I love the time of year when the sun is slung low in the sky. In the summer I have to be quick to catch the light on the facades before it moves on - but in the winter, the sun arcs slowly along the horizon. When I was starting out, I asked a professional photographer for advice on how I should progress. "Shoot into the sun, my friend." he said.

I've seen light pad down Micklegate in York, reckless in its choice of venue, pawing at the tip of a pediment and gnawing on the spandrels of a porch. At Stowe House, it fearlessly tickled the noses of leaded lions, agitated solid mass into shimmering symmetry, revelled in the Elysian Fields and then slipped into the Octagon Lake.

I've seen it gouge out the blandest of stones - an ashlar facade - in Leamington Spa. As flat as a pancake, until the sun angled itself to the west and started to rake out indentations, mortar joints, and screw holes.

In Gloucester it turned silky smooth oolitic quoins into pockmarked squares, only to dissolve their forms into a lustrous patina: grainy at first, then mutated into an incandescent surface like the scales of a fish.

In Beverley, I've seen light welling up into the curve of a pantile only to spill out onto the eaves, down the wall and flush into a Georgian basement.

On the harshest of summer days its enraged refraction made me wince as I walked from a darkened ginnel into an explosion of light reflected from the glass of a modern shop front. On the softest of autumnal mornings I've been teased into reflective mood by diffused sunlight within a market square, the facades yellowed, softened and undefined.

On some days I’ve been witness to the sun’s antics whilst in motion. One morning, whilst driving down the A1, I was entertained by the pinky adolescent globe swinging from left to right and then back again, as I snaked along the ancient Roman route. For a short while it perched on top of a lorry cab hurtling up the inside lane, until a rise in the road dropped it into a distant village vignetted by a blanket of fog with the buildings embossed like cardboard cut outs.

Shoot into the sun, my friend.

Subscribe to my Genius Loci Digest for free

'This Digest helps keep the past alive as a memory bank. Many of the answers can be found in the wisdom that sits in places, because buildings that survive from the past are the mouthpiece of history. In this Digest I tell stories about them and my encounters with them.'


Spirit of Place * History * Material Culture * Heritage * Continuity * Photography * Travel * Architecture * Vanlife * Ways of Seeing * Wellbeing * The Historic Environment * Churches * Art * Building Conservation * Community * Place Making * Alternative Destinations * Hidden Gems * Road Trips * Place Writing *

"You are the 21st century version of a wandering minstrel except you tell stories by image not song."