Field Trip: Scotland, part 2

After four days in the mountains I set off for the Western Isles, in search of peat and sand and sea. The road from Fort William to the Kyle of Lochalsh cuts inland towards Spean Bridge before turning North across the valley and offering a view back towards the Nevis Range, which looked gentle and slight beneath a huge, heavy, roiling sky. For some pictures I stopped, but for many I didn’t and wished I had. Passing a football field in Invergarry, I saw a man riding a mobility scooter, armed with a shovel and tilting at molehills. He would …

New home

The new website is up and running. Thanks to the hard work and talents of Jakub at 56 Degrees and Miles Essex, www.thelandreader.com is reborn as a multi-functional glossary that is open to contributions from the public as well as continuing to offer a blog about the project. I will be working hard to add data to the glossary over the next few weeks so check back to see new and exciting words being added as well as news and information about fieldwork and the book. If you notice anything misbehaving or find anything confusing or frustrating please get in …

Monki Gras 2014

Here’s a video of my talk at this year’s Monki Gras. The event is billed as a conference for software developers but it goes way beyond the boundaries of this description and presents a kind of inter-disciplinary, cross-craft-culture, idea jamboree to it’s attendees, who, from what I could tell, are a remarkable bunch of tech experts with catholic interests and omnivorous curiosities. I was very honored and more than a little nervous but luckily the audience were in an amenable mood, perhaps as a result of delicious Bibimbap for lunch and an inspiring and enchanting talk from The Gentle Author …

Chasing waterfalls

This is a snippet from last week, when I spent a couple of days in Wales on a bit of a recce. I think waterfalls are going to play a major role in the Welsh section of the book and there’s lots of terminology to add to the glossary too, sorry TLC but it looks like I’m not going to be following your advice… This waterfall is Sgwd yr Eira, which is near Ystradfellte on the edge of the Breacon Beacons National Park.

Field trip: Scotland, part 1

With crampons strapped to my boots and an ice-axe in my hand I should have felt more like a mountaineer than an invalid, but on hands and knees, legs burning and shaky, hauling myself slowly up a steep, snow-covered slope and stopping frequently to catch my breath, I could hear the viscerally persuasive message my body was delivering: I still hadn’t recovered. My original plan was to make the journey to Scotland in February, part of a carefully organized schedule that slotted field trips amongst school holidays, and home and work commitments, but then the van’s gearbox broke beyond repair …

The singing gate

I’ve just got back from my two-week field trip to Scotland, which went really well. The films are in the lab at the moment and I’m waiting as nervously as an expectant father to see what everything looks like. I’ll be writing about my experiences climbing mountains and crossing peat-bogs in due course but I wanted to post this little curiosity as a taster of things to come. I was walking by the coast on Skye, on my way to photography an oronsay and a tombolo, and while passing through a gate I suddenly heard music. It turns out that …

Uncommon Ground – book deal

I’m amazed, grateful and  delighted to be able to announce that Guardian Faber has bought the rights to publish the book I’m working on as part of the Landreader Project. The book will be called “Uncommon Ground – Journeys through the Language of Landscape” and will come out in Spring 2015. I’d like to thank Sara Montgomery and Laura Hassan at Guardian Faber for seeing the potential in the idea early on and then helping me to develop it into a fully realised proposal. The process of making this book is now a collaboration and I’m really lucky to be …

Field Trip kit

There’s no way I could fit everything I’m taking in shot so these are the edited highlights, the key pieces if you will. Cameras: 1. Hasselblad 503 CW with a 50mm and an 80mm – This is the camera I’m using for all the images that are going to be in the book “Uncommon Ground”. The Hasselblad’s square format makes it a minority choice for landscape, panoramic it ain’t, but I like the parity it forces between the vertical and the horizontal. 2. Canon 5d MkII with a 24mm and a 50mm macro – This camera is my workhorse, I …

Northwards ho!

At the end of this week I’ll be driving up to Scotland for a fortnight of photography and research, so right now I’m packing and looking at maps and making sure all my gear is working. This trip was due to happen last month but first the van’s gearbox went and then I got a nasty bout of ‘flu, which then turned into a chest infection and all in all I had a fairly miserable February. The van is back on the road, thanks to Bernd Jäger, who supplied a reconditioned gearbox from his workshop in Liebnau, Germany, and especially …

Tolmens, dolmens and lumbago

Tolmens are stones that are both objectively holey and subjectively holy. When they were found by prehistoric peoples in what is now Devon and Cornwall, the neat circular holes in these river stones would have been impossible to explain, and this imbued the tolmens with mystery and the possibility of magic. Healing rituals involving these stones persisted into modern times, often having been co-opted by Christians from pre-existing pagan rites. Here’s an account from William Bottrell’s Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall published in 1873: IN a croft belonging to Lanyon farm, and about half a mile north of …