Outdoor Focus Winter 2017 - Page 7

and eventual marriage to Loreto, the widow of his old climbing friend and 1960s TV climbing spectacular producer, Ian McNaught-Davis, in 2016. In many ways, tragedy seems to have haunted Bonington’s long and active life. He writes movingly of his sense of personal responsibility for the loss of so many of his close friends, such as Ian Clough, Mick Burke, Nick Estcourt, Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker, all on expeditions which he led. He admits that writing the book was a challenging, introspective exercise, as he relived the joy and despair of a long life spent as Britain’s foremost ambassador of the great outdoors. BACK ROADS THROUGH MIDDLE ENGLAND Andrew Bibby Gritstone Publishing, £13.95 (pb) T he phrase “Middle England” has many meanings, the most common of which is probably as a socio-political term referring to white middle class people holding traditional conservative or right-wing views. But as the author explains in this delightfully-different travel book, his Middle England is “an altogether more complicated, and more contested, terrain.” He travelled, by bike on quiet country roads, the 430 miles along Prof WG Hoskin’s “great stone belt” of oolitic Jurassic limestone, through ten counties from Dorset to Humberside, trying to capture the modern-day essence of this essentially English landscape and its people. And he confirms at the end of his journey, during which he meets a variety of people ranging from plain-speaking Northamptonshire quarrymen to the chief executive of the Blenheim estate in Oxfordshire, that, despite some terrible road conditions, that the bicycle is the ideal mode of transport if you are not in a hurry. John Morrison’s excellent, though virtually unacknowledged, photographs illustrate his journey. Bibby’s eloquent literary companions on the eight-day journey include Edward Thomas, John Clare, Flora Thompson and the relatively unknown Dorset dialect poet William Barnes, all of whom add life and colour to this previously largely unheralded landscape. Despite its clumsy title – which makes it sound more like an AA motoring guide – this is a refreshingly different kind of travel book, not afraid to visit places where other guidebooks fear to tread. They include the former steel town of Corby, Chartist cottages near Witney, community- run village shops in North Cadbury and Collyweston, and an innovative social housing estate at Powerstock. It all fits in perfectly with the ethos of the publisher, the UK’s first authors’ publishing cooperative, and the author’s own passion for community-based social enterprise. THE MASTER PHOTOGRAPHER Bob Ryan Bourchier Books, £24.99 (pb) T here’s something strangely satisfying about taking apart a clockwork mechanism - a watch, for instance - to see how the various pieces all fit together. That satisfaction pales in comparison to the joy of successfully re-assembling the thing afterwards though, particularly if it also works more efficiently than it did previously. Bob Ryan’s new book, The Master Photographer: The Journey from Good to Great, invites and encourages you to try a similar tinkering with your photography skills. This is not a simple how-do-you- do-that photography book, filled with technical explanations readily found elsewhere. It’s a book that wants to push you from being merely a good photographer to becoming a great one. The main way to achieve this according to Ryan is to unlearn bad photographic habits and embrace your photographic intuition. To reinforce this message, Ryan writes about his own personal experience as a photographer, as well as presenting information gleaned from a variety of sources, including areas of academic study such as human psychology. (Though this does not mean that the book is a dry read, far from it). Once past the introduction, the first task presented in the book is the completion - as honestly as possible - of a downloadable personal scorecard. Once complete you are then free to work syst ematically through the rest the book, taking a series of exercises to chart your progress along the way. The ultimate aim is to reach the final chapter having learnt to trust your intuition in order to shoot more emotionally pleasing and compelling imagery. The Master Photographer is relatively text-heavy for a photography book, but it does cover a lot of of ground over its 139 pages. What photography there is is varied and relevent, and includes work by Ryan, as well as photographers such as Andy Beel and Alison Price. If you feel the need to improve your photography then reading Ryan’s book will be time well spent. On the subject of which, can anyone recommend a good watch repairer? David Taylor winter 2017 | Outdoor focus 7