Homeward Bound – Mark Gilligan

In this blog we hear from Mark Gilligan, an award winning photographer, as he muses over what adventure means to him.


It is a word that evokes a sense of daring. Something that pushes us to our limits and beyond. We think of trips to foreign shores, high mountain walks, attaining peaks previously out of reach, ultimate backpacking and pushing ourselves to do something that we normally wouldn’t do.

An adventure. The dictionary says it is an “exciting experience”.

It is therefore many things to many people but for me it is a way of discovering something new. An experience that enriches us that makes you think differently.

Whilst we look forward to such ‘journeys’ we don’t always have to cross-oceans or fly half way around the world in order to have ‘an adventure’.

I decided to put this to the test.

A few weeks back I had just finished writing and processing some work and had an afternoon to myself.

A rarity nowadays.

What to do?

It was glorious and as I feared it might be our only summer day for this year I came up with an idea or ‘an adventure.’

No, it wasn’t involving boats or planes but creating some images that literally could be found on ‘my own doorstep.

I decided that I would test myself by looking at what was right under my nose and see if I could take photographs that were unplanned yet still worthy of attention. A stripped down, localised road trip that would ask questions of me as a photographer and give me the opportunity to look at my local area with another perspective. Never a bad thing.

My only ‘brief’ was to stray no more than five miles from home.

I specifically didn’t go out for sunset because that would be too easy. The ‘golden hour’ can produce relatively good images on most subjects but this had to be a test of my abilities as a photographer. The afternoon light would be fine for this.

I have always believed in constant development, as we never stop learning. The day we think to ourselves, ‘I know this,’ is a dangerous day.

I live in a semi rural location and we are blessed with gorgeous Cheshire countryside but it tends to be relatively flat with rolling hills and not as readily dramatic as my usual, mountainous terrain.

My objective was to capture images that were impactive and representative of their surroundings. That could be through design, colour or both. They had to be faithful to their surroundings. That is so important to me as I do not spend copious amounts of time sat processing at my computer. My motto is ‘get it as near as possible in camera’.

For a magazine, I would work to a brief and that in itself can throw up prescriptive issues such as time of day, seasons and actual image composition. They all have to come together to fulfill an editor’s wishes. However, this self-induced test relied upon me working a blank canvass.

So, armed with my Fuji X Pro2 camera, two Lee mid grad filters and a 16-35mm lens, I set off.

My journey lasted for a couple of hours but I managed to take several shots that I am very pleased with. They work in both colour and black and white and are all at the bottom of this blog.

Was the ‘adventure’ worth it? In my opinion it was and proved that we don’t have to go far and wide to satisfy the adventurer in us.
I would suggest that you try this as I know it will work in any type of ‘scape’ that is near your home.

I was right about the summer though. It didn’t last long at all.

The following day Granada TV were filming me for a piece on my work.

They chose Black Clough in the Longdendale Valley, Derbyshire to work in and the concept was for me to take the weather presenter Kerry Gosney through a workshop.

As we arrived the heavens opened. To say it was raining was an understatement and I was glad of my new Extrem jacket.

It handled the deluge very well and just as importantly the crew said it looked great on camera!

As the shoot progressed it was designed to lead up to a showstopper image at the end (no pressure then – ha, ha!). I can’t publish it yet until the piece has been on TV but Kerry and the producer were delighted with the results.

Two adventures in two days.

I am being spoiled…….