My latest book, Beautiful Somerset, has just been published, but with what terrible timing! With almost all book shops and many of the wholesalers closed due to the Covid-19 crisis, options for getting the book out to the book-buying public are rather limited. Thank goodness for the internet, so the book can at least be bought from online stores.
Looks and content
The book does look fantastic, though I appreciate that I am prejudiced. As with the previous books in the Portrait of a County series (Beautiful Cornwall and Beautiful Devon), this is a heavily photo-led book. Divided into six chapters, the first chapter is a mixed text-and-photo piece that gives an overview.
The remaining five chapters consist of a series of photo essays that showcase the most beautiful places in particular regions, such as the Mendips, the Levels and Exmoor National Park. The final chapter is about the cities of Bath and Bristol, the latter not in Somerset but closely adjoining. These two cities taken together are very much the urban heart of this otherwise largely rural region.
All text and photography is by myself, in common with Beautiful Cornwall and Beautiful Devon.
Buying Beautiful Somerset
Although Beautiful Somerset will eventually be available through many high street book shops and visitor attractions, for the time being it can be bought online through Amazon and Waterstones online store.
You can also by online from my own shop, Aquaterra Publishing (www.aquaterrapublishing.co.uk), where you can also see sample pages. Click on the link below. A few sample pages are included here as a taster, but many more can be seen by clicking on the link below.
Beautiful Somerset‘s retail price is £9.99, and if bought from the Aquaterra Publishing site is available free of postage for destinations within the UK.
Planning for the reopened world
Naturally, I really hope you’ll like this book and will decide to buy a copy. You may not be able to visit the places in this book (unless you already live there), but you can start dreaming and planning for when the world reopens!
All six of my autumn photography courses have finished, and some of the photos are now on the website. Running from mid-September through to mid-November, they covered a range of subjects and techniques. They were also exposed to quite a range of weather conditions!
To see sample photos from all six courses click on the link below:
A day spent photographing a range of aspects of the Jurassic Coast, in Dorset, on 5th October. Subjects ranged from the huge fossils embedded into the rocks of Monmouth Beach, to boats and fishing gear around Lyme Regis harbour, to the rocky and sandy beach at Charmouth.
Conditions were not wholly ideal, with grey, misty skies, although there was the occasional glimpse of a touch of sunshine. Such soft lighting lent itself to great details, and many of the photos taken during the day reflected this.
A day of landscape photography in a small part of Exmoor, covering the cliffs at the Valley of Rocks, near Lynton, and the stunning woodland and river valley at Watersmeet, close to Lynmouth.
The day’s weather started off rather worryingly with a sharp, heavy shower, but this soon cleared away to leave us with a really quite nice day, as can be seen in the photo above.
We started the day photographing around the rugged rocks and cliffs at the Valley of Rocks, picking out not just the obvious views but also some of the less obvious details, things that a casual observer might miss.
In the afternoon we moved over to Watersmeet, where we concentrated on photography of the river flowing through the beautiful woodland that fills the valley here. Long exposures were used to blur the water, giving the images a sense of dynamism and movement, really creating atmospheric images.
A day of landscape photography, initially shooting in woodland along the River Teign, before moving to open moorland near Chagford, both in the heart of Dartmoor National Park.
Originally scheduled for Saturday 26th Oct, the weather forecast for that day was so awful (storms, heavy rain etc) that we took the decision to postpone for 24 hours. And what a difference a day makes! Instead of wind and rain, we had a day of calm, clear blue skies that gave us some wonderful photography opportunities.
The date of this workshop is timed each year to coincide with the peak of autumn colours in Dartmoor’s woodlands. However, this year’s mild weather had delayed the colour changes, so many of the trees remained stubbornly green. Still, we were able to do some great photography of the woodland along the banks of the Teign. A bonus was the areas of dying bracken, which glowed beautifully orange in the sunlight, as shown in the above photo.
The afternoon was spent on open moorland, where we photographed the prehistoric Scorhill stone circle, before finishing off with wind-gnarled hawthorns on an area of marshy moorland.
This was a course designed to teach photographic techniques in low light conditions and at night, held on 3rd November in Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton.
The course started late in the afternoon, a couple of hours before sunset. Initially, we were subjected to some very flat grey skies, which didn’t go well with the kind of subject matter I was intending to use; Exmouth’s harbour and the apartments around it.
However, at sunset the skies cleared, allowing us to get some moody shots, initially on the low tide shoreline outside the harbour, and then some excellent dusk views around the harbour itself (see photo above).
This was followed, after dark, by some night sky photography beside the mouth of the River Otter at Budleigh Salterton. As earlier, once again we struggled with cloud cover, but eventually this cleared, giving us a beautiful starry sky, which lasted just long enough to get the shots we needed.
The autumn’s season of photography workshops was rounded off by a day of wildlife photography on Exmoor, held on 16th November. We started off in countryside near Dunster, where there was known to be a herd of Red Deer, and finished at Lynmouth, where the plan was to photograph Dippers on the East Lyn River.
The weather was quite kind, with a mix of sunshine and light clouds throughout the day. This certainly made the deer tracking, through a mix of woods and moorland, quite a pleasant stroll. It did take rather some time to find the herd, but we eventually stumbled upon them high up on a moorland hill.
Although as nervous as Red Deer always are, we were able to follow them at a distance for some time, every now and then able to get close enough (thanks to cover from birch scrub) to grab a number of good shots (see photo above). A satisfying morning!
The afternoon session of photographing Dippers, a bird that lives on Exmoor’s fast-flowing streams, was less successful. We initially started at Watersmeet, near the town of Lynmouth, but without success possibly due to high water levels caused by the recent heavy rains.
So we moved down to nearby Lynmouth, where we found a Dipper on the river, right in the middle of the town. He performed beautifully for us, not at all bothered by our presence. However, we weren’t able to get close enough for truly great photography, and by this time light levels were really starting to drop away as sunset approached. All the same, it was great to watch this bird skipping from rock to rock, regularly diving in to the water to hunt for food. And at least we did manage to grab a few photos of its antics.
The next programme of one-day photography courses kicks off at the end of March 2020, starting with a low light and long exposure course, to be held in Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton. Hopefully, everyone coming on this course will be able get night sky photos like the one above.
The programme of courses continues through the spring, takes a break during the height of summer, and then resumes in the autumn, finishing in November.
The full programme is on the website. To see the courses click on the link below.
Well into October already, and my programme of autumn one-day photography courses is steaming along. In fact, there are just two left to go: 20th and 27th October, covering Exmoor and Dartmoor in Autumn, respectively. We still have spaces on both, so if you’d like to come along get in touch.
Photography courses for 2019
When it comes to next year, I’ve managed to pull together my programme of 2019 one-day photography courses, and it’s all now up on the website, along with details of this year’s two remaining courses.
Building on what I learned in the survey I ran during the summer, I’ve introduced a couple of new courses, one of which will be a low-light photography workshop. This will in fact be the first workshop of the spring, kicking off on 30th March with some late afternoon, dusk and night photography. Another new course will be on South Devon coastal landscapes, to be held on 4th May.
For the second time, I’ll be running the architectural course in Bath, and there will also be the usual Dartmoor, Exmoor and Jurassic Coast workshops. The year will round off in November with a wildlife photography workshop, somewhere in Devon, though I’ve yet to decide exactly where – details will follow in due course.
Finding out more
Details of most of next year’s courses are on the website.
To find out more about all the courses, both those remaining this year and all those so far listed for next year, click on the link below:
The last two of this year’s autumn photography workshops were held at the end of October, on 22nd Oct the Exmoor in Autumn course, and on 28th Oct the Dartmoor in Autumn course.
Exmoor in Autumn photography course
Scheduled originally for 21st Oct, the weather forecast for that day had it set to be such a wild and windy day that I thought is wise to postpone the workshop by a day. It was probably the best thing to do, but in fact things were hardly any better on the Sunday – with howling winds and frequent showers making the photography quite a challenge. We did get to see quite a few rainbows, however, which was good.
The morning started off with some beach and harbour shots at Porlock Weir, on the Somerset coast. The hill behind the village gave some protection from the worst of the wind, but nevertheless we were battered by frequent showers alternating with some sunny spells. Photography consisted mostly of trying to capture in various ways the waves crashing over the harbour mouth groynes.
Then we moved up onto the hills at County Gate, a place with wonderful views of deep valleys, moors and woodland. Here, we found out just how windy it really was, and with the showers getting ever more frequent, we soon gave up on this site.
Much of the afternoon was spent at Watersmeet, a deep and sheltered valley, filled with woodlands and a white water river. Quite apart from photographing the waterfall here, and the river flowing around rocks, we were also treated to canoeists shooting downriver and, near the end of the day, a heron posing nicely by the river bank for us.
So, despite the conditions, in fact it was quite an interesting and varied day.
Dartmoor in Autumn photography course
Held the following weekend, this was a much calmer day, the morning spent in the sheltered woodland valley of the Teign River, at Fingle Bridge in the northeast of Dartmoor. Lots of photography of trees in autumn colours hanging over the river, etc, though the very gentle breeze was just enough to ruffle the leaves, making it difficult when shooting with slow shutter speeds.
The second part of the day was spent on the open moor, on the hills above the village of Chagford. Here, the elements turned against us again, with heavy, drizzly cloud moving in and a nasty little wind getting up. We managed some handy photography of the Scorhill stone circle, as well as shots of a lone hawthorn tree on some marshy moorland, all aimed at demonstrating how to get worthwhile shots on an otherwise desolate moor. We didn’t manage to get too far with this, however, as with the weather deteriorating and both temperature and light levels dropping we all eventually decided to call it a day.
The joys of photography in England in late autumn!
Sets of photos taken by me during the day – along with those from several of the recent courses – can be seen on the website. Just click on the link below.
Judging the 2017 Southwest Coast Path photography competiton!
I’m very pleased to be able to announce that I’ve been asked to be the principal judge on this year’s annual Southwest Coast Path photography competition! The competition, run to promote the loveliness and importance of the landscapes along the southwest peninsula’s southwest coast path, will be on during the autumn, starting from now and ending at the beginning of December. I’ll be selecting the winner out of a shortlist of – hopefully – fantastic images. So start submitting really soon – not to me but to the Southwest Coast Path organisation. For more details click on this link:
My two May photography courses both went off well, Exmoor in Spring and Dartmoor in Spring, as the names suggest concentrating on the landscapes of southwest England’s two national parks.
Both courses were fully booked, so I was kept busy throughout giving instruction, help and tips to everyone as they worked at shooting the views that we visited. The weather, it has to be said, was not always completely cooperative. Exmoor in Spring was treated to hazy grey skies, which were not really conducive to the ‘open-sky’ views, but was just perfect for the period we spent shooting inside the woodlands at Watersmeet.
For Dartmoor in Spring, we started the day with a few heavy showers, which caused us to start with an indoor theory session at a nearby café, before we were able to venture out into the landscape. Even then we still got wet with a few showers, but not enough to dampen anyone’s spirits. For the final session, out on the open moors around Bench Tor we did get treated to some bursts of evening sunlight, which were a good finale to the day.
A couple of my photos are shown here, but you can see more on the website by clicking below.
At last the cold, dark winter days are past, and things are definitely improving quite rapidly. I can actually get up in the mornings now, which is always a sure sign that spring has arrived, aided by the wonderful songs of the robins competing for space in my back garden.
With all the new activity and lengthening daylight hours there are fewer and fewer excuses for not getting the camera out, dusted off and charged up. There is just so much stuff waiting to be photographed, I hardly know where to start.
There are plenty of views that work all year round, views such as the dawn or dusk on the coasts and across the moors, surf rolling across rocks, moorland and woodland streams splashing downhill over and around boulders. All good stuff at any time of year. My tip when photographing moving water is to put the camera on a tripod and slow the shutter speed right down. The resultant blur in the water really puts over the sense of movement.
As we come further into spring, the difference now is that – having just past the spring equinox – the sun is rising and setting further and further to the north, changing the lighting angles at different times of day, and allowing sunlight onto those awkward north-facing subjects, at least early and late in the day.
At the end of March and into early April these are still looking a little wintery, but that won’t last a whole lot longer. By late May the trees will have leafed out – even on Dartmoor – putting a magnificent cloak of irridescent green across our landscapes. This is a time for some great woodland photography, both landscape views and leafy details (the latter particularly when the sun is backlighting the leaves) greatly showing off this new life.
Until then, concentrate on the woodland floor, and plethora of flowers that will be taking advantage of the early spring light, before the woodland canopy closes over. Slowly drawing to a close now are the wild daffodils and wood anemones. When photographing either of these these (or indeed any ground-level flower), don’t just stand over them and photograph from the upon-high human perspective: get down low and intimate with the flowers, to really home in on their beauty and detail. You might get wet knees or a soggy bum, but you’ll have images that really capture the flowers’ loveliness.
In a few weeks’ time bluebells will carpet many of our woodland floors, a hazy layer of blue-cum-violet mixed in with the vibrant greens. Again, get down low to get a flower’s ‘eye-view’ of their world and shoot across the tops of the flowers. You may want to use a telephoto view in order to crowd the flowers together in the final image. Although this results in a narrower view of the woodland, it enhances the sense of a dense carpet of flowers. Use a wide view and you’ll see a lot more of the woodland in the image, but the bluebells will appear to be much more spread out and fewer in number, losing the sense of a dense blue carpet.
The back garden
Finally, never forget your own back garden. Not only are those robins singing like crazy, but they and a host of other birds are getting quite frantic with feeding, territory, courtship and nest-building. The activity in the garden can be quite amazing, particularly if you have bird-feeders set up, and many of the birds will be so busy they’ll hardly notice your presence, provided you sit still and quiet. Having the camera at the ready on these occasions can result in some great, surprisingly intimate shots of all this spring activity.
These are just some ideas for all the nature photography you could be doing in the coming weeks. So, get that camera going, get your walking shoes on, and get out to enjoy the spring weather and nature’s new life!
The images in this blog are part of Nigel Hicks’s Wild Southwest project, a book about the landscapes and wildlife of southwest England.
My latest book Wild Southwest: the landscapes and wildlife of southwest England, has been doing quite well since its publication in October. We’re certainly getting some very good reviews in the press, particularly in southwest England, not surprisingly.
I’ve put together a collection of some of the reviews on our website, so to see these click here…>
Naturally, I hope you’ll like what you see. Wild Southwest is widely available through all good bookshops. In southwest England it is stocked by all branches of WH Smith and Waterstones. Online you can buy it on Amazon or click here…>
Aquaterra Publishing is my own publishing company, which published Wild Southwest.
The included images are sample spreads from Devon Life magazine and the Western Morning News.
Fortunately, it turns out that the winner of my Facebook and Twitter followers prize draw lives not too far away from me, so I was able to present Paul Steven with his signed copy of Wild Southwest myself.
That happened two days ago at a photography event in Taunton, Somerset, so Paul is now the happy owner of a copy of my latest book. Below is a photo of the occasion – that’s me on the left. Photo taken by Alain Lockyer.