for wild flowers this year with huge swathes in the fields all around Ryedale. Normally we would have to travel over to places like Wensleydale to get any quantity of wild flowers, but this year we’ve been able to capture them locally.
Buttercups have been everywhere and the Wolds are alive with Cow parsley and red & white Campion, and now the Poppies and Oxeye daises are bursting through. Traveling back from an exhibition we spotted a glorious bank of Oxeye daises in the middle of a village, so we just had to return to capture them. After that we pressed on up to Danby Rigg which was covered in cotton grass. We normally get some cotton grass on the moors, but this year there are literally acres of them.
Traveling back from Danby Rigg, we spotted another bank covered in Oxeye daises, so we just had to stop and record them as well. Swathes of wild flowers like this don’t occur every year, so we are working hard to make the most of them while they last. Poppies seem to be the one wild flower that is in short supply so far, but who knows, they are popping through all the time, so we might just get some yet.