I walk daily in the Forest of Dean, which is on my doorstep. It’s a place my wife and I love. For both of us it’s a space of spiritual uplift, always helping us feel better as we share the nature on offer. For me it’s also a source of that special creative energy I can then transfer to my writing. Many ideas for novels, short stories, and poems have presented themselves whilst walking among the trees: too many to convert to written works, in fact. But, as all writers will appreciate, you can never have too many ideas!
Recently, we walked down to the River Wye at the bottom end of the village. From time to time, this river, creating a valley designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), overflows its banks and floods some of the properties. This happened a couple of times earlier this year, and some homes had to be abandoned for a while. Others have since been renovated and restored. One of these used to be a cobblers (for the non-British, that’s a place repairing shoes and other leather goods). It has long been a domestic residence. The owners have taken pride in the history of the place and left the shop window in place, filling it with historical artefacts. After the flood, they rescued the artefacts, restored those they could, and re-arranged the window display. We spent an interesting time viewing the it.
I noticed a folding Agfa camera and was reminded of my own first camera, a reward from my father for getting a good school report when I was 11. My model was actually a Kodak camera, but very similar in style to the Agfa one in the picture. It took 8 pictures on a roll of film, which cost more than my weekly pocket money at the time, so I had to be sure of everything – exposure, composition, focus distance, – before I pressed the shutter release.
Later, I took a job as a paper-boy, delivering newspapers before school in the mornings, after school in the evenings, and making two runs with a very full bag on Sunday mornings. That gave me a better income, which I used to buy film and photography magazines. My father was a wedding photographer, with a darkroom in the wartime concrete air-raid shelter that stood in our back yard. He allowed me to use his chemicals and photographic paper in exchange for keeping his car clean.
That need to be careful about what I pictured and how I framed it stood me in good stead as a photographer. After I left school, I joined the Royal Air Force as a photographer and learned a great deal about technical photography, using large folding cameras on big wooden tripods, a variety of twin lens reflex cameras, and my first personal encounter with a single lens reflex. I won a small trophy from my tutors while an apprentice with the RAF, and was their first pupil to score 100% for a finished photograph. Whilst in that role, I flew with Prime Minister Harold Wilson out over Cornwall, where he was viewing the wrecked oil tanker, the Torey Canyon.
Around that time, I submitted my first picture to a British photographic magazine, the very professional British Journal of Photography, and they used this B & W picture as a cover.
When I left the Air Force, I became a press photographer for a while, working for a small weekly newspaper. I travelled to London to photograph the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and ate at St James’ Palace. I also photographed numerous celebrities who visited the area, including Morecambe and Wise, Dame Vera Lynn, Jake Thackery, who bought me a pint, and various others, all now gone. And I started selling illustrated photographic articles to the British photographic press. That was my first venture into professional writing. From that, I began writing fiction, which is where I now remain. But photography remains a real love, and I continue it in a semi-professional role.
Sharing this post widely on social media will allow those who are stuck indoors, due to Covid 19, to enjoy it. It will also reach more people and, hopefully, illustrate what a wonderful place our world is. With luck, between us, we might restore love and respect for nature and slow down the destructive urge to ruin our environment. Thank you.
If you enjoy my pictures, you may be interested in my gallery, which you can find here or through the ‘Gallery’ tab at the top of the page.