The Curse of the Intimate Landscape

Intimate landscapes; they say that they sort the boys from the men. If that is true then I am still very much in short trousers.

Close up of the burnt tree

Monday 20th January 2019

Following Saturday’s disastrous visit to Ullswater to get a shot that I can use to market the remaining place on my Ullswater and Brothers Water workshop I was forced to return this morning.

This time things went a little better and I came away with a few shots that I am much happier with.

I was pleased to sell the remaining place within a couple of hours of returning home so I didn’t need the shot in the end anyway.

The view towards Pooley Bridge from the beach at Glencoyne on Ullswater
I sold the remaining place on my Ullswater and Brothers Water workshop within 2 hours of returning home so didn’t need this shot from Glencoyne in the end.

Tuesday 21st

This morning I headed to Knipescar Common to start filming a video about intimate landscapes following a challenge by my mate Julian Baird.

I have wanted to shoot at Knipe Scar for a long time. It is covered in exposed limestone which makes wonderful foreground interest.

The problem that I have is that there is no background here but that is not a problem when shooting intimate landscapes.

I was unusually nervous. Whenever I have tried shooting intimate landscapes before I have always been disappointed with the results.

It turned out that I was right to be nervous. After 3 hours of searching all I managed was one very mediocre shot of moss covered limestone.

Moss covered limestone at Knipescar Common
After 3 hours searching for a composition at Knipescar Common this was the best that I could come up with.

Wednesday 22nd

More intimate landscape wows today, this time at Grizedale Forest.

More time wasted wandering aimlessly around hoping that a composition would eventually slap me in the face.

Eventually, out of pure desperation more than anything else, I picked a small stretch of forest to focus on.

This approach does seem to be a bit more productive and whilst I am not happy with the shot that I came away I did learn a valuable lesson.

If you want to shoot intimate landscapes you have to search for them.

Trees in Grizedale Forest
Spend hours searching in the forest and you too can come away frustrated and disappointed!

Thursday 23rd

Before each workshop I like to send out a pdf containing all of the relevant details that the people attending need.

With my joint workshop at Rydal Water with James Burns looming I needed to get a shot of the caves.

It was a beautiful misting morning and I enjoyed some time away from my intimate landscape challenge but it was soon time to get back to it.

Rather than continue filming I decided to do some practice, building on what I learned yesterday. I found a tree and set about inspecting it closely.

Close up of the burnt tree
One of the more successful shots from a productive hour studying a fallen tree near Rydal Water.

Friday 24th

This morning I climbed into the hills above Grasmere to visit a location that is very dear to my heart.

Before we moved to the Lake District we used to stay in Grasmere when we were on holiday. Each time on the first morning, full of excitement, I would head up into the hills before sunrise usually to Easedale Tarn.

I have never found it to be an easy place to shoot but this morning I was in for a treat, some of the most wonderful conditions it has ever been my pleasure to photograph.

Easedale Tarn in the hills above Grasmere
Right place at the right time for a change – some of the most wonderful conditions that I have ever photographed.

Saturday 25th

Had my first solo workshop this morning. It could not have gone better.

The weather was almost perfect; overcast and breezy, signature Chris Sale conditions!

I thoroughly enjoyed showing Stephen and Chris around Otterbield on Derwent Water. What’s even better is that they seemed to enjoy themselves too and it looks like they both got some great shots.

Sunday 26th

This morning was the second of this weekend’s workshops at Otterbield.

The weather forecast was not good but fortunately we got a couple of hours photography done before the heavens opened.

This was the first time that I have had to cut a workshop short because of the weather and both David and Stephen were very understanding.

In order to make up for the lost time I have invited both of them to join me for a shoot at some point in the future. I really look forward to seeing them both again soon.

Photography can be frustrating at times.

I do not enjoy spending hours looking for a composition only to come away with mediocre images.

But if I don’t push myself, if I don’t try new things, then I am unlikely to ever reach my full potential.


8 thoughts on “The Curse of the Intimate Landscape”

  1. Great to see you attempting to embrace the challenge! Whenever I’ve attempted intimate shots, it’s not actually when I’m taking them that I have the issue. It’s when I get them into lightroom and find I’ve just taken a load of boring images of bark that I thought were really ‘arty’ at the time! I have to say though, I really like the image of the burnt wood you took. I think you nailed it there!

    1. Thanks Sam – I think that is my biggest problem with intimate landscapes. In my eye none of them can ever really stack up to a bigger vistas that I usually shoot so they do tend to look like “a load of boring images of bark”. 🙂 But perhaps I will start to see the beauty if I practice and get a little better at it.

  2. I want to make it clear that I am not being critical of your approach, but I do wonder whether the preference to not look at the work of others is potentially holding you back here. I love the work of David Ward and Brenda Tharp, who just have a knack of seeing the world around them from framing what is at their feet. There are always going to be certain images of theirs that stick in my head, but what really sticks is the idea behind the image, e.g. the clever use of lines in a rock face, or the use of ICM on tree bark. It is those ideas that I carry with me into the landscape, and I interpret those ideas in order to portray my reaction to the scene in front of me. Like you, I try to push myself beyond my comfort zone, but sometimes I need a nudge in a direction in order to make that leap and then objectively assess the result. Just a thought buddy. All the best, Huw

    1. I am not going to disagree with you Huw. It is one thing to say that I do not want to be influenced by other photographers when referring to the wider landscape. But when it comes to the more intimate shots it would be extremely helpful to look at the work of others to understand the sort of images that they are producing. Thanks for the tip, I will check out David and Brenda.

      1. Cheers Chris 🙂 Phew, worded that one really carefully to make sure that I caused no offense! If I was to recommend a David Ward book it would be Landscape Beyond (, and for Brenda Tharp it would be Expressive Nature Photography ( Both of these are key books on my bookshelf with regard to the intimate landscape. I had the same dilema when I first started to play with intentional camera movement – it was something I wanted to explore but I was always disappointed with the results of what I created. Looking forward to seeing the results of your exploration (and definately a good subject for another video 😉 ). All the best as always, Huw

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