According to the Oxford English Dictionaries the definition of the word ‘inspiration‘ is; “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative“. There are a few landscape photographers that have the talent to give inspiration through their pictures and Russell Stewart Stone is one of them. As can be seen from the examples of his work opposite each picture gives the inspiration to pull on your walking boots and get out onto Dartmoor in order to see the landscape just as he has skilfully captured it.
Since a young age Russell has had a passion for photography along with a deep interest in the natural world with Dartmoor being one of his favourite landscapes. From what began as a hobby and passion, Russell has over the years honed his talents and become a professional photographer. In 2010 he was awarded ‘nominee’ in two categories of the ‘International Black and White Spider Awards’ along with a further three nominees in the ‘Photography Masters Cup’.
In order to capture the essence and spirit of any Dartmoor landscape one needs to be on intimate terms with its landscape, nature, moods and light. This only comes from time spent experiencing its rugged beauty in all weathers and differing times of the day. So where and how has Russell gained this knowledge and what are the tools of his trade? Well, I will let him explain:
“I have wonderful memories of Dartmoor from childhood, running through the beech woods, playing in the autumn leaves, climbing the granite rocky outcrops and exploring the open moorlands around Hound tor and Haytor with my parents.
I spent many days camping with friends on Dartmoor particularly around the Bellever Woods area and in 1978 walked the famous “Ten Tors” 55 mile walk, which gave me a great sense of the open moorland and its unique wild, rugged and moody atmosphere. “I will always remember laying in the bath after the long walk, nursing nineteen blisters due to walking shoes that were too small, not helped by falling into a marshy bog within the first few miles, you live and learn!”
I have travelled and worked all over the world but there is something unique about Dartmoor that I love. Dartmoor has its own very unique landscapes, from the beautiful rocky granite outcrops, windswept hawthorn and rowan trees to the ancient dwarfed oak woodlands and stone circles.
With each season comes a wide variety of flora and fauna, bluebells in spring, blossom on the hawthorns, the fresh green ferns, lambs, Dartmoor foals and ponies as the seasons move into late summer the heathers cover the landscape with purples and yellows, adding a soft warm feel to the normally barren landscape. With the onset of autumn the landscape slips back into a wilder more moody place, the mists start to descend, the ferns turn over and rowan and hawthorn trees bare their red berries.” This is what I love about Dartmoor and why I come back time and time again, both as a walker and professional landscape photographer.
For me it’s not just about one particularly tor or area but the whole sense of Dartmoor and its ever changing moods.
I took up Landscape photography around 30 years ago; Dartmoor was my homeland and learning wilderness. In those days I used a Zenith 35mm camera and later progressed to a Canon EOS600 35mm film camera. Times have changed since then with the advent of the digital age; I now use either a Nikon D700 or a Mamiya 645 camera with a Phase One digital back, (Medium format camera)
For me Dartmoor simply lends itself to photography, but it is so important to be patience, take fewer shots, and really think about the light, seasons and image you wish to shoot, composition and light is everything. Some of the best areas for photography are not close to a road, so walking is a must and believe me my camera equipment weighs in at a hefty 13kg, not so easy climbing the steeper tors to capture a magical misty morning or sunset.
My passion is not just colour photography, I absolutely love black & white photography, it is so moody, subtle and timeless and the Dartmoor tors, hawthorn trees and skies work so well with B&W.
Locations I love include, the rocky outcrops that lay north of Saddle Tor, Greater tor rocks, Wistman woods, Fernworthy reservoir, and the beautiful open moorland bluebell fields around Hound and Saddle Tor, I also love the Dartmeet area from Newbridge hill, passing Sharps tor, to the wonderful cathedral of beach trees that line the route to the Dartmoor training centre on the through to Princetown”.
On a personal note, what inspiration do I get from Russell’s work? Take his photograph entitled ‘Long and Winding Road‘ as can be seen opposite. Firstly, I want to immediately go there but look how the road skilfully guides your eye around every twist and turn as it takes you through the photograph. The picture not only captures the many facets of Dartmoor’s rugged landscape but it also makes a statement. Since Roman times man has been building, wherever possible straight roads but no amount of technology and determination can such be constructed across Dartmoor. The landscape has allowed a compromise, it’s as if Dartmoor has said ‘I will allow you a road but on my terms’. You could also say that in a way the image portrays life’s adventurous journey, a series of twists and turns that travels through time where the end is unseen and unknown. I often look at such photographs and think ‘I could take that shot’ but never have been able to get anywhere near it. It takes great patience, skill and perseverance to come home with the perfect picture as Russell can easily demonstrate. Every one of Russell’s photographs instils the exact definition of ‘inspiration‘, they stimulate and create a desire, incidentally his work is not confined to Dartmoor but spans many continents.
I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Russell’s website which can be found at the link opposite along with his facebook and Twitter pages. Not only will you see his photographs but also be able to purchase his work along with the opportunity to attend one of his workshops.