Moments in time by martin bennie

If i look back on my life with a camera, there are many years missing, from perhaps the late 1980’s up to about the 2003. Don’t get me wrong, i have photos of my kids and some odd shots from far of places, but the memories i have of these years is very vague. Now prior to this, when i used a pentax ME super up to the late 80’s, i have pretty good memories, perhaps because i can look at the photograph and dig out the memory from a far distant brain cell. But for some reason around about the early 90’s, i lost sight of my camera and photography habit. That was until maybe early 2003, when i started working in the shipyards of Singapore , which corresponded with my large pay rises. I remember that I’d decided one day, that the digital age was now time to get back into photography, and i headed to Sim Lim Square, which is the hub for all photographic things in Singapore and is four or five floors of camera shop after camera shop. For me, this was really the start of my photographic journey and i shot almost every day in and around the shipyards and streets of Singapore. The evidence of my skill is plain for all to see in my shots, and boring comes to mind in most of them. There was no feeling at this time in my photography and my passion had not really begun until a few years later, when i arrived in South Korea

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Im not sure where the transition in my photography was, but with a new job in a new land, plenty of time to explore and not many western people on the island at that time, it was such a peaceful place, with a tranquility in the landscapes, as the real ship building boom had not begun yet. I was living there myself, i had every weekend off and i belonged to the famous Geoje-do hash house harriers, which started my love of walking in mountains. Fate had set me on a new path by bringing me to Korea and my life was just so wonderful and changed beyond comprehension. I photographed thousands of people on the hashes and i photographed every part of the island we walked on. I photographed every event the foreigners club held and i photographed all the kids at the expats school year after year. I took photographs of ships and large boys toys inside shipyards and i pushed and pushed my ability to take better and more interesting shots. My basic understand of the rules of photography started here and every day, even though i had no camera, i saw photographs in everything i looked at and my composition skills got better and better.

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i was lucky to have seen geoje island, just before the western world and modernization moved in and all but destroyed a way of life for this nation. I traveled out into the country at every single opportunity and documented the farmers and their work on the lands. It was only about 4 years after this photo, that i spotted helicopters dusting the fields, while the farmers stood and watched. Perhaps we now move aside to let machines take over. I learnt many things about myself and my photography in these days and with my music playing in the car, i did hit and run photography, following the light and the clouds down roads I’d never been down before and after 5 years on the island, there was not a road or track that i hadn’t driven along to find new locations.

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in 2012, my life changed beyond anything id ever imagined when i moved down to the very bottom of korea, where very few expats went and my photography exploded into what it is today. I had a stressful job on this two year project you see here in the oil rig on the right. At every chance i got, leaving work, going to work, at the weekends and during holidays i explored every single area of this part of korea and to combat my stress, i found a new way of seeing and feeling in my photography. I walked in the most serene places and remote villages and i even met people i remain friends with today on my journey. I saw places that made me cry they were just so peaceful and i stood in awe on the top of mountains and watched nature display to only me, the most fabulous light shows.

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i walked through blizzards and baking heat and i changed both myself and my photography at the same time. I lived fully in the moment when i stood there and did my long exposures and i thought of nothing, but what it felt like to stand thinking of nothing. I partied hard during these times and i stressed a lot over a project that had 1 billion dollars riding on it, and had to be completed on time, and my life fell apart in other ways, but i kept on taking photographs as i tried to hold thing together.

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i walked a lot and i saw many spectacular views and took many photos, but this one was one of my favorites from Geoje island and is of Gohyeon, where samsung shipyard is located. It wasn’t long after i took this photo, that life decided i was to move on and i lost my job in Jan 2015.

It was then i decide to travel to Chile and spent almost 2 months there, photographing santiago and Patagonia and places in between. These are probably some of the loneliest times of my life, but i wanted to go as far into a sparse landscape as my mental state could take, to find what it was i was scared off. I drove to the ends of chile and stood in complete isolation, mentally and physically and it scared me, but i loved it. I saw sights and colors in landscapes i could never have imagined.

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after chile i had no option but to return to aberdeen and start my life again. I moved to aboyne in 2017 to be near the hills and mountains, without being too remote again and from there i explored everywhere from Glen tanar estate to the mountains and hills around braemar. I set myself a target to submit photos to the scottish landscape photographer of the year in 2017 and i had 3 images entered into the finals, with one image getting a consolation prize, by getting into their E-book. The following year was tough, as i set myself a goal of getting a higher prize in the 2018 competition and i walked hundreds of kilometers with a 15 kg backpack full of camera gear. Sometimes i walked 22 km and didn’t even take my camera out. There were days when i was so far into the hills and i was completely exhausted and thought id never make it back. Its surprising when you have a few mars bars, how much energy they give you. I pushed myself sometimes too hard.

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I spent 90% of my time chasing my goal, determined to give the west coast photographers a run for their money. The winners always have huge mountain scenes under brilliant lighting, but we don’t get the same light on the east coast and i trudged up every path at Loch Muick and Lochnagar in search of new landscapes, somedays in two feet of snow, knowing i was the only one there. I finally entered the competition again in late 2018 and this time, my photograph was one of the commended landscape photos. Not a top prize, but a lot better than i did last year, so i was delighted. This year in 2019, i will push even harder to get one of the top prizes and there is nothing i can’t do, that those that scooped this years top awards did. My photography is as good, but i failed to understand what exactly is making the top positions, but now i know and i will win this year

My winning entry, was the scottish ponies that inhabit the hills around braemar and i chased these ponies through the fields to get the shots i did, but the one i loved the most, was when they followed me back to the road and i caught them coming over the bridge after me. These ponies are becoming famous now, as i see many others going in search of them to photograph them.

Where my photography goes now, has yet to be decided, because i don’t know where i am going next lol.

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Traveling to Brazil by martin bennie

I travel to work, or do i work to travel?

My life seems to give me what i need and I’m still confused on why its always so good this way, but fails in many other different ways. Not many people have a life such as mine, where i travel so much and visit many countries and even get paid to sit around in the sun all day, yet I always seem to be alone. I’ve yet to learn what that lesson is all about, but i know, that being alone doesn’t always mean I’m lonely. Sometimes yes I am, but others not so much. Perhaps this is the payoff for having a traveling lifestyle and I’m ok with it for now.

I started a new job in Brazil recently and as i said, they pay me for doing very little. Though before embarking onto the ship, i had 10 days doing courses, before i went offshore and was lucky to have stayed in Rio De Janeiro, so took my little Leica along, as i thought it safer. Once it was taped up with black tape, it looked old and shoddy and i felt comfortable with it out in plain sight of all the would be robbers. It was the week before carnival and for the first time in my life, I signed up for a city tour on Trip Adviser as i felt it safer, seeing as I’d read so many bad things about Brazil and especially Rio.

Having completed my course, I had the full weekend off and on Saturday morning, i headed into Rio to meet the guide outside the Belmond Copacabana Palace, one of the most famous hotels, enjoyed by famous people, politicians and rich buggers that could afford a 500 pound a day fee. I did saunter in, with the air of looking like i was meant to be there, as i needed a piss and the door man never gave me a second look. I wondered through the breakfast area, out by the pool and into the most fabulous toilets and then I sauntered back out, stopping only to exchange pleasantries with the door man. I belonged there in that hotel and i knew it, but just couldn’t afford it for now.

I was first there to meet the wonderful guide Juliana Mathos and as usual, I’m always first there in plenty of time. I just hate being late, so tend to stand around 30 mins before I’m due, just so im not late waiting for everyone else.

Not long after, an older German woman turned up, looking like you’d expect an older German woman to look like, closely followed by a Black America guy, the size of a small house, who i had an instant connection with, as he was both a photographer and a preacher and just one of these damn happy smiling people who exude good energy. Then an old frail looking man, with white hair and baseball cap, who happened to be 71 and who was a retired doctor and just off off the cruise ship nearby. He was followed by an English plumber and his wife, who were on the same cruise ship tour, who again i had an instant connection with and felt like long term friends a few hours later. All in all, it would seem the type of people who like to explore strange cities, are the same type of people as me and friendships come so easily.

So our happy gang set off for the subway under the close eye of the guide. I forget the American guys name, but like me, he had a camera, which looked more shiny than mine, Seeing as it was a Fuji film X2, with zoom lenses and the look of lots of money. Remember, he was a giant and you just knew no one would take anything from him, so i stayed nearby and lurked in his shadow, clicking as much as he did.

We were heading for Santa Teresa, a street full of life, seeing as practice for the carnival was on and gangs of young people marched up and down the streets banging drums and looking fabulous, sexy and semi naked.

Santa Teresa is a hilltop district with a charming, village-like vibe. Steep, winding streets are lined with elegant old mansions, many housing chic boutique hotels, quirky cocktail bars or romantic restaurants with bay views and today it was full of colorfully dressed women and men dressed colorfully as women too. The bars were full and everyone was happy and not once in my day did i feel threatened. I’d have loved to have stayed and drunk the locals beer, but we moved through art shops and stopped to talk and on occasions, we were fed some Cachaca, which is the base for Caipirinha the famous Brazilian cocktail. I stopped many times to photograph these shop owners and all were just so friendly. Perhaps there are robbers and thief’s around the Favelas, but on this day, they must have been resting, as i came home with my money still in my underpants, albeit a bit soggy.

I did the Christ the redeemer statue after this and once again a famous landmark you see in photos, doesn’t really live up to what you think, as thousands of people stand there and imitate the stance of the statue and it kind of ruins the moment. The views are outstanding and perhaps as you look at the photo of the view i took, you will think, wow, thats fabulous, but you should know, i faught my way into that position and was pushed out just after i pressed the shutter.

At the end of the tour, there was only the guide, me and the old man left and we wondered over to sit at Copacabana beach to watch the world go by as we drank some beer and acted like we had been friends for many years.

I love my job, because it allows me to travel and meet fabulous people who i perhaps will never meet again, but for that moment in time, all was well in our world, as we viewed the strange city, with the same wonder. I have lots of people i have met like this on face book and for a small moment in time, we all became friends and laughed and joked with each other and some days i miss these one day friends.

Would i advise you to go to Rio?…………oh you better believe it as it is a city that just jumps straight into your heart and as a photographer, is one of the best places i have ever seen to do street photography in.

Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.

Winter Fly Fishing 2nd Feb 2019 by martin bennie

I had been sent some photos by a friend this day of the Potarch bridge near Banchory and decided about 2pm to head there for some low sunlight shots with the ice. Unbeknown to me, it was the first day of the Salmon season on the river Dee and there was a gathering of guys fly fishing in the ice flows. I’d never seen this done before, so asked to take their photos as they tried to catch a salmon. As i watched them fish, i could hear the laughter and banter from the other guys behind me and it was only later, that i noticed the whisky was flowing as fast as the river.

The river Dee is one of the most famous salmon rivers in the world, but now stocks are low and this has become a catch and release river. One of the guys who had organised the event, also worked for the Aberdeen fishery board and he talked passionately about his hobby and work and explained in detail to me why stocks were low and why we could not seem to improve it without upsetting people.

I remember back in the 1980’s walking down at the beach at Aberdeen and there were salmon nets strung all along the beach front at Bridge of Don and anytime i walked past just at low tide, these were being emptied of huge salmon by local fishermen. These nets are long gone and stocks have fallen dramatically. Now we find dozens of seals and otters inhabit the rivers and coast lines adjacent to them. It is fabulous to have these creatures back in their natural environemnt, but we have no natural predators to control their population and they are devastating the fish as they enter or leave the rivers. If they are catching salmon coming up the river to breed, then we lose all these eggs that ensure the future of salmon. At the Ythan estuary further north, there are now over 1000 seals now basking at the mouth of the river and as you could imagine, thats a lot of feeding they require. I heard a story recently of seals there eating a Swan, though i can only imagine how hungry they must be to chew through all that feathers. People are finding that if they catch a fish there nowadays, the seals are taking them from the hook as they reel them in.

All of this has nothing much to do with my photography, but i find that being out and about and meeting people who both love and work in the countryside is one of the enjoyable things about photography, and ive had some great conversations with people that are like minded and out and about in the country. If im standing there taking photographs, people will come over for a look in my screen to see what it is im seeing. Nine times out of ten, im doing long exposure and as they look at the scene with a quizzical look on their face, thinking perhaps thats its not that interesting and then when i show them the water blurred or the clouds moving in the shot, it changes their understanding of what you can see if you just use your imagination.

They say a good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. I have a passion for photography that drives me out almost every day to walk and find new scenes and destinations. Sometimes i follow the light and clouds in my car, with some good sounds on, all the while turning left or right as i feel the intuition to do so. Sometimes i walk many many miles looking to make photographs and perhaps 80% of the time i never take my camera out the bag, because the light is not right for that scene or perhaps i cant find anything of interest to use as the foreground. All these places go into my memory for future use should the light ever dictate its time to return there.

In Search Of Ponies 31st Jan 2019 by martin bennie

It was one snowy day 3 years ago in 2016 that i first saw these ponies on the road from Braemar to Glenshee ski resort. As i searched out new locations to photograph, i could see them high in the hills, highlighted against the mountains that were covered in snow. The sky was dark and meanacing and the light was contrasty and foreboding and what i saw that day, was what keeps me interested in photography.

Fast forward 3 years and my 3rd visit to these ponies not long after it snowed in late January. I could see them further away from where their feeding station was, and with my camera and drone, i started treking up towards them, through the deep snow. This is no easy task in deep muddy snow covered fields, over fences and dry stone walls, while trying to stay upright, but up i went slowly, untill i caught sight of the horses just down below me. Of course by this time, they had already seen me and were standing staring. There was a new brown coloured pony, thats I’d never seen before and it looked young and they seemed very defensive of it. As I moved towards them with my camera, the stallion decided that my approach was not warranted and he suddenly started running towards me. It was pretty deep snow in front of me and his run was somewhat slowed, but he stopped not far from me and backed off. This was when the fruit becomes handy and I waited a little and approached them again. They are quiet inquisitive things and soon they all started to come over for a look. Its a little daunting to have these horses run towards you and I was a little nervous up here as they seemed more aggresive than the last time I visited and I put this down to this new young pony. After about 15 mins, they seemed to ignore me for while, then suddenly come running over to me again. The stallion was more of a concern as any time I seemed to go near the foal, he turned and started coming towards me. I spent about 45 mins wondering around taking photos from differant angles, trying to get them silhouetted against the mountains. At one point they drifted over towards me and one stood above me, in a “look at me, take my photo” pose as he stared off towards the opposite mountain. I decided to take my drone out and take some closer photos of them, but they didnt like that one bit. Perhaps they’d heard of my crashing skills and decided it was safer at the other side of the hills, as off they trotted away from me and the drone.

It is such a pleasure to be high in these hills, on a cold snowy calm windless day, with wild animals running around beside you and not another human in sight.