Regular readers of this column will know of my great passion for experiencing the natural world first hand; getting out into the countryside and immersing yourself in the world around you. Of course, it is not always possible to do this and, with so much countryside out there, even those of us who spend a lot of time out of doors cannot experience everything. That is why nature writing, wildlife filmmaking, sound recording and art (in all its forms) can offer us the experiences of the natural world one step removed. In some cases, the countryside and the wildlife it contains are captured in a way that simply relates their true form; in other instances, the picture we see has been interpreted by the writer or artist and they have left an echo of themselves on the object that we ultimately view.
I have a huge amount of respect for those who can deliver views of the natural world that most of us do not have the time, patience or opportunities to witness. As such, I enjoy seeing a painting or photograph that captures an inspiring piece of wildlife action, or reading a piece of prose that adds to my sense of wonderment at the depth of beauty that exists within the natural world. There are photographers whose work captures the interplay between wildlife and the Norfolk landscape so completely that I am deeply moved by what I have seen. One of these is Chris Gomersall, a photographer whose impressive portfolio of work has graced many books and magazines. His photograph of a rook, which appears in Birds Britannica, shows the bird levering a bin bag from a dustbin; the crisp and striking image bubbles over with the mischievous resourcefulness of this bird and serves to illustrate an important piece of behaviour. At the same time, other images captured by Chris show barn owls and pink-footed geese silhouetted against soft-toned Norfolk skies, evoking memories of my own trips to Norfolk’s north coast. Such images blur the line between straight photography and art. They have an integral beauty of their own, derived not from the subject matter but from how it is portrayed. One particular image of Chris’s stands out for me and, perhaps surprisingly, it is not a bird but a simple portrait of a wood blewit mushroom, its rich purple tones set off beautifully by the ochres and browns of the dead leaves that carpet the ground around it. For those interested, Chris Gomersall has an exhibition of his work running at Brancaster Staithe Village Hall from 26th-28th October and I, for one, will be dropping in to share his experiences of Norfolk’s wildlife.