Walking With Others

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I started 2013 with a walk. Come to that I finished 2012 with a walk too, and although neither of them was primarily a photographic exercise, of course I took a camera, and made a few pictures on route.

But the kind of walks that other people – or at least my wife and elder son who I was walking with – do are very different from the way that I walk when I’m on my own and out to take pictures. In the past for some walks where I know the paths are good for cycling I’ve even taken my Brompton with me so that instead of always finding myself running to catch up with them I can easily do so with a few flicks of the pedals.

Photography really isn’t a very sociable activity, even when you are taking pictures of people you have to think and interact with them differently than if you were not taking pictures; you become an observer rather than a participant, though I’ve often worked hard to blur that distinction. But photographing a landscape often seems really to be a very different activity from walking through it.

I learnt a lot about photography – particularly the technical stuff –  from the old Ansel Adams Basic Photo series, written in the early 1950s and already rather out of date when I read them around 20 years later. One of the things I learnt was how Ansel could look at a landscape, perhaps a few tree trunks, and see something that was really completely different, a picture that he could make from them by a particular exposure and development, along with some localised dodging and burning, and perhaps using filters etc. It was an approach to making pictures that I felt uneasy with, a kind of bravura performance with the elements of the landscape. What I wanted was to show it how it was rather than to show what I could do with it.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

But over Christmas and the New Year, I was more going out for walks with the family than going out to take pictures, though I did occasionally find myself running after them (it was far too muddy to think of taking my bike) having stopped to make a photo or two.

I particularly liked the picture above of Staines Moor, not least for some of the details which you probably can’t make out at this scale. Along the horizon at the left are two of the boundary features of the moor, the M25 and a reservoir, and in the sky near the centre of the image that isn’t a bird or a nasty spot of gunk on the sensor but a plane taking off from Heathrow, less than a mile away.

You can see more of the pictures in Around Staines, and from our New Year’s Day walk in Kent in Northfleet & Southfleet.

© 2003, Peter Marshall
Channel tunnel rail link construction site, 2003

We had several reasons for going to Northfleet, not least that I’ve just been working on a new book of photographs including the area taken in 2000-2001, but the idea was actually my wife’s as I’d just given her a book, ‘A Pilgrimage of the Thames’ by Donald Maxwell, published in 1932 since she and my son have for some years he and my wife have been walking parts of the Thames Path, and it made the area sound fascinating. It was a book I’d first found when I was first photographing the area in the early 1980s, when much of what Maxwell wrote, allowing for his imaginative perception, was still recognisable. Things in the area have changed rather more since then, something I’ll perhaps write more about when I get that book sorted. Meanwhile you might like to take a virtual walk (or rather cycle ride) with me from 2003, three pages starting here.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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