The cover image is really, really important: a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way having had mixed success with them. I think that the Norfolk Landscapes cover really works, but getting that pic. was a bit of a mission….
Back at the start in 2011, when I was putting together a BonusPrint book of Chiltern scenery for my own amusement (www.bonusprint.co.uk) I used the poppy field image right from the outset.
This was fine when the book was only for my amusement, but as the project took off, I became concerned that it was an image that I’d taken with my old Finepix camera in 2004. It was much lower resolution than my current Panasonic camera so the detail wasn’t great, and the sky and lighting is a little dull (and I wasn’t into Photoshop). So as I prepared the book, adding new photo’s, I was constantly on the look out for something better, or to take a better pic from the same location, but neither happened (and I haven’t seen poppies at the same area since.) In the event it’s been very successful, and still looks eye-catching in bookshops.
I worked hard to get a cover pic for An English Village Idyll, and consulted friends and bookshop owners. The shot I selected was of Cuddington, taken on a lovely summer’s evening, and one shop owner said he thought it was perfect. In the event, it looks a bit drab: it needs to be brighter so it stands out and I believe that has cost me sales and maybe whole markets! It’s best not to learn lessons the hard way.
I then started preparing North Downs Landscapes and my work was bought by Oxbow Books who became my publisher (God bless ’em!). I had selected a gorgeous panorama over the Homesdale Valley with Dorking sitting smugly in it, but to my surprise, Oxbow selected the evening shot looking out over the Weald of Kent, which I had thought would be too dark. But it is striking and seems to work quite well. Homesdale may have been too green again.
So we come to Norfolk Landscapes. The plan was to publish North Downs in April 2015 and Norfolk in the autumn, which gave me a year to get the images I needed, from scratch. I visited Norfolk seven times in all, and in May 2015, I still hadn’t taken an image that I really felt was right. I really wanted poppies in the picture as this is the flower that the county has adopted as its own, though poppies are far less common these days in fields owing to modern herbicides. I wanted an appealing panorama which fully expressed Norfolk, and nowhere else, and although I had some gorgeous images, they were either too wintry or not enough colour. The book had to be completed by the end of July and the weather wasn’t with me – each time I was free to spend a few days away, it turned cloudy. With a forecast break in the weather I drove to Diss in the south of the county in June and got some lovely images of the town and the Waverley Valley. But as the day progressed, the sky gradually clouded over until it was quite dull. Grrrr.
On trips like this, I use my mobile phone to check on the weather, trying to find where the sun shines, but I also chase bits of clear sky I see in the distance. Suffice to say that having driven the length and breadth of Norfolk, I gave up on day 2 and headed home with one nice shot of a poppy field (page 37), and this wasn’t the first time as 2015 has been a difficult year for weather.
My next sunny window came during the 2nd week of July, and I set off once more at 5am, this time for King’s Lynn. For once it was a warm, clear, bright sunny day and photography seemed so easy! As I meandered up the west coast, along the Wash, I achieved one long standing objective in getting a shot of Norfolk lavender in full bloom (page 69) and then headed north to Barrow Common, an open area on the downs above Brancaster. I traced a footpath along the top of a wheat field and came across a patch of wildflowers (weeds) which included poppies: this looked very promising. However it wasn’t easy as it was quite a small patch, and I needed to get the wonderful distant view over the village to the bay with white yachts bobbing on the blue sea, and the wonderful blue sky as well as the flowers. I ended up kneeling low down on the dirt, head crooked sideways and peering through the viewfinder trying to find the right composition. I took a series of shots there and in different places along the Barrow Common ridge and felt elated because it looked like I’d got my cover image, at last and just in time; and it wasn’t very long before the clouds returned.
When the book was released, my publisher said that she thought it would look fabulous in the book shops, so let’s hope so.