Seasons of the New Forest – John Lewis

John Lewis gave us his interesting and different outlook on photography, after realising that photography has changed for him. He now considers what effect he, as a photographer, has on the environment and how photographs can change other people.

With regard to the New Forest, some trivia is that there are no towns… only villages. We were shown some very early photographs, the Cherry brother’s based in the New Forest, were the very first wildlife photographers. And surprisingly, The New Forest only became a National Park in 2005.

John has spent much time trawling through newspaper, photographic and film archives, including the Pathe News, and the subsequent film and photographs he shared with us were actually quite impressive considering the camera equipment that would have been used at the time.

In many ways the New Forest continues to evolve slowly, the species of animal and bird, some truly ancient trees and woods are as they would have been when William the Conqueror was hunting his deer. These days of course, it is crossed by some major roads and 1/4 of the area is farmland. It is a big holiday destination but luckily there are some good works going on to protect the wildlife and habitat, such as at Key Haven, where the numbers and species of birds are monitored for important data gathering, but also give some good photographic opportunities.

The balance of the economy vs nature is noticeable in the summer months with the tourism, and although winter is his favourite time to photograph in the forest, John showed us images through all the seasons, the rough winter seas and dramatic erosion created along the coastal areas, through to the quiet pond life, teeming with dragon and damsel flies in the spring and summer, the misty autumn landscapes, the deer rut with a backdrop of glorious autumn colours, and of course spring time with the arrival of the foals and bright leafy greens of regeneration.

Throughout his talk John gave some shocking examples of how photographers will upset nature to get ‘The Shot’, not a technique he approves of, ensuring he is equipped to photograph from a distance and he commented that with modern cameras and lenses with image stabilisation, things are so much easier.

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