ADVENTURES OF A NATURAL WORLD PHOTOGRAPHER HOME COMFORTS
Ross returns to his local patch – the amazing Cornish coast.
S O, I’M CURRENTLY SAT IN MY SKODA YETI, sheltering from rather inclement weather. It’s blowing a hoolie out there and I’m dodging yet another squally shower. I’m parked in a lay-by, overlooking the rugged Penwith coast in west Cornwall. From my vantage point, I can spot the remains of mineshafts and old engine houses dotted along the clifftops – this is Poldark country. My only company is a Cornish pasty and my MacBook Pro. Things could be worse.
So why I am taking photos of Cornwall? No particular reason, actually. I’m not shooting for a commission or magazine today, just taking photos because I want to. I’ve lived in the county almost my entire life – one day, I might even be considered a local.
I’ve been shooting the Cornish coast ever since I first passed my driving test – when I was still a fresh-faced 17-year-old with lofty aspirations to be a pro tog. Two decades later, and there are few places in north or west Cornwall that I don’t know, or have not shot. So why on earth do I keep returning? Why revisit viewpoints you’ve photographed before when there is a big wide world out there? It’s a good question. I think intimacy is the answer. You can quite literally visit and photograph anywhere in the world today, can’t you? Providing you have the cash and inclination to do so, of course. The world is our oyster, so why bother with the beauty spots local to you?
Here’s why – while it’s always stimulating and enjoyable photographing somewhere new, you run the risk of overlooking the photo possibilities close to home. When you’re travelling, you rarely have sufficient time to do a place justice. You can’t get to know a location fully or intimately, while the window of opportunity to get just the right weather or conditions is brief.
In contrast, we have ample chances to get to know our local patch inside out. By building up knowledge of an area from multiple visits over many years, we’re able to discover and capture the true character of a region. Thanks to prior successes and failures, you’ll learn what conditions suit a certain place, and also the best time of year or day in which to coincide your visit. You’ll discover the hidden gems – less obvious viewpoints that few others know about or have photographed; and you’re more likely to capture images of local places in spectacular or dramatic light, as you can keep a close eye on the weather and venture out with your camera at the drop of a hat.
This isn’t something you can do if you have to travel further away. I appreciate it’s easy to get bored or overfamiliar with local viewpoints, but avoid taking them for granted as they should continue to offer you outstanding photographic scope. And that applies wherever you are – you don’t have to live somewhere as picturesque as Cornwall to have great photo opportunities on your doorstep. You just need to keep your eyes open and avoid complacency.
Anyway, enough from me. The rain is beginning to ease and I have a Cornish tin mine to shoot – if I’m able to keep my camera upright in these blowy conditions. But before venturing out again, I have a rather ample Cornish pasty to eat… Ross Hoddinott is an award-winning natural world photographer based in Cornwall. He’s written eight books on the subject and he won the inaugural British Wildlife Photography Awards. rosshoddinott.co.uk
“MULTIPLE VISITS WILL HELP YOU TO CAPTURE THE TRUE CHARACTER OF A REGION...”