Photography by Nick Vagus
Nick Vagus (aka 'DrifterNick') has been an early adopter of digital camera technology and took his first digital image in the late 1990's. Since then, and driven by an avaricious appetite for global travel, independent exploration, and a keen eye for detail and challenging photography, Nick has collected a vast catalogue of images - both urban and rural environments.
Based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, DrifterNick expresses his art for free through his twitter account and has recently started using Instagram under the same domain name. @NickVagus
The work included here is all based around the theme departures, focusing on the three elements of air, land and water.
As a frequent global traveller, air travel is a necessary evil for me. I always travel as light as possible though to avoid delays and to minimise my time at the airport - outbound and inbound. Departing by air travel in the modern age can be a complex challenge for obvious (and sadly necessary) security reasons. One thing I try and do is to secure a window seat if travelling to a new city, especially if travelling during daylight hours, to record the breath-taking cloudscapes and fascinating city-scapes, shadows, and aerial views. Departing from a city is always a moment of reflection - seeing the city disappear into the distance as you climb into the clouds is always a time to contemplate and think of what lies ahead. Here are just some of those images, all captured on a Sony camera phone.
Photo 1: Looking back on Seville, Spain as I departed just last November. Nothing beats tracking your own shadow as you ascend through the air and I always give myself a cheeky little wave from the window whenever I see plane shadows like these.
Photo 2: Flying out of Berlin's Tegel airport in November 2016. Another window seat and the chance to capture the runway lights on departure. Seeing the light-trails gives a glimpse of the pilot's perspective as they manoeuvre into position, ready for take-off. The long exposure effect is random - a spontaneous shot taken with a 20mp camera phone.
Photo 3: Catching a sunset sky as you board a plane is a rare treat. On this occasion, I was departing from Birmingham, heading for Budapest on an August evening. The brilliance of the pink sky framed the fuselage of the aircraft perfectly as I ascended the steps into the cabin. It's always nice to depart in lush skies and not have to worry about weather conditions for the flight ahead.
Photo 4: I recently flew from Dublin to Bristol and the plane was a small Turboprop aircraft. Some people have an adverse view of propeller planes and think they are inherently unsafe when compared to their jet-engined bigger brothers. Of course, that's not true and I love sitting close to the propellers to get these wicked shots as the plane departs - the average shutter speed on most cameras will capture propeller blades in inertia as they wind up to propel the plane along the runway.
I used to be involved with managing ports and navigations and have piloted tall ships, as well as accompanied ship's masters and pilots as they depart along estuarial waters. I am naturally drawn to the vastness of open waters and the Severn Estuary in the South West of England is a spectacular waterway to experience from a ships wheel-house. Departing from inland waterways into open seas is a challenge for all shipping and sometimes, ships have to be laid up at anchor if the weather conditions ahead are too wild - estuarial waters often provide a safe haven in times of stormy weather.
As well as the Severn, the other magnificent estuary in England is the mighty Mersey. I'm not familiar with its shipping movements, but I did make a pilgrimage up to Crosby Beach in the Spring of 2018 to witness Antony Gormley's magnificent 'Another Place' sculptures. I had to plan the trip meticulously though as it needed to be a low tide day-time window - fortunately, the weather was perfect for my photography - dry, clear, but incredibly windy making for some aggressive Mersey wave action.
Photo 1: I was accompanying a freight ship departing Gloucestershire for Northern Spain one late Spring evening, just after sunset. We received notice of a small pleasure craft - it happened to be a narrow-boat - heading inbound as the high tide began to ebb. The tidal window was short so we waited somewhat impatiently for this 'minor inconvenience'. It was an amusing sight to see the tiny vessel manoeuvre into view and enter the lock sea-gates as we stood in the wheelhouse nervously tracking the tidal heights. Fortunately, the narrowboat quickly moored up, and we set off with some focus through the narrow gates and headed out down the estuary on the ebbing tide.
Photo 2: This is a photo taken from another ship's wheelhouse departing Gloucestershire for the Baltics. A rare perspective of the Severn Bridge from a ship's position - this is actually the 'second' Severn bridge - its engineering magnificence can be seen in all its glory against the calm waters of the ebbing Severn. Departing the Severn above Bristol you would miss this sight - so a real privilege to be involved with this and not many images exist of this perspective.
Photo 3: Capturing Gormley's 'Another Place' sculptures is not easy. Arranging the trip to coincide with the right tide and weather conditions requires some smart forward planning. On this occasion, I caught the tide at low water and most of the sculptures were fully exposed, meaning I could walk right out to the low water mark and get close to the furthest sculptures. These are seldom seen close up as they are permanently in water - I like this image in particular as the juxtaposition of the bronze man framed by the wind-turbine and powerful Mersey river gives a sense of foreboding and isolation. It looks as though the sculpture is walking out into the distant horizon, never to be seen again - and of course, at high tide, the sculpture would be fully submerged and invisible.
Photo 4: Again on Crosby Beach, but above the high tide line, there are many of these bronze sculptures dotted along the shore. Looking in a South West direction into the blazing midday sun distorted the camera focus but by softening the lines, I captured this ephemeral image. The result creates an illusion of the sculpture floating above the sand, farmed by the far distant structures approaching Liverpool Port. The bronze man could be taking off and departing the shoreline - like Ted Hughes' Iron Man - tired of living in splendid isolation in Crosby Beach.
I travel to Eastern Europe a lot and one thing I always make an effort to explore are the Metro stations. These former Soviet Union transport systems adopted modernist architectural design with clean lines, bright colours, and hypnotic aesthetics.
They are spacious 'mini-cathedrals' to the art of urban transport and departing through these aesthetic masterpieces to the
grim reality of every day working-life in the former Soviet Union must have been a brief respite for its citizens.
Photo 1: Taken in Prague, I took a position at the far end of the platform and waited patiently for an incoming metro train.
Once the platform cleared of passengers from the departing train, I knew I had a clean shot as long as no-one else appeared in the tunnel connecting the platforms. I managed to time this perfectly as the train behind me departed, leaving the tunnel clear,
and the incoming train arrived directly opposite. The shutter speed captures the 'rush' of the train, perfectly framed between the sleek, cold lines of the modernist platform and tunnel.
Photo 2: This is the same shot as described above, but in monochrome and enlarged. I love the 'Dr Who' like aesthetic of the platform tunnel walls, creating a blistering effect for the departing trains.
Photo 3: Many urban metro tunnels are built 'cut and cover' meaning they are relatively shallow. However, where metro systems have to pass beneath rivers and other metro tunnel lines, access and egress to and from the platforms require deep escalator tunnels to be built. Departing from one such deep tunnel metro line, I waited until the escalator was substantially clear of people in both directions and managed to capture this striking image, cluster free and showing an almost infinite perspective. The view is actually looking upwards as I depart from the platform level.
Photo 4: One of the newer additions to the Prague Metro system is Petřiny Station, opened as recently as 2005. Well after the end of the Soviet Union, the architects involved in designing the new metro line clearly saw the 'hypnotic' modernist aesthetic tradition as something to uphold and continue with. I love the sharp green colours contrasting with the brilliance of the red metro trains, and the symmetrical platform floor tiles framing the brutal concrete lift structure. Waiting for that perfect shot of two trains departing simultaneously - thus leaving both platforms empty of passengers (except for a mother and child) - created one of my favourite departure shots.