He smiled and told me it had now been scientifically proven that a carefully crafted photographic image can truly outperform our own fairly advanced focal powers. Many years on, This Land echoes that brief conversation and portrays 50 places that represent the great variety of the British countryside. This is Cornish’s tour-de-force, but rather than presenting a tour of our best known scenery it visits places chosen to reflect our exceptionally varied geology and topography.
Wild and empty landscapes jump from the large-format pages: compositions in light and fleeting encounters with mountains, moors, woods and coast – plus the occasional isolated building. The famous chocolate box castle of Eilean Donan, for example, is unusually viewed from up high and its little bridge looks nothing more than a mooring rope.
Sometimes shafts of light bring horizons to life. The Jaws of Borrowdale look more Cantabrian rather than Cumbrian, while the summer sun shimmers over a shark-like promontory at the northern tip of Shetland. Sometimes bold foreground interest catches attention before leading the viewer into the distance: a mystical sea below Beachy Head, pastel boulders on Orkney and slippery limestone on the edge of Malham Cove.
There are details, too. The slate fences in Snowdonia could almost be an army on the march. The Caledonian pine in Glen Nevis is an Olympic athlete, bounding on pounding limbs, accompanied by a stream of windswept hair.
Cornish admits his transfer to digital photography has been rocky, but we should be glad he persevered, making sure he kept that focusing ring as sharp as possible.
This review was published in the April 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.