Photographing The Cotswolds by Sarah Howard
Professional photographer Sarah Howard was inspired to take up photography by her father, an accomplished amateur photographer, and was later mentored by the renowned landscape photographer Charlie Waite.
Sarah is based in the Cotswolds and knows it well, so was the perfect fit to write, photograph and research a fotoVUE guidebook to the area.
She is well known for her rural photography in the Cotswold regional magazines and in the photography press, and in 2009 her book A year in the life of Westonbirt was published, celebrating the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire which holds some of the oldest and rarest trees in the World.
We asked Sarah about the Cotswolds and her recent work.
The Cotswolds, with its honey coloured villages, river valleys and soft, undulating landscape, has often been described as ‘quintessential England’. It is an area that is rich in history, from the ancient limestone villages and rolling hills (‘Wolds’), to the fine stately homes and exquisite landscape gardens and parkland which have been created over the years. In 1966 it was made an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the largest in England and Wales. It does in fact, cover a huge area – almost 800 square miles, running through five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire).
Whilst it couldn’t be much further from the sea and may lack the dramatic scenery of some other parts of the UK, it nevertheless offers plenty of opportunites for the photographer. One of the delights of visiting the Cotswolds is being able to explore all the different regions, each with its own identity, yet all with those defining Cotswold features: golden stone and rolling hills.
Granted, it sees its fare share of tourists, yet it doesn’t take long to get off the beaten track, and before you know it, you can find yourself driving down a tiny winding road with not another car in sight. It’s great that, even now, after years of living here, I’m still discovering new lanes and finding treasures around the corner. This is one of the joys of the Cotswolds, you never know what you will find. Just a few weeks ago, when out exploring by car, I took a different turn and something caught my eye. Hidden down a little side road on the edge of some woodland, I came across an ancient ‘tumulus’, or burial mound, surrounded by a perfect circle of beech trees. Being curious, I had to explore.Tentatively stepping inside the ring of beech trees I felt wonder and fear all at once – my childish fantasies coming to life; what if the ring closed and I was lost forever, transported to some other world! It was a magical place.
For me, this is the beauty of Cotswolds – finding hidden gems, taking a wander through the charming villages or being up high on the hills with sweeping views all around. For photographic variety, you couldn’t really ask for more.
This summer it’s 4 years since I went self employed – turning my back on a well paid but stressful job, to focus on my photography and building my workshop business. There have been lots of challenges along the way and plenty to learn. Like all those self employed, I’ve had to become a jack of all trades – sales person, marketing expert, web ‘designer’, writer, presenter, trainer, the list goes on, all in the name of getting myself and my business ‘out there’. I have had to face my fears – “am I any good?” being one of them, public speaking another. Ironically, although I used to dread them, I now love giving camera club talks!
With all this going on, I have also had to learn how to at least try, to manage my time. Lets call it a work in progress…
2017 is so far turning out to be a busy year, particularly so with Image Seen, the landscape photography workshop company that I run. I never like to stand still and I am well aware of the need to offer my regular clients something new and to keep challenging them, as well as offer those new to Image Seen, both choice and value for money. And, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that not every enthusiast photographer has deep pockets. As such, I’ve made a big effort to introduce a series of short, affordable workshops to the table, including Impressions of Westonbirt Arboretum led by Andy Page, Creative Abstracts at Dorney Lake with Paul Mitchell, a new long exposures workshop on the Somerset coast, plus a very special sunset shoot in my local ‘confetti’ fields. It’s all very exciting!
In-between this and camera club presentations, I’m of course working on my fotoVUE guidebook which is both fun and challenging!
You can find out more about Image Seen’s one-to-one and group workshops that are run all over the UK and abroad at Image Seen
You can see more of Sarah’s work at sarahhowardphotography.com
Photographing The Cotswolds by Sarah Howard will be published in 2018.