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Solace Collection Burnham

Five favourite landscapes by Paul Sanders

Why the award-winning photographer left a coveted career as a picture editor in pursuit of mental wellbeing

For RPS member Paul Sanders, calmness, contemplation and taking the time to immerse yourself in the subject is central to his photographic philosophy.

Sanders was picture editor at the Times for seven years before anxiety and depression led to him taking up a new career as a landscape photographer. He now combines his own landscape and still life work with running photography workshops and courses that focus on mindfulness and reconnecting with the natural world.

He will be talking about the link between mental health and image-making in the July/August issue of the RPS Journal. Here he tells the story behind five of his favourite landscape images.

Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset (pictured above)

“Several years ago, when I was quite ill, I would sometimes just get in the car and drive, never quite knowing where I was going to end up. I stopped at Burnham-on-Sea before dawn, intending to have breakfast at a cafe. The tide was quite high so I sat in the dunes, overlooking the historic lighthouse, and photographed the scene. The sea was calm and there was a wonderful full moon. I loved the isolation and had the feeling the world was there just for me.”

Solace Collection Loch Etive Paul Sanders

Loch Etive, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

“I made this photograph while running a weekend workshop in Scotland. It was late afternoon in the early winter, soft rain was falling and I was standing on the side of the loch watching the clouds move. It was so quiet but so melancholy and the sense of space seemed infinite. I don’t normally photograph during workshops but felt compelled to try to reproduce what I was feeling because it was so intense. I felt emotionally connected to my surroundings and time seemed to stop."

Solace Collection Bassenthwaite

Bassenthwaite, Cumbria

“On a November morning, while driving towards a location I wanted to photograph, I passed Bassenthwaite Lake. When I saw the tree and how still the water was, I felt instantly drawn to it. It was a magical moment of transition when the mist was clearing as the sun was rising. I had a dilemma: do I stop here, or go on to what I was intending to photograph? I just thought, stop now and if it’s the only picture you make today, you’ll have made the right picture.”

Solace Collection Sunderland Paul Sanders

Roker Pier, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear

“I was staying in a hotel in Sunderland and had not slept, so went for a walk early in the morning. I wasn’t there for photography and hadn’t considered what the local landscape would offer, but Roker Pier was nearby. I got completely transfixed by it – it was a lovely surprise, a bit like opening a birthday present. I used an exposure of around four minutes to soften and declutter the scene. For me, that simplicity is the key to the image.”

Solace Collection Winchelsea Study 2

Sea Defences at Winchelsea, East Sussex

“The beach at Winchelsea is one of my favourites to visit because it’s not far from where I live and it’s not very busy. It has lots of old wooden sea defences and each time I photograph them in a different way – as solitary posts, in small groups, or as part of a wider picture. The beach beyond the posts is muddy and a bit untidy. I love how the tide covers it all up and you’re just left with the posts and the sea.”

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