Nostalgia, saturation and digital photography

Two walkers in the hills near Hay-on-Wye
On a long, long trek, a long, long time ago

One of my projects this year has been to get on top of my digital photograph archive. Up until recently, it was across several libraries on different computers. I’ve been busy consolidating and de-duping those libraries, and the properly processing all the photos within.

Right now, I’m working through 2002, my first full year of digital photography. I’m really enjoying two things: culling the photos down to a tight selection, and improving them with modern technology.

The culling just makes for better albums. You look through, and photos which seemed so important at the time, clearly don’t work with a decade’s distance. Chucking them away makes what’s left stand out so much better. But it’s the latter – bringing new tech to bear on old images – that’s really making things fly. It’s become clear that the Minolta digital impact I was using back then fairly consistently undersaturated the images. That, along with some careful exposure work, is making images which I thought fairly average really come to life, despite the low resolution by today’s standards. Here’s another example:

The hills above Hay-on-Wye in 2002

Nothing earth-shattering, but pretty impressive for a digital camera that’s 13 years out of date by today’s technology.

The shots are from a walk in the hills around Hay-on-Wye that Lorna and I embarked on with the London Mountaineering Club back in 2002. It was both a wonderful and disastrous weekend. Wonderful because the weather was great, the scenery stunning and the company great. Disastrous because the the organisers were rather too ambitious. Three of us sensed we wouldn’t make the entire route – so turned around at the lunch break – while the rest eventually ends dup calling us for a pick-up to get them home.

But it was still one hell of a walk.

Walkers on a bridleway in Herefordshire

We never managed to go on another walk with the club, which I regret to this day. But it’s lovely rediscovering these images after over a decade, with the pain and exhaustion long forgotten. It makes me itchy to put my walking boots back on…

Snowham-by-Sea

It's a snow day. After I made it home last night, the snow really settled in on the South-East, bringing much of the public transport infrastructure to its knees. There's no trains from here to London, and I wasn't about to risk my neck on the M23 in these conditions. So, a snow day, a working from home day.

But…there's always room for a lunchtime walk, isn't there?

Walking in the Cairngorms, March 1989

Adam, Walker

Back in my final year of school, a group of friends invited me on an Easter holiday with them. It wasn't expensive; we took the train from central Scotland, where we lived, up to Aviemore, and then stayed in a youth hostel for the week. We cooked ourselves dinner, and entertained ourselves by spending our days walking through the Cairngorms, stunning mountains in the Highlands.

I was 17, and this was my first real holiday with friends, and I loved it. After a small accident, involving ice, gloves, my face and a swinging frame in a children's adventure park, I had a blast. I had experiences that week I have never repeated since:

  • being caught in a whiteout, and then finding our way to a nearby bothy to shelter, by holding on to each other's backpacks. 
  • going from snowy winter to glorious spring simply by heading down from the mountains to the valleys between
  • being so tired at the end of the day that sleeping in the communal bunkrooms was easy

It would be four years before I would go away on holiday with friends like that again, but this really felt like the first big step towards independent adulthood that would continue six months later when I left for university in London. Sadly, I'm no longer in contact with the four other people who were on the trip with me – Daniel, Phylida, Claire and Katy – but scanning my way through the transparencies I shot that week reminded me of what a great, life-shaping week that was. 

The whole set's below: