WALKING BOOTS AND A CAMERA: AMATEUR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN SMITH, MEINDL UK AMBASSADOR
I bought my first proper camera, a Voigtlander Brilliant, in 1952. I had lived through the war in England and joined the RAF when I was 18, achieving my dream of becoming a pilot.
My flying training was in the beautiful country of Zimbabwe and I was having the time of my life doing what I had always wanted to do, in an absolute paradise.
I quickly realised that I needed to record as much of this as possible and that started another passion that is still giving me so much pleasure today, photography.
In the RAF I became great friends with an Australian, a fellow trainee pilot. He was an out-going, adventurous guy and he persuaded me to embark on an epic hitch-hike from Gwelo to Durban, some 2000 miles, during a break between training.
I learnt a lot about life and had many adventures on that amazing journey, arriving back at the airfield twenty-eight days later with our skins like saddle leather. It was at this point in my life I began to realise that I actually liked walking – we sure did plenty of it!
After the excitement of life as pilot for four years I returned home to Hull and started an education degree at university with the intention of becoming a teacher. We had a brilliant, charismatic tutor who not only inspired us through his love of Shakespeare, but he was the one who got me hooked on fell walking.
During the summer holidays he took some of us on a five-day field trip to Langdale, staying in the Youth Hostel there and climbing all of the Langdale fells, including Bow Fell. I loved every minute of it and several years later, when I was at Besancon University on a refresher course, a few of us met him in Switzerland. He was on his annual holiday in Grindelvald and we all climbed the Jungfrau – as with many beautiful things, this has since been spoilt by over-commercialisation.
So fell-walking became an essential part of my life for almost 60 years. And photography a way of recording the things I saw on my travels and wanted to share with others.
If anyone asks me which has been my all-time favourite climb in the Lake District it would have to be Haystacks, not because it was also Alfred Wainwright’s, but because it has everything a fell needs to be iconic; a tough slog and scramble to begin with, fantastic views of the surrounding fells and the lakes of Buttermere and Crummockwater, a long but interesting descent. And if you time it right the refreshment wagon will be there at the end when you reach Gatesgarth.
My interest in photography has increased dramatically as digital cameras have evolved and even at the lower end of the price range they are now capable of producing high quality still images and high definition video.
The joy of digital photography for me is that I can take hundreds of shots when out on a walk or a climb and look at them on my camera in live view to see if they are exposed correctly and in focus, giving me the chance to change my camera settings accordingly.
Once back home, the fun begins. Using photo manipulation software can turn an average image into a stunning work of art, although to do this is a steep learning curve – but worth the considerable effort.
It is possible to maximise your chance of getting the masterpieces every photographer craves by choosing the right time of day. Not surprisingly, cameras work at their best when the light is right for the shot you take. I prefer the early morning or the late afternoon in summer, from May to September, as the best time to photograph landscapes, my favourite subject.
John Smith is a Meindl UK ambassador with six decades of walking experience. John wears Vitalis Mid walking boots. You can find more of his stunning images on his profile over on ViewBug.
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