In Poucher's Footprints

A while ago I managed to obtain a copy of W.A. Poucher's 1946 book "Peak Panorama, Kinder Scout to Dovedale" which I also briefly reviewed on this site. I suggested in that review that I wanted to reproduce as many of the photographs in the book as possible. The photographs in the book are excellent and classic views of the Peak District, but their reproduction compared to modern publishing standards was awful. This is hardly surprising as printing and reproduction technology has evolved rather significantly over the last 60 years, and compared to some of the other older books I have this one was actually quite advanced for the time.

The aim of this project then, is to reproduce, as far as possible, the views that Poucher used to illustrate his book such that high quality images are once again available of those views. I should emphasise that this is not an attempt to rewrite the book as that stands on its own as an excellent work; it is however a shame that it is no longer easily available (long out of print, now only available secondhand and not inexpensive). I refer to and draw from his work, but I will ensure this is made clear.

Stanage Edge and Robin Hoods Cave
(2007-4174) Robin Hood's Cave and Stanage Edge.
Taken from the same point as Plate 42 in the book.

Poucher made a number of visits from his home in Surrey to the Peak District to complete the book. Whilst I already have a few images that have been taken from virtually identical vantage points it is clearly going to take some time to complete the project even though I live just miles from the areas covered. This website will be added to until that goal is reached.

Click here to go to the photograph index, which is organised in the same way as in the book.

W.A. Poucher

Walter (sometimes William) Arthur Poucher was born in 1891 and died in 1988. His profession was as a research chemist for perfume and cosmetics manufacturer Yardley, but he spent many years producing illustrated guides to the mountains of the UK from shortly after the Second World War until the 1980s. Poucher's guides were produced at the same sort of time as those of Alfred Wainwright, but unlike the sketches Wainwright used Poucher's were illustrated by his own black and white photographs. He was a very accomplished and recognised photographer managing to achieve Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS), the highest recognition possible by the RPS.

He produced a large number of books, many of which are listed below:

Lakeland through the Lens (Chapman & Hall, 1940)
Snowdonia through the Lens (Chapman & Hall, 1941)
Snowdon Holiday (Chapman & Hall, 1943)
Scotland through the Lens: Loch Tulla to Lochaber (Chapman & Hall, 1943)
Escape to the Hills (Country Life, 1943)
Lakeland Holiday (Chapman & Hall, 1945)
Highland Holiday: Arran to Ben Cruachan (Chapman & Hall, 1945)
The Backbone of England (Country Life, 1946)
Peak Panorama: Kinder Scout to Dovedale (Chapman & Hall, 1946)
A Camera in the Cairngorms (Chapman & Hall, 1947)
Over Lakeland Fells (Chapman & Hall, 1948)
The Surrey Hills (Chapman & Hall, 1949)
Wanderings in Wales (Country Life, 1949)
The Magic of Skye (Chapman & Hall, 1949)
Watch it, Sailor! (Chapman & Hall, 1949)
Lakeland Scrapbook (Chapman & Hall, 1950)
The Magic of the Dolomites (Country Life, 1951)
Journey into Ireland (Country Life, 1953)
The North-West Highlands (Country Life, 1954)
West Country Journey (Country Life, 1957)
The Lakeland Peaks (Constable, 1960)
The Welsh Peaks (Constable, 1962)
The Lake District: Climbing with a Camera (Country Life, 1963)
The Scottish Peaks (Constable, 1965)
The Peaks and Pennines (Constable, 1966)

Constable published additional revisions of the guides and many of them continue to be available in revised form (updated since his death in 1988 in consultation with his son John Poucher) from the publishers Frances Lincoln who took over the publication of Poucher's guides from Constable in 2004. The earlier volumes were essentially illustrated descriptions of his travels in the different parts of the country. As Poucher turned to producing walking and climbing guides from the 1960s, many photographs were overlaid with labels identifying features or lines illustrating the paths. They have become classic pocket sized guides and include route guides, guidance and tips for landscape photographers. Revised and updated editions of "The Lakeland Peaks", "The Scottish Peaks" and "The Welsh Peaks" are currently in print. His other books are often available from various secondhand or antiquarian booksellers but are starting to become quite costly.

His book "Poucher's Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps" has been published in ten editions to date and is a multi-volume classic textbook on the subjects. Originally published in 1923 by Chapman & Hall it has been regularly updated and revised. There are several comments that Poucher used to test some of these cosmetics on himself while waiting in the mountains for better light for his photographs! This book is clearly a seminal work and is still referred to today; I believe the 10th edition was published in 2000.

The recently published book "A Camera in the Hills: The Life and Work of W.A. Poucher" by Roly Smith (published by Frances Lincoln) provides much further insight into the man and his photography. Further details of this book are available here.

Photographic Equipment

Poucher used a Leica IIIa for all of the 85 pictures in the book with Panatomic X black and white film. He used either 50mm f2 Summitar or 35mm f3.5 Elmar lens and the additional data included for every photograph in the book makes it much easier to reproduce the images. He has noted the time of day, filters, exposure details and lens. I will also record similar details but I am not setting out to use the same equipment and will use modern technology to reproduce these images and the associated data electronically. In any event modern technology is still completely incapable when it comes to controlling sunlight over a sprawling vista, so the time of day the images were taken is vital to helping to making a similar image.

My camera equipment has included a descendant of Poucher's Leica IIIa - a Leica M8. But more are taken using Canon DSLR equipment which I find provides the flexibility and image quality that I require for large format prints (the M8 was sold some months ago).

I have chosen to adopt monochrome to reproduce the images and to this end I have converted the digital camera files to black and white using a combination of Apple's Aperture software and, where necessary for a few images, Adobe PhotoShop CS. I have not manipulated the images in any other way except to convert to monochrome with simulated filters, crop if necessary or clean dust spots.

Click here to jump to the photograph index.