Suffolk Connections

I have had lots of lovely comments on social media recently about my Suffolk landscapes and the variety of places and subjects that I have captured. 

Without setting out to be purely a ‘Suffolk’ landscape photographer I seem to have carved out a role as such and this has got me thinking about how we operate within the landscape as photographers. 

There is a well known quote by Saint Augustine ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.’

To a certain extent I agree with this, for travel is a great teacher, it gives us a different perspective and allows us to connect with other cultures and landscapes. It is also a life affirming and enhancing experience. 

I am lucky enough to have travelled when I was younger, my photographs from this time exist as family memories rather than landscape masterpieces. I learned a lot from the experiences but I don’t feel the need to travel now to further my photography. 

I believe it is a fallacy that you need to visit stunning landscapes to take stunning pictures. Whilst it might help inspire you (and I’m certainly not saying don’t travel) all my best images have been made within 50 miles of home. I believe connection is the reason behind this. 

What is Connection? 

To take good images you have to be inspired by the landscape you are photographing. But connection is more than just feeling inspired. For me it is about feeling part of the landscape. As a species, humans are very much part of the natural world but with urban living and the frenetic pace of modern life we often ‘see ourselves’ as separate from it. 

Connection is a means by which we immerse ourselves in the natural world. If we open ourselves up to exploring with all our senses we become more attuned to our surroundings, we notice more, we react to what we see, smell or hear and we become more linked to the landscape we are in. We also become more knowledgeable and this in turn can drive our creativity. 

When I am out in the landscape I feel part of the natural world and it feels part of me. It is a feeling as old as humanity – the natural world is where I belong. 

What does connection do for our photography? 

Connection helps us see the world in different ways. So we might look further beyond the obvious scene to find more unusual or unique ways to represent what we see. 

It also helps us acknowledge what mood or emotion was present when we pressed the shutter button. We can then emphasis this when we come to process our images. 

For example the following two images show physical connections between elements within the frame. In the first image, shot across the marsh at Ramsholt, the story is all about the interaction between the two trees. So when it came to processing this image I tried to emphasis this connection by dodging some of the highlights and burning the shadow areas in the ditch to bring the two elements together. 

Similarly this image of a Black Poplar tree has a connection with the fallen branch. It felt to me that it was reaching out towards the tree it had fallen from. I used a low view point and a 14mm lens to emphasise this and then enhanced the somber mood to help convey the feeling of vulnerability that surrounds one of Suffolk’s most endangered tree species. 

These physical connections are driven from a knowledge of the local landscape and an awareness of my surroundings.

Similarly this next image was shot in one of Suffolks most enchanting woodlands. It is a place that I love. The overriding feeling when you are there is one of awe, you can feel the magic of the place. And this is what I have tried to convey in my images. 

Staverton Thicks by Gill MoonWhen I came to process this shot my approach was to brighten the sunlit areas but I also wanted them to recede into the distance. So I have used a combination of dodging and burning and some negative clarity to soften the distant scene and bring the foreground to attention. By using the gnarly trees in the foreground for my composition and the selective use of post processing in Lightroom I feel that I have captured the magic of the wood that I felt when I was there. 

Why is staying local good? 

Getting back to where I started this blog post I feel that we build up a connection with a landscape through knowledge and visiting regularly. Which is why local landscapes are so productive for photography. 

Suffolk is a very flat county. It is not somewhere photography magazines promote as a go to destination.  It may not have the rugged beauty of more mountainous regions but it does have a charm and beauty all of its own. If you explore and get to know it’s varied landscapes you will find it holds a wealth of photographic opportunities. There is much to be discovered in Suffolk or anywhere else if you just get out and forge your own natural connections. 

I have written two books about places that I have forged deep connections with in the Suffolk landscape.

Grounded is about a year of connection on Hollesley Marshes and Rooted is my story of the magical woodland that has so inspired me.

If you would like to see more of my work I am exhibiting as part of the Connection exhibition at the Illuminate Studio in Brightwell Barns throughout October. More details will follow later.