New Year, New Outlook!

The criticism that my work received last year has had a huge effect on my creativity. At the start of a new decade I wanted to try to put some of my daemons from 2019 to rest.

Beacon Tarn in the hills to the west of Coniston Water

Monday 6th January 2020

Today was my first day back at work after a short break for Christmas.

The weather was poor so I thought it best to spend time in the office catching up with some admin.

I also recorded a video about the gear that I use for landscape photography. I shot the whole 16 minute video in a single take. A first for me!

If I can keep this up it should reduce the amount of time I spend filming videos. This is particularly import as I would like to start producing 2 videos a week from now on.

Tuesday 7th

If anything the weather was even worse today than yesterday.

I spent the day getting the plan for my spring workshops into some sort of order.

It has been a huge relief that my winter workshops have sold so well, I have even had to add some extra dates!

Wednesday 8th

Spent the day exploring some of the hills near Coniston.

I have been inspired by my friend Julian Baird to be more spontaneous so I went off in search of new compositions.

Since going full-time I have received some criticism about the quality of my photographs. This has led to me playing it safe and focusing on locations that I know well.

For 2020 I want to put all of that behind me and to start explore some of the less well know parts of the Lake District.

I decided to start with Beacon Tarn, an area that seemed to have a great deal of potential.

When I arrived at the tarn I decided to look for an elevated position so that I could compose an image that featured the tarn and the ‘Beacon’ behind it.

Beacon Tarn in the hills to the west of Coniston Water
I hope that by exploring new locations I will be able to find new compositions and bring a little more creativity into my work.

✓ – Simple composition focusing on the tarn and the Beacon

✓ – The Coniston Fells in the distance add extra depth to the image

✕ – Not quite a ‘portfolio’ quality image just yet. Revisiting the scene in the coming months will help to fine tune the composition and experiment with different lighting.

After exploring the compositions that included the Beacon from the edge of the tarn I eventually made my way to the summit.

Here I found huge potential with fabulous views of the Coniston Fells and wonderful foreground interest.

By now the wind had picked up and I struggled to make the most of that potential. A return trip is very much on the cards.

The view of the Coniston Fells from the summit of the Beacon.
I struggled to find the right composition on the Beacon. I am planning to return in the very near future.

Thursday 9th

More poor weather, more time in the office. It wasn’t time wasted!

One thing that I was not prepared for before going full-time was the amount of time I would have to spend interacting with potential customers.

At the moment I am spending a minimum of an hour a day responding to email. I have never been a big fan of email as a form of communication, I actually prefer the telephone.

So today I spent 6 hours on the phone speaking to potential customers and other people that I hope to work with over the next 12 months.

Friday 10th

After a day on the phone I was keen to get out with the camera again this morning.

Another new location for me. The hills between Coniston and Windermere.

I parked at Hill Top, the former home of the writer Beatrix Potter, before climbing up into the hills.

My plan was to explore the tarns close to Claife Heights but it soon became obvious that they had limited photographic appeal so I went in search of something else.

I eventually found my way to Latterbarrow, a small hill overlooking Windermere. The summit is marked by a rather impressive cairn, far larger than you would expect for such a lowly vantage point.

When planning my Hand of Man project Latterbarrow was one location that I had considered including.

However, photographing such a prominent subject is far from easy. If I was going to get something other than a straight record shot I was going to have to get creative.

The impressive summit cairn on Latterbarrow near Hawkshead in the Lake District
The summit cairn on Latterbarrow is such a prominent structure that it can easily compete with a strong foreground


✓ – Getting low and including a strong foreground elevates the image beyond that of a standard ‘record’ shot

✓ – Such a prominent subject can easily compete with such a strong foreground

✕ – Perhaps not the most creative of approaches; what would you have done?

I pretty decent start to 2020!

It feels good to explore a couple of new locations and to start to tackle some of my daemons from 2019.

12 thoughts on “New Year, New Outlook!”

  1. Hi Chris,
    I always enjoy your videos and for what its worth I think you’re photographs have improved since you turned professional.
    Regarding gear, I have the same lenses as you and up to last May I had a 6D. I had it for 5 years and loved it, a superb landscape camera.
    I was thinking about replacing it because I wanted Camera with a articulating screen with touch focus. Like most people I was expecting more when the EOS R came out, but it did have the features I required and I was offered a super deal to change.
    Have my images improved, probably not, but I do enjoy taking them more, the touch focus is instant.
    I am a firm believer that you have to take the images that you want to take and if they please others then that’s a bonus.
    All the best

    1. Thanks Roger. I am generally happy with the work that I am producing at the moment. But so much of the skill for me is in the planning. When I work spontaneously, visiting locations that I don’t know I generally do not produce images that I am as happy with. There is a lot of potential in both locations that I visited last week, but they will require me to revisit a number of times before I can come away with an image that I am entirely happy with.

  2. A good start to the year indeed Chris!
    I bought the book 52 assignments ( Landscape Photography) on the strength of Julian ‘s review in the hope of improving my landscape photography .It would probably help if I didn’t get side tracked by some sport or other ( photographing a Brazilian Jui Jitsu tournament next month😕)
    Keep up the good work and don’t let the Bs get to you.

  3. Great article Chris. I know exactly what you mean about criticism – it can be the death of creativity if you let it! You are absolutely right though, trying new things and learning from what went well and what didn’t is the only way we can progress as photographers. Keep experimenting and trying new things, I for one am really enjoying following your journey as a photographer and as you move into making photography a full-time job!

    1. Thanks Steve – the criticism can be difficult to take. I just do not understand what a photographer could possibly hope to gain from criticism the work of another. But hopefully that is behind me. From now on I will do my best to ignore it and not allow it to impact my work.

      1. Hi Chris,
        Glad to see you off to a positive start in 2020. Impressed at your 16minute in one take gear comment , not sure many of us could pull that one off 🙂
        I thought your shot of the Beacon (Wednesday) had a lot of potential, I really liked that layered , tilted geology and with the right sky it could have a distinctly angry Lord of the Rings feel perhaps in black and white.
        Non-constructive comment is I agree unhelpful, especially if the giver isn’t willing to put forward their own credentials for comment .
        Keep the work coming and I’m really happy for you to hear your workshops are getting well patronised,

        1. Hey Chris, I find most criticism is unhelpful, constructive or otherwise. For the most part I would prefer to be allowed to find my own way. I am more than happy to critique my own work and have a level of self awareness that means I have a decent understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Hello, Chris. I like the daily diary and you seem to have a more relaxed delivery on your videos. Not that you came across as stressed before. You seem more personable. Also like the self-assessment. Objective and balanced.

    Look forward to reading more in the coming days.

    1. Hi John – the diary is something that I write to compliment the videos. It is designed to show what is going on behind the scenes and to document my feelings about my images. I am exploring the possibility of adding a voiceover critique of my images to my videos.

  5. I’ve lived within about 10 minutes drive of Beacon Tarn for most of my life and never heard of it before. Looks like it has a lot of potential. Might be worth a quick swim in the Summer too!

    1. Really Andrew? It is a fantastic location and I will definitely be back before the end of the spring. But you are on your own as far as the swimming goes! 🙂

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