MB Photography | Projects

Ephemeral Pools

Ephemeral Pools

Captured over a period of 3 years in a small patch of forestry near my home, Ephemeral Pools is an exploration of transient views in the landscape.

Most people’s perception of the landscape is one of permanence; views which change little over time, reinforced by the fact that so many of them are returned to and photographed again and again. At first glance the landscape around us is fairly static, but the more you look the more changes you notice. It is this continual change that I am drawn to - whether man made or natural.

There are many long- and medium-term effects on the landscape; such as natural growth, death and decay; man-made development and intervention; changes in the seasons; and daily (or even more frequent) changes in the weather. However, my view of the landscape in this series is changing on a much faster time scale, affected not only by the changing seasons and weather, but also by the levels and often fast movement of the water in the pools which are the subject of these images. Often the views are very transient, both due to the nature of the subject matter and also how I have used it to view the forest within which these images are made. Occasionally the views are so fleeting that they are only present in a single frame and I may not have even registered them fully at the time of capture.

Over the life of the project, as I spent more time in the forest and became more familiar with my surroundings, the nature of my photographic approach changed.  I moved away from the literal and the images evolved to become more abstract.

It is the unpredictability, fleeting existence and potential for abstraction that has attracted me to this place. Capturing moments in the forest that only exist for a very short period of time, and cannot be reproduced, is perhaps my reaction to a genre of photography in which many strive to reproduce views that have already been recorded by other photographers hundreds of times. 

The images in this series are both physical and metaphorical reflections: all are captured in these ephemeral pools of water reflecting the surrounding forest flora, but they also reflect my own ideas, thoughts and feelings at the time they were made. They are perhaps much less about the subject being photographed and more about my own experiences and emotions. 

In addition to the still images in this series I have also produced a number of video works, with original music composed by Zillah Myers.

Coins Not Accepted Here

Coins Not Accepted Here

The humble, traditionally red, telephone box has been a part of our landscape for just over 80 years now, and yet its days are perhaps numbered. In the last year BT, who owns most of the public payphones in the UK, have put forward plans to decommission a vast number of them. In Wales alone the plans are for 1500 boxes to be removed – almost half of all the payphones in Wales.

It is true that with the advent of better mobile connections there is little need for public telephones in most parts of the country, yet in rural locations such as the Brecon Beacons this is still often the only way a traveller can make contact with the outside world as the mobile coverage is still poor or non-existent in such areas. Despite this they are still rarely used and will no doubt soon be removed or adopted by local communities to be used for other purposes.

For anyone over the age of 30 the payphone will undoubtedly be part of their childhood memories, and so perhaps out of a sense of nostalgia, but also to ensure that their last days are documented, I have visited and photographed the remaining payphones that fall inside the Brecon Beacons National Park. During the few months of this project at least two of the boxes I photographed were removed, and I plan to return to each of these sites in a few years' time to photograph the changed landscape. 

Reconnecting the Canal

Reconnecting the Canal

Construction of the Glamorganshire Canal began in 1790 to link the iron works of Merthyr Tydfil with the port of Cardiff. Today much of the route is below the A470 dual carriageway, built in the 1970s. The Glamorganshire Canal has been reduced to just a few disjointed stretches of water, divided by roads and new construction. 

This collaberation between myself and Rob Hudson seeks to reconnect those stretches of water along the canal through photography. Using a single roll of film exposed separately by both photographers at different locations along the canal to reveal serendipitious images as a result of the double exposures. This is currently an ongoing project and the images here are those that have already been published on social media. You can follow the project on twitter @ReconnectingThe.

Maen Llia 2015

Maen Llia 2015

Maen Llia is a large, roughly hexagonal lump of old red sandstone which sits on moorland at the top of the valley between Fan Llia and Fan Nedd, near the source of the river Llia in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is just a few miles from my house (or perhaps I should say "a stone's throw"!) and a location which I have visited many times over the past 15 years. Like many such megaliths its age and original purpose are unknown, although it is thought to date from the Bronze Age.

Legend has it that the stone goes down to the river, the Afon Llia, to drink on occasion. This tale seems likely to be an allusion to the fact that its shadow is cast across the moorland as far as the river when the sun is low in the evening sky. I am not the type of person who believes in standing stones having any magical power, purpose or being sited on energy lines, however I am interested in why it was erected here in the first place and by whom, and these people may well have held such shared myths about the stone. Its position in the valley and visibility as you drive up the valley does lend credence to the stone being a route marker, but the effort involved in moving this stone into the upright position would seem disproportionate to the value of erecting it for this purpose alone. Its shape is also distinctive enough to make one believe that those who sited it here thought it a bit more special than simply a “signpost”, and some sources also claim there to be tooling marks on the stone indicating that it was not naturally this shape. Of course we will never know the true purpose of the stone, but it remains a steadfast landmark in the landscape while only the weather and light changes around it.

By photographing the stone throughout the year using different techniques I have tried to capture the varying conditions which the stone experiences, and represent it in the landscape in a way that reflects my mood and the weather at the time. I hope some of these images also reflect the stone's permanance in this wild landscape.

The images here represent an edited selection of my visits to the stone. See a video presentation of the images on Vimeo. To see more images from my visits see the twitter hashtag #maenllia2015.

Travels in a Strange Land

Travels in a Strange Land

I have visited a strange and beautiful place, a land containing creatures and locations that are fantastical but somehow familiar. A negative world. A landscape unknown. So close, but as yet undiscovered.

While some people may think that most of their local landscapes have been discovered and photographed ad-nauseum, I have sought out the landscapes of my imagination. However, these are not photoshop creations but real places. Illuminating the dark spaces beneath rocks and trees by viewing them in negative I have unearthed a landscape previously unknown to me. What you see in them is only limited by your imagination (read more). 

Images from this series have been exhibited at Littleman Coffee in Cardiff and Tilt & Shift Gallery in Llanrwst. If you are interested in exhibiting any images from this series please contact me. Individual prints can be purchased by browsing the images below. Buy the book of the series HERE.

Gower Seascapes

Gower Seascapes

Originally taking inspiration from Rob Carter's Travelling Still series of images, these Gower Seascapes utilise camera movement to blur the image whilst retaining enough detail to recognise the subject matter. Combining abstract simplicity with the natural beauty of the South Wales Gower coastline. 

I have adopted a very low-tech approach to producing these images, using intentional camera movement (ICM) panning the camera by hand with no tripod support. This results in sometimes unpredictable results and I often have to capture many test images before I find one that works. Captured between 2008 and 2014, this series is now available as a book.

Survivors of Carnau Gwynion

Survivors of Carnau Gwynion

The lone tree may be a shallow photographic cliché, but the reasons for its existence run much deeper and are often more disturbing.

When visitors to the Brecon Beacons are told that the English translation of Fforest Fawr is Great Forest they might well be surprised. With the exception of the modern areas of forestry monoculture there are few trees to be found on the upland slopes of this part of the National Park. Centuries of deforestation by man to provide building materials, cooking and heating fuel, and for quicklime production removed almost all the trees from this landscape. The more recent grazing by domesticated livestock has ensured that the land remains tree free. As George Monbiot says, "Sheep have reduced most of our uplands to bowling greens with contours".

This series documents the remaining trees on Carnau Gwynion in Ystradfellte. Primarily of the hawthorn family, many of these trees now cling to life by a thread soon to die from old age and storm damage. Continual grazing ensures that very few new trees will grow, and those that do will have a tortured existence clinging to the limestone pavement while new growth is continually nibbled away by sheep and rabbits. They appear in these images mostly as lone trees, not just out of photographic choice, but because they are significantly spaced out to make it challenging to include more than one at a time (although I have in some cases). Each of them is a reminder of the effect man has on the environment and how managed our supposedly "wild" places are.

Images from this series have been exhibited at Littleman Coffee in Cardiff and No 18 Cafe in Crickhowell. If you are interested in exhibiting any images from this series please contact me. Individual prints can be purchased by browsing the images below. Buy the book of the series on Blurb.

Gateway

Gateway

The ubiquitous farm gate, old and new, in various states of use and disrepair. All from my home village of Ystradfellte. A small typology that interests me because of the small (or sometimes large) differences in essentially the same piece of farm hardware.

Winter Roads

Winter Roads

An abstract study of frozen puddles found on mountain roads and paths in the Brecon Beacons. I marvel at the infinite variation in patterns that freezing water can generate. Short lived they may be, but they contain beautiful details and a hidden world waiting to be discovered right beneath our feet. Grouped in series based on their location and the different weather & temperature conditions they have been created by. 

Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

As a landscape photographer I am fascinated by clouds, both for their weather giving properties and the infinite variety in shapes, patterns and textures they add to the sky. For some time now I have been photographing the sky on its own, with no added landscape features, whenever I visit a location. Most of the time these images never make it further than the memory card, and sometimes they don't stay there long! However, occasionally a cloud is sufficiently interesting or beautiful that the image gets processed further and then filed.

Abandoned Shopping Trolleys

Abandoned Shopping Trolleys

An homage to thoughtless and lazy people. A lot of these are just a short walk from where they belong and you wonder why people couldn't make it that far, others are beyond salvage. An ongoing project which I hope will become harder and harder to add to as people become more determined to get their £1 coin back!

Into The Darkness

Into The Darkness

I've driven past this forest every day for over a decade without giving it a second glance, but then one day I wondered what it would be like inside. At first I only explored the fringes of the forest, apprehensive of the seemingly impenetrable darkness within which there surely could be nothing of interest. But eventually I plucked up the courage to step inside, alone. 

I soon discovered that darkness was not absolute, light penetrated the edges of the forest and deeper in it filtered through the tall canopy. There were noises too. The wind causing the trees to creak and groan, sticks falling, animals hidden from view quietly complaining about their intruder. And in the periods of silence, the sound of my own footsteps and my own breathing, perhaps more unnerving than anything the forest could offer.

Despite the uniformity of the regularly planted trees there were variations, there was life, and there was death. Like those who chose to watch horror films for an adrenaline rush I found I wanted to find its darkest centre and be scared. (buy the book here)

Dancing Trees

Dancing Trees

An ongoing study of woodland and individual trees (captured in infrared) that take on more human forms and appear to be dancing - alone, or with one another. The more I look at these images of trees the more I seem to see in them.

This interpretation is very personal and I appreciate that you may not see them the same way, but I hope you can enjoy the images on some level.

From the Edge of Darkness

From the Edge of Darkness

Are you looking into the depths of the forest, or trapped inside the woods looking out? I like the way negatives play with our perception of location and transform the dark interior of a forestry plantation into a ghostly but sometimes enticing light. But even once you know that these images are negative your mind is telling you that the view is normal, and in many of these images the manipulation of light is less obvious that you might expect.

Like my previous exploration of a forestry plantation I hope to convince you that it is not all predictable, monotonous, regular planting. There are variations in planting patterns and fallen or broken trees, individually and in groups, make each forest view unique.

While this series may continue for some time the source material is not unlimited. The requirements for these images are specific and the final processing is important to set the mood of the location. While I continue to find new locations I hope that you will follow my exploration of these places that many shun or even despise.

Unseen Beacons

Unseen Beacons

When out in the landscape it is easy to overlook the mundane and the ugly and just focus on the pretty view, but these are all part of the environment in which we live and often tell a more interesting story than the ubiquitous oversaturated sunset.

In this ongoing project I am trying to capture views of the Brecon Beacons that are edited out of most landscape imagery, and show more of the everyday life that goes on in the National Park and some of its history.