Photographer profile - Alastair Lee

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 November 2018

Philippe Handford, lead artist of the Pendle Sculpture Trail, with his stunning piece ‘Reconnected 2’  in Aitken Wood.

Philippe Handford, lead artist of the Pendle Sculpture Trail, with his stunning piece 'Reconnected 2' in Aitken Wood.

Alastair Lee

Multi award-winning photographer Alastair Lee has been back to the place he loves the best and produced another stunning collection of Pendle landscapes. He spoke to Roger Borrell

The Pendle Alps for a day as Alastair goes snowboarding on The Big EndThe Pendle Alps for a day as Alastair goes snowboarding on The Big End

Every decade, Lancashire photographer Alastair Lee takes a well trodden path to Pendle Hill and months later a new book of stunning landscapes appears.

His latest – ‘Pendle - Witch Country’ – is his third but each has provided a different perspective of this iconic piece of our countryside. And, despite the title, he hopes it goes some way to proving there is more to his home patch than just things that go bump in the night.

‘I never really liked the witch thing,’ says the father-of-three from Salterforth. ‘It was all people ever banged on about but there is so much more to this area.’ As well as 260 images, Alastair has written lyrically about Pendle.

‘It is a modest location overlooked by the grandeur of the tourist-laden Lake District to the north while, to the north east, the famous peaks and caves of the Yorkshire Dales draw the crowds,’ he says in his book.

Pendle Hill in a purple haze of winter - the Lancashire landmark that has inspired so much more than tales of witchcraft over the centuriesPendle Hill in a purple haze of winter - the Lancashire landmark that has inspired so much more than tales of witchcraft over the centuries

‘To the south, it is simply ignored by its close relations in the Peak District. However, this isolated stalwart of an uprising in the landscape has seen it all. It has weathered battles, withstood invasions and survived witchcraft, religious visions, and scientific experiments. It’s even overseen a revolution of the industrial kind.

‘These once wild hills on the road to nowhere remain resolute for those that hold the landscape close to their hearts.’

Alastair, who is 45, has built up a successful career as a film maker, mainly work featuring mountain climbing and exploration in distant lands and extreme climates. He is recently back from Madagascar.

During a break in film work he was commissioned by Moorhouse’s Brewery in nearby Burnley to help create images of Pendle for use in a re-brand of its beers.

One of natures greatest illusions, the fogbow. How can a perfect arch of fog be formed in the air?One of natures greatest illusions, the fogbow. How can a perfect arch of fog be formed in the air?

It’s not work he would normally take on but the subject matter allowed him to extend 
the brief for his own personal project.

‘It’s ten years since my last Pendle book and I loved getting back in the chase – looking for that moment of magic,’ says Alastair, the son of a family of bakers in Brierfield. ‘Of course, the first early mornings I got nothing worth using, but the process certainly relit the passion.

‘Then, we had one of the most spectacular winters I can remember and every day was a winter wonderland. In the end, I had to shut the door and stay in but before that happened I got some great images.’

Previous books have focused mainly on the hill but this new volume takes a more rounded view of Pendle and explores it from different angles as well as the surrounding area and some of the people who live and work there.

Twisted hawthorne trees lead to one of Pendle Hill’s most dramatic slopes; the north side as seen near
Rimington, RIbble Valley.Twisted hawthorne trees lead to one of Pendle Hill’s most dramatic slopes; the north side as seen near Rimington, RIbble Valley.

‘The association with Pendle really means a lot to me,’ says Alastair. ‘I’ve travelled the world – places such as Antarctica, Baffin Island and the jungle – but I always love coming back here. Travel seems to enhance my appreciation of the area.’

WEIRD & WONDERFUL

In his book, Alastair writes: ‘Often grey and underwhelming in appearance, the modest 557m of Pendle Hill’s heighest point can sometimes sink into obscurity. However when the morning light shines and the mists clear, Pendle shows why it is the jewel of the county’s crown with natural wonders and scenes of a truly spectacular nature.

‘The seductive siren in its magical mists and strange cloud cover makes the perfect backdrop of the area’s famous history enhancing the weird and wonderful tales, myth, legend and folklore of the witch country.’

‘Pendle - Witch Country’ is a hardback priced £20 and is available in slected bookshops or via www.alastairleephotography.co.uk. An exhibition of his pictures has been held at Higherford Mill.

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