Only a few weeks ago I featured one of Mark Littlejohn’s wonderful atmospheric photographs on this very blog, with his image Woodland Wanders. I’ve followed Mark’s work for a very long time indeed and so it came as no surprise to me when he was announced as Take-A-View’s choice as Landscape Photographer Of The Year for 2014 with what I think is a quite wonderful photograph, aptly titled A Beginning And An End

A Beginning And An End

A Beginning And An End

It’s fair to say the Take-A-View competition has been known to be a bit of a mixed bag in previous years. You don’t really know what the judges are looking for and there have been times when I, like many others, have been left scratching our heads at one or two of the previous winners and exhibition entries. All the same, I love the competition, I love the way it makes me think and work and I’ve found the awards night the last two years a hugely uplifting and inspirational experience.

With this photograph, Mark has brought the event some serious credibility this year though. If you look at his wider portfolio, his work is of an incredibly high standard, he has a natural eye for composition and seems to enjoy the sort of scenery and imagery that I am energised by too. What a choice by the judges though… I absolutely can’t stop looking at this but I’d also go as far to say that this image has truly unsettled me. It isn’t often a photograph affects me in this way, but just as I was starting to feel at ease with my own artistic contribution for this year I’ve had that cold wake-up moment of realisation where I suddenly feel like I have a mountain to climb (perhaps literally as well as artistically), that there is a gulf in quality between anything I have photographed this year next to a piece like this, and that whole feeling is weighing heavy on my mind. It’s not a bad thing, it will keep me striving to achieve something different in the year ahead and a reminder that resting on any sort of laurels will just make you stale.

A Beginning And An End is an absolutely magnetic photograph to my eye. The colour and composition is stunning, I love the swirling cloud, I can see all those minute details in the rock and then there’s that damn beautiful transient stream of rain water. Like fingers of an angel making its way down the mountainside, the sheer nature of this photograph is captivating. But there’s still so much more to it than that – there’s a story being told here, the atmosphere is palpable and there’s also something so incredibly enigmatic yet so simple on show here too…

This really is a fleeting moment and I love the fact that Mark captured something of a rare and beautiful phenomenon here that very few people have probably ever seen in Glencoe, let alone photographed. That’s part of the real joy of this and perhaps a fact that will pass many people by while they’re comparing it to the next photograph. This image is about something true, natural and uniquely observed. Of course, it also enjoys something of an abstract nature. People talk about the ‘painterly feel’ in landscape photography a lot and it’s a look that fully installs this image into the artistic category of photography – something which I often try to bring to my own output. I believe that same look brought photographs like Woodland Wanders to my attention too.

Anyway, fabulous result, hugely satisfying outcome all round and I can’t wait to see what I hope is a giant print at the exhibition too.