I’m often asked (well, occasionally asked) if magazines commission me for pieces or do I come up with ideas myself. The answer, of course, is both. Could you cover this shoot, would you interview this person, that sort of thing in an email from the editor happens on a regular basis but more ‘off the wall’ ideas come from some cul-de-sac of my tiny brain. I wish I knew exactly where because then I might come up with more notions more often.
From time to time I know a good idea when it comes to me and a pitch to an editor results in a commission, other times the concept sounds good to me but is not one I can easily share with the powers that be. Then I have to put myself in arboreal jeopardy (go out on a limb), research, write and illustrate the piece before presenting it as a complete package and hopefully a sale. I guess they’re the ones I cherish.
Now and again one job will lead to another. I covered the shoot on the Benham Estate near Newbury for Shooting Gazette and while I was there realised that they own the fishing on two beats of the River Kennet, one of which is the famous (to fly fishers, anyway) Wilderness section. When the estate manager, Alex Winn, suggested I do something about the river I bounded towards the opportunity (sorry) and come the spring was back there interviewing the river keepers (the piece eventually appeared in Fieldsports Magazine).
Once I photographed my syndicate’s shoot in Hampshire on a gorgeous autumn day and was so pleased with the results – given the light and colours a monkey could have got good pictures – I wrote an article to go with the pictures and that went in Shooting Gazette. One of my favourite pieces was about a walking stick. I’d found this piece of holly on our shoot growing with honeysuckle around it producing a a staff worthy of Gandalf and on that I hung an article about the importance of beaters’ sticks. I was pleased with that one.
One of my latest came to me while I was stuck in the mud in Langstone Harbour. I was supposed to be crossing a narrow gully to photograph wildfowling but unfortunately a lack of preparation and a certain amount of stupidity resulted in me being enmired in black, sticky silt and then an undignified scrabble sans waders back to shore. Not my finest hour but all grist to the mill and at least Shooting Times got something from my debacle.
It is far easier if someone, knowing my profession, sidles up to me or, less creepily, emails me with a suggestion or two. So anyone out there with a countryside related story please let me know.