A stunning body of work capturing Pendle Hill in all its glory is the latest offering from award-winning photographer and film-maker Alastair Lee.
The product of a 10-month project, the book not only captures the beauty of the area’s most impressive natural landmark, it also brings to life the atmosphere and history of the hill along with its flora and fauna and the diverse range of people who visit it.
For the last 25 years or so, Alastair has developed an international reputation for the quality of his images, both still and moving.
Born in Burnley and brought up at the family home above the Brierfield Bakery business his parents ran, photography was a hobby developed in his late teens which went on to become a way of life.
And a love of Pendle Hill itself is clear and obvious in every one of the 160 pages of the latest offering entitled Pendle witch country.
“Pendle is a rock in my life,” he explained.
“It is a lot more than just a lump on the skyline, it is my spiritual home.
“I have travelled all over the world and seen some of the most stunning landscapes that exist, but I always feel most at home when I can see Pendle – it is one of the constants in my life.”
Helping his parents in the family business instilled a strong work ethic into Alastair’s psyche and he looks back on his childhood with great fondness.
“I had a fantastic childhood, a busy childhood and it set me up for who I was going to be in life,” he said.
“I only have fond memories about my time in Brierfield.”
Having been a student at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Blackburn, Alastair was first introduced to rock climbing when he was working at the Thompson Centre in Burnley.
“As soon as I tried rock climbing I fell in love with it and that helped me to get a job in a summer camp in America which is where my travels really started.”
And on all those travels, Alastair has been accompanied by his camera, a camera capturing the spirit and atmosphere of some of the planet’s most stunning mountainscapes.
“In the early years, I never really thought of myself as a photographer or a film-maker, I just took photographs and turned them into slide shows to show to mountaineering clubs.
“I am completely self-taught, slide shows were followed by rock climbing guide books and, as so many people liked my photographs, there was just a natural progression in film-making.
Following an enquiry from an independent school interested in his slide shows as part if its extra-curricular offer for sixth formers, Alastair developed his projections further by adding a light-hearted video shot on a mountaineering holiday in South America with two friends.
And Twice Upon a Time in Bolivia was so well received that it won the people’s choice prize at the highly-regarded Kendal Mountain Film Festival.
Many mountaineering films lean heavily on the jeopardy people put themselves in by scaling the planet’s heights but Alastair’s film was something a little different.
Alastair, who still lives in Pendle’s shadow, added: “People thought it was a refreshing change to see a light-hearted film about mountaineering.
“So much of what we still see on television about mountaineering has death around every corner, but we were funny and people really liked it.”
Specialist climbing films with some of the top rock climbers in the world followed, taking Alastair on epic trips to places like Baffin Island, Venezuela and Antartica, many of those trips taking place in a six-year spell working alongside renowned British rock climber Leo Houlding.
Films made alongside Houlding jettisoned Alastair’s name into the climbing world with many of his films shown on television on channels including National Geographic, Discovery UK and the Red Bull Explorer series.
Still very much involved in film-making and the hugely-popular Brit Rock Film Tour which has had more than 50 screenings, Pendle is never far from Alastair’s thoughts – or his camera lens.
His latest book is a purely passionate project for Alastair who loves to promote his local area in a positive light.
“My first two books tried to get rid of an outdated image of the area and a much more modern image is something I have tried to project in Pendle witch country.
“The book came about when Moorhouse’s Brewery in Burnley were rebranding and wanted some new images.
“I started taking some photographs before I even had the job from Moorhouse’s and it grew into a comprehensive body of work.
“From taking the first picture to sending the book away to the printers was only 10 months in total, but I was blessed with a stunning autumn, brilliant winter and sensational spring which gave me the chance to take some really atmospheric images.
“The summer was amazing as well and many of the activity shots were taken then.
“These days, getting a collection of photographs together is more difficult as everyone has a camera on their phone and everyone posts hundreds of pictures on social media.
“When I first had a camera, it was rare. Now everyone has one and everyone is an expert.”
But that did not stop Alastair’s images wowing visitors to a recent exhibition in Higherford Mill where some of the work is still on display.
They are skilfully-crafted images which highlight the beauty and the magnitude of Pendle Hill in all weathers and at all times of day.
As well as beautifully framed shots of the landscape itself, there are images of people enjoying the hill itself and the surrounding countryside while enjoying all manner of activities – from paragliding and mountain biking to fell running and walking and simply soaking up the beauty of the area.
Pendle witch country is available from the photographer’s website at alastairleephotography.co.uk