The Joe Cornish Boulder (JCB)

I’ve just come back from my weekend workshop in Glencoe where I had the pleasure of teaching a wonderful group of photographers. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Along the way we had some great light, some pleasant weather and as you might expect, a few meetings with the landscape papparazzi.

The "JCB" or the Joe Cornish Boulder?
The “JCB” or the Joe Cornish Boulder?

What I’d like to share with you is some interesting stuff that came up in conversations with fellow photographers over the course of the weekend. In particular, something called the “Joe Cornish Boulder” or the “JCB”.

Now, I’m very internet savvy and I’m fairly confident that my knowledge of photography is pretty broad. I’ve heard and picked up an awful lot of techniques and names for things along the way. But, I was completely stumped when I overheard several photographers talking about this “JCB”. I heard this for the first time from beneath my dark cloth.

Later that evening,  and back at the hotel, our group were gathered round the table before dinner and we were doing a review of the day’s shots they had captured. During the group review, I was discussing the merits of simplifying composition to obtain the “less is more” effect in their images. To illustrate the concept, I was showing them one of my own images of a single rock frozen in the shallow waters of Lochan Na h-achlaise. At this point, a gent with a fine Yorkshire accent said he couldn’t help but overhearing us and said I was “doing the JCB”. Now this was the second time I’d heard this particular phrase so I was keen to learn what this mysterious concept was, so I asked him to explain for our benefit.

He informed us that a great landscape photographer by the name of “Joe Cornish” had “invented” the technique and it was known throughout landscape photography  as the “JCB”.

Somewhat bemused by the gent’s claims, one of our group queried his claim and nonchalantly asked “but isn’t that just foreground interest?” and “Haven’t photographers have been doing this for hundreds of years anyway?”.  Then, a man sitting nearby, pointed to an old black and white photograph on the wall and said “is that a JCB then too?” I tried not to laugh. The photograph the other man was pointing to was taken in 1924 and was an image of a rock in front of the Buachaille Etive Mor.

It was all light hearted banter of course, and one of our group mentioned that I had fallen down a particular hole by the side of the loch every year and it was now known as the “Stuart Low Hole” or the “SLH” – and the laughter grew!

I showed him a few of my own images of “JCBs” from around 1989 but there can be no denying that there is widespread misconception among photographers on certain techniques and phrases coined on the internet.

I shall look a boulders in a different light from now on – pun intended!



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