Cheshire photographer Steve Highfield
A love of paintings by Constable and Turner and a passion for agricultural scenery inspire the work of Appleton photographer Steve Highfield PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEVE HIGHFIELDWORDS BY SUSAN PRESS
'In The Haywain there is so much detail and colour that I never grew tired of looking at it.' Several decades on, Steve's photographs of the Cheshire countryside are capturing the imaginations of anyone similarly enchanted by beautiful landscapes.
Early on in his career, Steve acknowledged he would never reach the same dizzy heights as his hero Constable and other Victorian painters he admires such as Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. Instead he became a keen photographer with an equally artistic eye for rural scenes.
'I was keen on art at school and not bad at it but I knew I could never be that good so I turned to photography. It's been a hobby going back as far as I can remember.'
Close to the urban sprawl of nearby Warrington, Appleton and its environs nevertheless remain relatively untouched, and there are still leafy highways and byways unaltered by time which inspire Steve's photographs.
His workshop is on a farm near Appleton, which provides much inspiration. He agrees his style is not too far away from the Expressionist vision of the Victorian painters he admires - a very personal and sometimes idealised vision of rural life.
'I suppose it's all in the subconscious but if you get the right light and the right time of day you can get a shot of something really special: something which says how you feel about the countryside and the people who live and work in it.'
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Much of Steve's work depicts the day-to-day life of Cheshire farmers - images lifting the humdrum tasks of the agricultural year like bale gathering and harvesting into an artform which is winning him fans at home and abroad.
Pictures like Golden Wheat and Wheat Ripening show the Cheshire countryside in all its splendour. Another focuses on his dog, Blue, seemingly admiring the setting sun: 'I'd better confess that in fact he was chasing rabbits at the time,' said Steve. The Late Shift, a close-up of a farmer bringing in the harvest on his tractor, is a more surreal example of Steve's work.
'I know most of the local farmers and they are happy to help me with my photos. The bale-gathering one was particularly good because there was a fantastic dark sky with great cloud formations and it was a great picture opportunity which I couldn't afford to miss.' An engineer by trade, Steve is now hoping to embark on a full-time career as a photographer. His website attracts dozens of admiring hits every day.
'The idea was to produce work good enough to be published and what you see on the website is a fair expression of what I do. I wanted to get my name out there and to make a living full-time out of photography and I'm almost there. The idea of a new career at the age of 55 is pretty exciting.'
Steve, who still lives in Appleton with wife Dawn and their sons Toby and Sam, does travel farther afield in his quest for beautiful photographs.
He's created wonderful images of the Lake District and even urban scenes from Manchester. But he agrees it's the places near his Cheshire home which remain close to his heart.
'There are still many places where you can go and many hidden spots to explore around Antrobus and Appleton in particular. It's mainly prime farmland but there are little tracks and paths and spots of woodland. I go out with my dogs and my camera and just lose myself in the wonderful things there are to see. I never run out of things to photograph.'
To see more of Steve Highfield's images visit www.stevehighfieldphotography.com