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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Forging ahead

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Lighthouses of the British Isles

Britain’s coastline is punctuated by over 300 lighthouses, built in some of the most inhospitable places. Illustrator Ben Langworthy embarked on a mission to draw every single one of them and tell their stories – we shine a light on three.

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Ardnamurchan Point

Ardnamurchan is the most westerly point of mainland UK. Local legends tell of premonitions, kings and great battles, and there may be a husk of truth in such tales – in 2011, archaeologists uncovered a Viking boat burial nearby. The lighthouse, built in an ‘Egyptian’ style, was designed by Alan Stevenson (one of the great Scottish engineers) and fi rst lit in 1849. Today you can call in for a cuppa at the keepers’ cottages.

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Trwyn Du

Trwyn Du, meaning ‘black point’ in Welsh, was first lit in 1838 and stands at around 96ft high, overlooking Puffin Island. Its engineer James Walker, keen to pioneer new innovations, installed an early example of a water closet with a drain at the base of the tower. This proved a bad idea during storms, when seawater had a tendency to surge up the drain, giving a nasty shock to any unsuspecting keeper using the facilities at the time.

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Bell Rock

The oldest lighthouse still in use in the world, Bell Rock is named after the rock on which it sits. How the rock gained its name is immortalised in the ballad ‘The Inchcape Rock’, written by Robert Southey in 1802. In the tale, the Abbot of Arbroath installs a bell on the rock to warn mariners of the reef, but a villainous pirate throws the bell into the sea. In a twist of fate, the pirate is himself later wrecked upon the rocks.

Follow Ben’s progress on Instagram @benlangworthyillustration or via his column at caughtbytheriver.net.

You can also buy signed A4 prints of Ben’s lighthouses on his etsy page.

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

 

 

Shooting the eerie East

For issue seven of Ernest Journal, photographer Colin Nicholls accompanied editor Jo Tinsley on her journey along the East Anglian coast, exploring ghost towns, eroding sea cliffs and the abandoned laboratories and weapons testing facilities of Orford Ness. Colin tells us about his experience photographing these extraordinary locations

Sizewell Nuclear Power Station. All images by Colin Nicholls

Sizewell Nuclear Power Station. All images by Colin Nicholls

Colin, what did you shoot with?

I took my Fuji XT2 and my 16mm, 23mm, and 56mm lenses. This is pretty much the standard kit for most of my work – the really small size of the camera, and the overall quality of the pictures all add up to a very nice working system. The XT2 is a mirrorless camera and much smaller and lighter than a standard DLSR setup. It's all weather sealed, which proved very useful while at Orford Ness.

How did you find shooting East Anglian landscapes, in comparison with other landscapes you've photographed? Were there any challenges?

The biggest challenge was shooting landscapes that were very minimal. Usually I look for a leading line or some way of composing the image to take the viewer's eye into it, but when there is very little you have to think a bit differently. As such, I embraced the minimal landscapes and shot in a way to show the viewer the sparse landscape in all its glory.

What surprised you most about the places you visited on your trip?

Pretty much everything we did was a massive surprise and really great fun. I’d never been to the east coast of England before, so it was nice to get the chance. I think the biggest surprise was seeing how the sea takes back the land so indiscriminately.

What was your favourite location and why?

Definitely Orford Ness. Getting to go inside the weapons testing facilities and see areas that few visitors get to see was incredible. I really enjoy those kind of raw concrete structures.

Anything you didn't enjoy quite so much?

Night walking. You just can’t see anything at all; you just follow the person in front of you. It was actually quite a fun experience, especially getting to see hundreds of glow worms, but the rain that accompanied us definitely was not. When I got back to my tent everything was wet, so I had to sleep in my car instead.

Where will you be going next with your camera?

I'm currently planning a two-week tour of Iceland, which will be my fourth trip to this wonderful place. This time it’s a solo journey and I’m hoping to get a lot done in the two weeks, particularly things that aren’t the standard tourist destinations. I’ll be documenting the whole thing so I’m hoping to put together a short film by the time I’m done.

What's on your bedside table?

Only a red anglepoise lamp, which my father bought when he was 21 and gave to me when I was a teenager. I like things quite minimal.

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Colin is a photographer specialising in weddings and editorial work, with a passion for landscape and street photography. 

colinnichollsphotography.com

 

 

 

 

 

You can see more of Colin's images and read our guide to East Anglia in issue seven of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Issue 7
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