Shooting Snowdonia

We caught up with photographer Colin Nicholls to ask how he found shooting the wild uplands and abandoned slate quarries of northwest Wales

Colin Nicholls doing what he does best.

Colin Nicholls doing what he does best.

How did you find shooting the Snowdonian landscape? And how did this compare with shooting East Anglia for issue 7?

I am a big fan of Snowdonia, so to get to head there on a press trip was a real treat. I found it very different to East Anglia, much more walking up mountains and hills, and a much rougher landscape altogether. As expected for Snowdonia, we encountered some wet weather, so my weather-sealed cameras came in very useful. I enjoyed visiting both places but seeing and climbing mountains is something that always excites me.

What were the highlights of the trip for you?

Definitely going back to the Dinorwic slate quarry. I first visited there a few years back and loved seeing the abandoned slate workings that overlook Snowdon itself. To explore the remains of a Goliath of an industry – it really is like stepping back in time. We also had incredible weather up there with the light painting the landscape, and we were met along the way by some wild goats, one of which features on the cover!

Any low points?

I’m pretty easy going so it takes a lot to dampen my spirits, however the first night we camped the wind was howling and I got about two hours sleep. Safe to say the next day was a struggle but it was all good fun.

Where would you most like to photograph next and why?

I think for the first couple of months of the year I’ll explore my local area of Herefordshire. There’s so much around here that’s overlooked in favour of the ‘bigger’ and more well-known places to visit, and with photography being so much about light it’s nice to know that if it’s going to be a good day I can head out somewhere close for a quick and successful trip.

You're a frequent visitor to Iceland, aren't you? What draws you back again and again?

That I am! 2018 saw my fourth trip to Iceland, where I drove solo around the country, camping along the way. It was incredible! At the time Iceland was having the worst summer for 100 years, but I was lucky and the weather turned and I had some crisp, clear days and got the opportunity to take photos that make me very happy. I shot a fair bit of video, too. Overall the trip was one of the most content times of my life. I keep getting drawn back to the country’s endless beauty, epic landscapes and sparse population – it’s a place I’ll continue to visit for the rest of my life.

Who are your landscape photography heroes?

That’s a very hard question. I tend to take inspiration from a wide range of photographic disciplines. Interestingly I find war photography to be one of the most inspiring – people tasked with documenting the most hostile places in the world, while having to bear in mind the technical aspect of photography and tell a story. I try to surround myself with photography books and follow decent photographers on Instagram. Seeing what other people are up to, create stunning images, is a real drive for pushing my own abilities.

Colin, you’re known as the ‘king of snacks’ on long press trips. What’s your ultimate photography fuel?

Ha, awesome question. Cold cans of cola are number one on a hot day hiking up mountains. And cereal bars. I can survive on those bad boys for days.

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Colin shoots on a Fuji X-H1. Follow his work on Instagram or on his blog colinnichollsphotography.com

His stunning images feature in our 36-page special on Snowdonia in issue 8 of Ernest Journal. Pick up a copy today.

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Venison jerky

Using time-honoured techniques adopted by cultures around the world, Jake and Amie of Jake's Cured Meats are your guides to making the perfect hiking snack.

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You’ve been tracking your prey for hours, then finally you get the shot. You lock it in your sights, take a couple of deep breaths, squeeze the trigger: crack! The animal drops, silence. A moment of reflection, respect for the beast. You remove the entrails, leave for the birds. The inescapable symbiosis of life and death. The march back home begins; the glow of embers awaits you. Skin, butcher, roast, eat. Hunger satisfied, you deal with the remaining meat; rub it with salt and hang it in the fireplace. The smoke flows around the meat, transforming it into a perfectly preserved meaty jewel. 

Before refrigeration, food preservation was key to survival. This was often achieved by drying, which allowed a single kill to last for months, providing a powerful protein punch. From the ancient Egyptians to the Native Americans, many cultures developed their own methods for drying meat. This allowed pioneers and adventurers to push ever deeper into uncharted territory. When Captain Scott set off for the South Pole he took with him pemmican – a mixture of dried meat, fat and berries. 

Curing meat is still something of a black art. The complex flavour changes that take place during the curing process is still not fully understood. Good hygiene is essential and always buy the best quality meat you can. This recipe is for venison jerky but you can use any kind of lean meat; beef, lamb or turkey, for example.

Ingredients

500g venison haunch
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp Worcester sauce
2 tbsp honey
4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 orange zest and juice

Method

1. Pop the venison in the freezer for 45 mins to 1 hour. You don’t want to freeze it, just to firm it up slightly.

2. With a sharp knife slice the venison into thin strips.

3. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then add the venison strips. Cover and leave overnight to marinade in the fridge.

4. Once the meat has finished marinating, preheat the oven to 80C.

5. Lay the meat on a baking rack or something that will allow the air to circulate around the meat.

6. Bake for 3-4 hours or until the meat becomes dry and chewy, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

7. Pack into an airtight container and store in a dry, cool place ready for your next adventure.

Words by Jake and Amie, who make cured meat snacks in the Brecon Beacons; jakescuredmeats.co.uk. 

The Mail Train

Not so long ago, any letter or parcel landing on a doormat in London would have just disembarked from a surprising journey... underground.

Images courtesy of the Postal Museum

Images courtesy of the Postal Museum

Stretching for 6.5 miles in a tunnel deeper than the Tube, the Mail Rail transported post between Whitechapel and Paddington for 75 years until its closure in 2003. Since then, the stalactite-filled
tunnels and abandoned platforms have lain dark and empty. Until now.

The Postal Museum in Clerkenwell has opened part of the Mail Rail to the public; running battery-powered passenger trains on a 20-minute subterranean tour. While the Mail Rail is undoubtedly the star attraction, the museum is a thigh-rubbing joy to wander itself, for its interactive displays (you get to sort post and put your face on a stamp) and fascinating insights into what has kept this great British institution ticking for so long. 

Open everyday (except 24-26 December) from 10am to 5pm. Last train departs at 4.30pm. Journey lasts 15 minutes. For more info, visit postalmuseum.org

The Mail Train features in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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Wetland words

What is a wetland? According to new book Swamp by Anthony Wilson (Reaktion Books), wetlands are “in-between areas, mixtures of water and earth, land and liquid.” Let’s explore these murky hinterlands...

Image by Conor Beary

Image by Conor Beary

swamp

Renowned as places of abject mystery, the foreboding boat snares we call ‘swamps’ are defined by their ability to support woody plants, such as mangroves and cypress trees, and are permanently saturated by water.

marsh

The smaller and more cumbersome relative of the swamp, ‘marsh’, although very similar, is built up of non-woody plants and nutrient-rich soil that allows all manner of reeds and sedges to flourish.

bog

Taking many centuries to form, these small patches of spongy wetland are characterised by the appearance of partially decayed plant matter called peat. They’re also home to the illustrious British pastime, bog snorkelling.

quagmire

Traditionally known as ground that can’t support a man’s weight, the term ‘quagmire’, or ‘mire’, encompasses both bogs and fens. Although similar, ‘fens’ are more nutrient-rich, less
acidic and support a higher diversity of life.

bayou

Derived from the amalgamation of the Native American word for ‘small stream’, bayuk, and 19th-century French colonialism, a ‘bayou’ is a slow-moving swamp-like section of a river or lake that is filled with fresh or salt water.

Words by Matt Iredale

This article features in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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Remapping the frozen continent

In issue 7 of Ernest Journal, writer and humanitarian Carol Devine shared the story of her mission to compile a list of female place names in Antarctica – some old, some new, some lost to a rapidly changing climate – and chart them on a new map of the frozen continent. To accompany her words, we commissioned map-maker and illustrator Aidan Meighan to create Carol's vision. It's fair to say we were stunned by the result...

'Mapping Antarctic Women', illustrated by Aidan Meighan, © Carol Devine. 

'Mapping Antarctic Women', illustrated by Aidan Meighan, © Carol Devine. 

Aidan, when we first approached you to illustrate Carol Devine's map of Antarctic women, what was your initial reaction? 

I eagerly await all of my Ernest briefs and this one from Carol was particularly exciting! I loved having the opportunity to involve myself in all her incredible research. Maps are often snapshots of history; changing landscapes, politics and territories – this map not only shows history but amends it. It was a joy to map the success of these inspirational women explorers, scientists and innovators. 

What are your feelings towards this remote, frozen continent at the bottom of the world? 

It sounds like something out of science fiction – a continent made of 99% ice, with temperatures reaching −89.2 °C! I've always been a keen environmentalist and I think it's of paramount importance that we look after our frozen friend down south. Global warming and the world's biggest lump of ice... what could possibly go wrong? I've always been interested in the people brave enough to explore this hostile part of the world. But it wasn't until creating this map that I realised so many of them were women. We've been seeing Antarctica through male-tinted glasses for many years – so many maps of the past have neglected to mention the inspirational women explorers, scientists and innovators who journeyed there.

Tell us about your design process when it comes to illustrating a map.

With all maps I start by thinking of the most effective way to display the key content. From there I think about its message and how it should look and feel. Then I begin to harmonise the content with the design – it begins to get really satisfying, polishing it up until it becomes something special. In this case I thought it was important for Carol's research to do the talking. I wanted to draw influence from classic maps of the continent, while shifting the perspective to highlight those underrepresented in the past. 

You also illustrated a few other maps and images for issue 7 – tell us a bit about them. 

I LOVED illustrating for issue 7 – I could really get my teeth into it. One of my favourites was the little map of Doggerland for the East Anglia special - it's such a fascinating place and I was pleased with its aesthetic. It's really nice to get into multiple illustrations on a theme, such as East Anglia, partly because you can get into a groove from a design perspective, but also I love learning about new places. My head is full of hundreds of bizarre facts and stories, including the Orford Merman!

What's your favourite map (not one of yours!) and why?

Hmm, that is tough! There are so many to choose from and in so many styles.  Maps I love range from Ptolemy's world map, to modern maps such as Grayson Perry's A Map of Days and the extremely practical and classic design of the OS maps. Right this very minute though I'd probably go for Walter Goodacre's Map of the Moon (below), a hand drawn map of the moon's surface, drawn in 25 segments, with the total diameter measuring 77" (1910).

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Where would you most like to travel?

Iceland, Japan or New Zealand. The landscapes in Iceland look otherworldly – I'd love to go there and do some drawings of the mountains, lava fields and geysers.

You're currently redesigning your website - how's that going? Any other exciting developments/projects you'd like to tell us about?

Actually we are a tad behind schedule trying to get it just right, but it will launch in May sometime, which is very exciting. As well as editorial maps for the likes of Ernest, I also draw customised maps of people's homes and favourite places. The new website seeks to marry the two a little bit and basically become a map extravaganza. The page I'm most excited about introducing is 'Maps by Aidan', which will showcase the eclectic range of maps I've drawn for Ernest and other publications, such as the map of Brutalist buildings in London, bothies in Scotland and the new maps in issue 7.

Tell us a bit about your work space. What do you like to have around you? Do you listen to music or a particular station?

I've just moved house from Bristol (an incredible place to have spent the last 12 years and started my illustration career) to the green and tranquil Quantock hills in Somerset. Right now from my studio window I see a shed, a few ancient oak trees and about 20 cows that come up to our garden fence to say hello every morning. I like to be surrounded by greenery. In Bristol, without a garden, the number of houseplants in our collection got a bit out of control. My desk is usually pretty tidy, but here's an inventory of what's on it today!

A History of the World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton
A hakisak
Two yoyos (a pro yo and an X brain)
A tin of earl grey tea
Three pots of Quink ink and 1 Windsor and Newton (3 black, 1 blue)
A spirit level
A hammer
A tile with a crude painting of a man riding a horse
Some big old headphones
Two terrariums and two potted succulents
Two tea-dregged 'Habitat Connor' orange mugs
...and of course my computer

I flit between podcasts (RadioLab, Ear Hustle, etc) and get my music fix on BBC 6 Music.

Photo by Poppy French, Studio Grabdown

Photo by Poppy French, Studio Grabdown

You can see more of Aidan's work, in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now. 'Mapping Antarctic Women' is an ongoing project and Carol is keen to add to her map. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #ernestjournal and #MappingAntarcticWomen

Follow Aidan on Instagram @whereabouts_maps, on Twitter @whereaboutsmaps and at whereaboutsmaps.com