Watching The River Flow

Images of the River Medway in Kent by Tom Phillips, from his November 2016 exhibition.
Allington Lock A Tribute To Rowland Hilder  Hilder died in 1993. He was a prolific watercolour artist since the 1920s, sometimes called “The Turner of our age”. His work has fallen from fashion nowadays. This image is from a photo taken at Allington Lock early one February morning, rendered in a style with echoes of some of Hilder’s Kent work.	 £190  An Accumulation Of Cumulus  Photographing the Medway, I am frequently blessed with really impressive skies. This photograph was taken from a similar spot to “The Sublime View” on a breezy day when there was a strange mix of high altitude cirrus clouds and lower level cumulus. The sky was a rich blue, but was not reflected well in the wind-rippled river. That is one reason this photo was rendered in monochrome.		£200  April Showers  During the morning that this was shot, I think every one of those shower clouds off-loaded its cargo on me. I had not brought a coat or umbrella with me, either! The riverside willow trees were just beginning to green. £190  Blue Boat Coming  A November shot, near Wateringbury. The river was flat calm. I had set up what I thought was a lovely panoramic shot. Then a pleasure boat appeared round the bend and I had to rush everything before it spoiled the stillness of the water. I think it actually ended up adding something to the photo! £180 
Calm Before The Storm  As a landscape photographer, every once in a while you come across a view that leaves you speechless. When I first found this view, it was on a day that was as quiet as I hope the photograph suggests. The storm came ten minutes later. Until then, there was not a sound, except of me pinching myself! I go back regularly, but have never found it so still and silent. £225  Cirrostratus  I love how the clouds and reflections in the River all seem to centre on the base of the willow tree and its reflection. Shot on a breezy day, hence the rippled water. In flat calm, this shot would have been quite awesome. I have tried and failed to get that several times since! The Medway was muddy this day, after rain. The colour of the sky did not reflect well, so the shot works best in black & white. Trust me! £220  Dawn New Years Day Allington Lock  One of two photos that fall just outside the area covered by the rest of the exhibition, but I could not bear to leave either of them out. For this shot, just before sunrise, I was waiting to photograph the start of the New Year’s Day Maidstone Parkrun. Frost was forming and there was not a breath of wind. The ducks obligingly broke up the foreground a little.	£180  Early Morning February Sun  No more, no less. It is a view taken from one of my favourite spots. £210 
Frost  The same tree as in “A Willow in Winter”, on the same magical January morning. This was my personal favourite of all of the photographs and images in the exhibition.  The sheer hard work of getting the shot on a perishing cold morning makes it so. Oh, and the view helps, too, I guess.	£260  How Still Life In Dark Waters Can Be  The title is taken from a line in a song by Al Stewart, a favourite of mine. Spring, with its April showers and rapidly changing cloudscape is a joy when it is accompanied by water as still as it was on this day, between Wateringbury and Teston Lock. £210  Mirror Mirror  Down by the River, the weather is often warmer or calmer even than more open areas nearby. On days of low wind and slow current, the water can become a perfect mirror. The boat in this shot is a permanent feature. £200  Mr Constable Missed This  On an unusually warm November afternoon, about an hour before sunset, heading home, past a spot I have photographed often, I was impressed by the fading afternoon light. In haste not to miss it, I shot this one single frame on my iPhone. Only later did its resemblance to the tones in some John Constable landscape paintings occur to me. £200 
Near Barming Bridge January  I found a whole collection of Cokin lens filters in a drawer at home. Any self-respecting user of film cameras still has some of these. A few of mine must be more than thirty years old now. I was interested to see whether they worked as well with digital sensors as with film. I stacked several together for this shot and I quite like the grainy effect. Reminiscent of film, in fact! £200  Near Bydews 1  I call these canvasses “photocolours”. The process to produce the originals is quite messy. The ink & paper used dries quickly, so the images are made in several smaller component parts. Before each dries, it is worked on with a brush pen. Once dry, each part is scanned. The digital jig-saw is carefully stitched together in the computer and retouched, before being professionally printed on canvas.		£250  In The Footsteps Of The Master  We know from his notebooks that the young John Constable sketched warships in the Medway estuary in 1803. There’s no evidence he ever returned to paint any views of the Medway Valley, more’s the pity.  This had me wondering what he would have made of some of the places I visit often? This is the only image in the exhibition taken from the “south” side of the River. It reminds me very much of a Constable scene. £200  Near Bydews 2  Another “photocolour”. I have used the same viewpoint several times in this exhibition, for which I make no apology. £250 
Perfect Reflection  Shot late one November afternoon, just beyond Teston Lock. The river had been like a mirror all day, despite grey skies and the threat of rain. 	£190  Purple Loosestrife  Nearly the last image I added to the collection for the exhibition. Hearing the weather man on the radio say, on the previous evening, that there could be some “pretty impressive skies” next day caught my attention. He wasn’t wrong. The little black cloud stayed resolutely in the wrong place to reflect properly in the river, before it just faded away. £190  Roots and Branches  This is from a spot right down at warer level, not far away from where “The Water-Wall” (also in this exhibition) was taken. It was shot only a few days later on another flat calm day. The River can be quite busy with pleasure boats through the summer and autumn, meaning that winter and spring are often unparalleled for still water and reflections. £210  Swan  I had been out photographing the River on a warm November afternoon that turned to rain. By coincidence that evening, someone posted A poem called The Swan, by AA Milne in my Twitter timeline. I had not realised Milne was also a serious poet. I read it, and immediately thought “I have just the photo to go with that.” £180 
The Frost Is All Over  The title comes from an Irish jig. Well, the frost was all over everything on this morning, and nothing could be seen jigging. The viewpoint is basically the same as that for “Mirror Mirror” also in this collection.	£190  The Oak Reflected  Some days keep on giving. This was taken on the same December day as “The River in Winter”. There were two other photographs from that day in the exhibition. The viewpoint is on top of a WW2 “pill-box” bunker, not far from East Farleigh. I love the massive mature oak tree growing right on the opposite bank. What stories it could tell.  £200  The River In Winter 2012  A view from almost the same spot as the two “Near Bydews” images. This was the only photograph in the exhibition also to have featured in my 2014 show “The Bigger Picture”.		£190  The Stillness  The viewpoint for this, and several others in the exhibition collapsed into the river not long ago, sadly. If you are on my list, you got this as a 2015 Christmas card so it might be familiar! £250 
The Sublime View  Mid 18th Century artists and philosophers placed certain landscape views in a category they regarded as “sublime” (it means “noble”or “awe-inspiring”, says the Oxford Dictionary). This “sublime” view of the Medway, is just upstream from Barming Bridge. If it looks like an early John Constable landscape, that’s purely accidental!	£190  The Willow In Winter  This was the image used for the exhibition publicity. Between Wateringbury and Teston Lock, there are clumps of willow trees that when reflected in still water, naked in winter, give a very characteristic “X” shape. I visited this spot on the riverbank in January, for several days in succession, hoping for the right combination of light plus, calm water and cold air. I had almost given up. I make no apology that this is a motif that featured often in the exhibition.         £235  Turner Might Approve  The day before I took this photograph, just upstream from Barming Bridge and not long after a January sunrise, I had spent several hours in the JMW Turner Gallery at London’s Tate Britain. My mind was awash with half-remembered images from the dozens on display there. I never expected to get my own, “Turner-esque” sky the very next day.		£190  Twilight  This is the River at its benign best on a warm summer evening. The view is of the lovely stretch of the Medway between the Barming and Teston bridges.	£180 
Water Like Frosted Glass  This is a view I have shot often. In summer, it can pass without notice, but from late autumn to spring, this curve in the River, not far upstream of Teston Lock, can give immaculate reflections, as well as huge unobstructed skies. This photo was made from eight iPhone6 frames stitched together using PTGui computer software. The gap of a second or so between each frame meant the River had moved on slightly every time the shutter was pressed. The result is unpredictable and unique to the moment.	£200  Wedgewood Blue  The viewpoint was virtually identical to “Near Barming Bridge” but what a difference five months makes! The colour of the sky reminded me of that trademark blue of so much Wedgwood china. I later discovered this composition is a very close match to an image Constable painted of his native River Stour in Suffolk. At the time, I had no idea. £200  The Water Wall  Taken mid-morning, mid-March, on a very still day. This piece of masonry jutting into the Medway, just upstream from Tovil, had fascinated me for ages. Why was it there? A bit of research eventually suggests that it is a remnant of riverbank reinforcement dating back to perhaps the 1630s. Not long after I took this photo, the spot became the mooring for a permanent houseboat, and sadly is not accessible now.  £210  Willow And Water  Similar to “Frost”, but taken on a much warmer day. The jet trails just seemed to hang in the sky. There was nothing I could do to attract the swan in the centre of the shot further or more artistically into the picture! The wind was getting up, and I was concerned about losing the reflections, so I took the shot and moved on. There will be other days…. £235 
Winter Water  Another shot from that magical December day mentioned elsewhere. I almost felt I should walk on tip-toe along the River path, lest my footsteps caused ripples on the water. There had been frost for several days, which was just beginning to melt. £200  Working The River  All credit to the Environment Agency, who perhaps are the unsung heroes of this exhibition. This photo only dates from late September 2016 and was the very last to be added to the show. If you have followed my comments about glimpses of Constable landscapes in some pictures, you will understand this one. It is a single iPhone frame. It was the only camera I had with me at the time. It feels more like the image found me, than the other way around. £210