The colours of early September turn the fields into a tapestry and swatches of gold corn catch the eye alongside patterns of plough brown. Shadows shorten and nature seems to be holding its breath, conserving energy after the crescendo of summer, recharging batteries for the exertion of autumn. In the lull of the seasons we pick blackberries, always an earthy pleasure. The afternoon sun rests easily on our backs, its warmth rousing the muscles needed to reach the largest berries. The trill of a dipper diverts my eye back to the river and spinning round I see a twist of dart black skim just inches from the Swale's smooth surface.
Back home, Dave from Liverpool calls. He’s heading to Skye and has bought all the maps. It’s a pleasure to pass on knowledge of locations for dawn and dusk. He’s very forgiving of my Gaelic pronunciation. I’m excited for him, but caution against driving too much; the Winged Isle is bigger than you think. His rented cottage is close to Dunvegan and I paint word pictures of Persil-white coral beaches and wizened oaks in the Fairy Glen.
Talk moves on to Albert Watson and the fascinating film shown earlier this year when BBC Four followed him for a day photographing the Skye landscape. Born in Edinburgh but based in America for more than 40 years, Watson is in his seventies and remains one of the world's leading portrait and fashion photographers. He’s as sought-after as ever, and was recently voted one of the world’s most influential photographers. The film features him using a host of innovative equipment to create the mood he wants to depict Skye, including sparklers, smoke guns and car headlamps. Watson has no qualms about manipulating nature to get the shot, saying: “When Monet’s painting his lily pond, guess what? Those colours aren’t exactly what’s in the lily pond. You’re doing impressions of things. You’re creating images.”
Watson’s passion for his work is inspiring after four decades in the job. “I’m lucky to be here,” he says. “As long as you have a camera in your hand or a tripod in front of you, there’s never a problem.” I watch the 30-minute film again on You Tube. Watson's enthusiasm makes me want to drop everything and head out with the camera, but a trip to the framer must come first. I have an exhibition in December and, unlike Albert, there is no assistant to do the printing.
From Swaledale I take the high road over the moor on a spirited afternoon of real clarity and enjoy far-reaching views past heather and hawthorn to Addleborough hill. As I drop down into Wensleydale the road crosses military land and I pass three hulking squaddies shouldering backpacks the size of fridges. Perhaps my camera bag isn’t that heavy after all. Having chosen a simple oak frame for my prints and haggled over the price, there is still time to visit the river on the way home and thoughts return to making a photograph.
Watson’s view on Monet must still be at the front of my mind because once at the river what eventually catches and delights my eye is an impressionistic swirl of colour across the surface of a gently flowing pool. There's a flicker of a breeze, enough to shimmer the yellows and greens, and an overhanging beech, dark and mellow, brings a calming balance to a vibrant palette. Before making my photograph I wait for a drift of cloud to diffuse the sun and enjoy how softer light makes the colours dance.
With my photograph made, I then head home as slowly as I can, rewinding as I go memories of a summer to savour. After crumble made with the blackberries, I reluctantly pack the van. Tomorrow it will be hugs in the hall and then the long drive to the Outer Hebrides.