Looking back to look forward...

Added on by valerie dalling.

It seems such a long time ago since I wrote a blog, as it doesn't come naturally, but I thought what better day to start writing again than on National Poetry Day.

Some say never look back, but I guess that depends on the context in which that could be taken as quite relevant, but when it comes to photography I find it an impossibility not to look back, whether that's for inspiration, memories or when I'm out in the field with my camera.

In a nutshell, my story began in 2007, after watching the ITV programme in which Wastwater in the Lake District was voted by the public as Britain's Favourite View...I wanted to see it for myself, but me being me I thought I'd try and capture it differently.

It was a busy time on my return, and having amassed hundreds of photographs on my little compact camera, I selected only a couple to show during Banks Mill Open Studios, where I had the opportunity of sharing my work with visitors, welcoming them into 4.11, my lovely studio at that time.


As a result of seeing my work at Open Studios, I was invited to exhibit at the Royal Derby Hospital as part of Northern Lights, the Air Arts Autumn/Winter exhibition 2008, and little did I know this was to be the beginning of a continuing relationship for me with the arts team and numerous members of staff through subsequent projects based at the hospital.

It also gave me the opportunity to collaborate with friend and poet Jo Bell, as she saw me working on the images of Wastwater for the hospital, and began reciting beautifully the words of one of her poems, I immediately knew it was perfect.

I've always been of the mind to let my work grow organically, which takes time and can be hard on the purse strings, but I believe that patience and having that continual creative passion has a way of bringing its own rewards.

Moving The Chair

"I Sit Where I Always Sit
And I am reminded of the Little Prince
Whose planet was so small

He pulled forward his chair
Several times an hour
To see a different sunset

Of course one can sit still
If wishing only for a single point of view

Never sit still be restless uncomfortable
Fidget Move the Chair" 
Jo Bell

© valerie dalling

© valerie dalling








Overcoming Barriers

Added on by valerie dalling.

I don't profess to teach on my walks with the camera, because for one thing I'm not qualified to do so, but I do feel ably suited and passionate about my work to inspire thought provoking ideas when helping others to develop their visual skills, which has always been at the forefront of my work.  

Although I feel a lot more competent in many aspects of the technical side of photography now, I still continue to learn not only through suitably qualified professionals, but also through the people who like to work with me for my own artistic input.

I spent yesterday with Sharon who is a final year student on the HND Art and Design Course at Chesterfield College. She loves nature which plays a very big part in her art, and is always experimenting with different creative techniques, including the use of photography. Why then would she wish to spend some time with me? I'm not sure to be honest but we arranged to meet for a walk and with her interests in mind I chose The Chestnut Centre at Chapel en le Frith as our venue. What a lovely day we had, which actually turned into a family affair with her hubby and daughter joining in as well.

I absolutely love this image which Sharon captured during feeding time. What an expression, perfect timing.

                                                                         © Sharon Lysinger

                                                                         © Sharon Lysinger

Anyway, hopefully I was able to impart some of my knowledge to help Sharon on her creative journey, but as I said above learning is a two way thing and for me I also gained a little more technical knowledge as a result of our day together.

I found myself continually frustrated by the distance and wire mesh between us and our subjects, which for me caused focusing to be a real problem. The longest lens I have is 45-200mm which I use on my Lumix G3 but I found myself struggling to capture really close detail which was my intention. Here's a couple of images so you can see my dilemma...

So this is where Sharon comes in…she kindly offered me her camera to try out, a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS bridge camera and I felt as if all my birthdays had come at once! Straight in there, overcoming the barriers. The shots are all taken handheld on auto with the fantastic zoom and they are straight from her camera with no processing at all…while none of the images are sharp I will admit, and my tripod would have been welcome, I was still very impressed...I need to give serious thought to my next lens purchase.

A productive and useful day for us both though, brought to an end with a few lovely words from my new best friend Millie (aged 8) "It's been fun, can we go for another walk with you soon Valerie?"  Please take a look at Sharon Louise Art next time you're on Facebook…I think she could be one to watch! 










All That Glitters Is Gold

Added on by valerie dalling.

I'm feeling a need to express how important it is for me to research the work of other artists, and how their art might influence my own practise as I develop.

I seem to use that term 'develop' an awful lot, but I love to learn and know that I will never stop. I'm of the belief that we all have goals whatever our levels of knowledge, capabilities or ambitions might be, but in order to achieve those goals we must be prepared to learn. As I've been enjoying my research, now and again I have come across an artist who has particularly inspired me, and I seem to know instinctively that they're going to help me along my creative path just that little bit further.

Specific influences I will save for another time, but I wanted to share a recent observation I've made on how important it has become for me to learn from professionals who I feel have been worth their weight in gold. We can all pick up our cameras and say we are photographers, and to a certain extent yes we are, but I think it is important to take stock now and again and value those who are masters in their field.

Investing time and money to learn from professionals whether in written format, lectures or out in the landscape in my opinion has been so important in my development, as I'm not only getting to know my camera now, but my visual skills are continuing to grow, and they come as a pair.

I do enjoy the unknown when I'm out in the landscape, particularly when I'm in the Peak District working on my project, but since I've been encouraged to study the weather, more and more I'm finding it's having such an impact on the way I'm looking and responding to the world around me.

While discovering new landscapes are inevitably down to us as individuals to take the time to explore and interpret in our own way, the knowledge and skilful insight through the expert guidance I've received, has been without doubt the best I could have ever hoped for.

Last year I was standing on Bamford Edge eagerly awaiting the commemorative flypast of Vera and Thumper the two Lancaster Bombers, knowing this was an opportunity for me to capture a special moment in history. I opened my bag revealing my lovely new camera and lenses and felt like that person who has all the gear but not a clue what to do with it. Fortunately I had my compact so I was still able to get my photograph.

My reason for finishing on this story, is that while it's not always about what camera or lens you have it's what you want to achieve through your photography, and just how much you are prepared to learn to reach your goals.     




Farewell 2014

Added on by valerie dalling.

On the last day of 2014 I've been taking a look back over the year at my work, and the highs and lows it has brought with it.

I absolutely love spending time in the landscape, and as I'm sure by now you will realise, a lot of that time has been spent in the Peak District. We have a very special relationship which continues to grow every day, and because of that my work has been fairly broad, from the powerful seduction of its grand vistas to more intimate discoveries of its textures and form.

I've always felt that as an artist, photographer, creative, call me what you will, that I will never stop learning. I admit I'm an incurable romantic, who thinks and feels very deeply and passionately about my work, and so I'm delighted when I find out that an image has had some kind of special meaning for others.

To select just one photograph from the year reflecting what that means to me should be difficult, but this year it's not, because for some reason my choice seems to have touched quite a few folk. However, the most important reason for sharing this image once again is to know that it brought back memories for one fellow artist who left the Peak District earlier this year for pastures new. She made me realise that just for a moment I was able to take her back to them there hills through my work, which for me is a very satisfying and rewarding feeling.

Thank you everyone for your likes, shares and comments throughout the year, your support has been so valuable and encouraging.

While we are all busy preparing for the year ahead whether for business or pleasure, nobody quite knows what 2015 has in store, but I wish you all health and happiness, may it be a good year for each and every one of you.

Valerie x

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Ten Favourite Books

Added on by valerie dalling.

I was recently nominated on Facebook by artist and tutor Max Hale www.maxhaleart.co.uk to share my ten favourite books.As you can imagine I found this very difficult to narrow it down, particularly as I've recently had to buy new bookshelves to accommodate my art and photography collection alone.

You may probably already know about it, but the idea is you then nominate three friends to do the same and so it goes on, spreading like a virus. I thought it was a great idea to read between the covers, a chance to get to know each other a little more through literary interests.

Mine focus mainly on my creative path, with just a snippet of who has influenced me along the way. There's also two very special self published books produced as a result of my work with the community, another from my younger days and one fairly recent purchase where I can relate to something on virtually every page…it makes me smile, and feel good.

Anyway, here's my ten in no special order, although I think you'll work it out.

The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Ways of Seeing - John Berger
Landscape and Memory - Simon Schama
Approaching Photography - Paul Hill
Examples The Making of 40 Photographs - Ansel Adams
John Blakemore Photographs 1955-2010 - John Blakemore
Turner Whistler Monet - Katharine Lochnan Tate
A is for Alvaston - Oakwood Junior School Photographers
2012 Through Our Eyes - Ockbrook and Borrowash Image Club
Plotting for Grown-ups - Sue Hepworth

Why not ask someone you know to share their ten favourite books, it's an opportunity to pick up a few titles and who knows, maybe even add some of them to your own collection.



A date with my phone

Added on by valerie dalling.

In my last blog I introduced three cameras which are currently in my life, when actually there are four. How could I forget my phone, it’s with me 24/7 and I’m sure many of you will understand when I say I’d be completely lost without it.

So to make amends all the photographs in this post are taken with the phone, well two phones actually as you will see.

We began our day photographing leafy shadows on our way up to Studio 61 Gallery Holloway, for the launch of ‘Trip Out West’ an exhibition of beautiful landscape paintings by the very talented Ruth Gray Artist, who was inspired following her recent trip to Snowdonia.

It was a lovely arty morning catching up with gallery owner Karina Goodman, Ruth and Michelle Pearson (all fabulous artists I must say), but because I had coffee in one hand and a very nice crumbly cookie in the other my phone spent the next half an hour in my bag saving on battery!

Here’s the lovely ladies with Ruth’s work displayed in the background, still taken by yours truly but with Karina’s phone this time.

So two cups of coffee and two cookies later it was time to move on, as I then paid a visit to Scarthin Books in Cromford, a favourite of mine. I can’t go there without spending at least an hour losing myself amongst the covers, and of course I never leave without a purchase.

Appropriately I went for a book on The Art of iPhoneography which will be added to the new lending library starting in September at Ockbrook and Borrowash Image Club. A shameless plug, as I’m very proud of this group which has been going for six years now. www.theimageclubockbrook.com 

After a quick snack it was off to my last stop of the day as I made a return visit to Middleton Top. It was intended to be a short visit, but after chatting to one of the members of staff in the Countryside Centre about orchids I realised this would not be possible. He showed me a photograph on his phone of a bee orchid, saying it was the only one that so far had been seen in Redhill Quarry. Now there’s a challenge I thought to myself, which I’m always up for of course, I needed to find this, but as you can imagine it was a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. I was there nearly two hours, and must have looked at every single wildflower in that quarry, which included the common spotted orchid, until I eventually found it. The echoes of sheer delight on seeing it must have been heard around Wirksworth!

What a glorious day my phone and I have had. Until the next time…


Light, Camera, Action.

Added on by valerie dalling.

Just how many of us are there in this relationship?

I have always thought of myself as a visual artist, and I guess that’s what three years of studies concentrating on the image has done for me, with the technical bit coming later, as I kept hearing. That was eight years ago now, and yet I still struggle with that ‘technical bit’, to the point of frustration not only for me, but I’m sure for others who know me as well.

There are three cameras in my life, my most treasured being my beautiful Mamiya medium format 645 which I got to know and fell in love with during those three years, where film ruled for me and I felt reasonably happy with the work I was producing in the darkroom.


© valerie dalling   Mamiya Medium Format 645

Apart from bringing it out for a dust occasionally, the camera sadly now sits in a cupboard waiting to be loved again. It has played a big part in my photographic life and I wouldn’t let it go unless I had very good reason to do so. Besides, I have everything I need for my own darkroom now, so who knows, one day I may even get to know it again.

So I came to realise that it was time to teach an old dog new tricks, as the cost of those three years working with film took its toll, and digital would have to be the way forward for my art.

I have two digital cameras, a Nikon D80 and a Panasonic Lumix G3.

The Panasonic was only bought three years ago for a trip to Italy. I wanted something compact that would be an easy travelling companion for me, and I had only given myself a couple of weeks to get to know it, so to be sure I came home with some decent photographs, I admit that it was on auto for most of the holiday. 


© valerie dalling   Panasonic Lumix G3

I think the G3 and I have quite a good understanding of one another now, and although I’m still discovering new things about it, I know I can trust and rely on it to serve me well.

Finally my Nikon D80, which I bought in 2006 when it was launched, and of course it coincided with the end of my studies. We seem to have a ‘love hate’ relationship as although it is constantly by my side out in the field, I have never really understood it.


© valerie dalling   Nikon D80

Despite ‘counselling’ I do wonder whether there is a future for us, but I don”t like to give in without fighting for something I feel is worthy. I’m steadily working my way through all its good and bad points and trying desperately to reach some kind of compromise before making any decisions as to whether I finally say goodbye and move on. 

All the photographs I have made and chosen as examples in this post I am very happy with, and particularly the final image ‘Flow 1’ taken with my Nikon, so you see I feel there is hope for us yet, despite my doubts and ever nagging thoughts of a possible change in allegiance.

Seeing the landscape through photography and painting

Added on by valerie dalling.

I had a fabulous walk in Edale recently, with the very talented artist and tutor Jenny Oldknow. It was very much an experimental and fun day for both of us, as we spent time enjoying our surroundings, talking about the landscape and taking photos along the way, Jenny used her mobile phone, I had my Lumix.

Back in her studio a couple of days later it was equally as fun turning the tables as I had a go at painting my very first Derbyshire landscape through Jenny’s photograph, and I was pretty chuffed with the result.

It wasn’t until I started to think about the landscape some more and look again at my painting, that I decided to ask her to send me the photo and at the same time explain her focus to me when she made the picture…

I loved the twists of the land and how the river suddenly appeared around the bend. The image is easy to look at as the curves in the landscape lead the eye through it. My focus was primarily on the water, showing how it flowed through the landscape, both a product of the geography as well as the creator of it” Jenny

Although I had in mind an abstract painting, for me I was surprised how much detail I had still included, as this isn’t always the case with my photographic work. While Jenny’s photo was at hand and the paper  had been prepared to help guide me, I still wanted it to be my own interpretation, my memory of the day.

Like Jenny, my focus was also the water, as I do tend to spend so much time by it, and I think this is why I wanted it to dominate, and yet what’s really interesting for me, is that although I still chose to include the skyline in my painting I didn’t include The Woolpacks which can just be seen on the horizon in her photograph…it never even entered my head.

Should I have included these rocks, as they are after all an important part of the landscape? What effect if any, would this have had on my painting? I am always quite conscious when making photographs of what lies within the frame before pressing the shutter release, making sure everything within it is important and relevant to my picture…so what about when painting from photographs even if they are only for reference? What’s different? Do I see or think differently when I have a paintbrush in my hand rather than a camera?

Interesting thoughts to ponder…I look forward to the next time I pick up the paintbrush with Jenny.