Derbyshire soldier blinded in Afghanistan becomes photographer

After losing his right eye and some vision in his left during combat a former soldier says he is happiest in a field taking pictures.

Chris Nowell now wants to make it his mission to capture as many of the wonders in the Peak District as he can.

The 33-year-old said: “There is so much beauty on our doorstep and I love taking photos and being outdoors.”

The former Lance Corporal for the King’s Royal Hussars was out in Afghanistan in 2007 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the wall behind him and fractured his skull, leaving him blind in one eye.

“It messed with my mind, for a year I couldn’t remember things like what day it was or how to write - it was a dark time for me.”

He served in the army for eight years and visited Iraq, Canada and Northern Ireland - he left on health grounds in 2009.

Chris, who is a dad-of-three, got into photography whilst being supported by the Blind Veterans UK charity.

“I was given a camera and told to go out and have a play.

“I had a bit of a temper on me because I was so frustrated but getting behind the camera challenged me to focus.”

His wife of ten years, Claire, has been a great support to him and sometimes accompanies him on some of his shoots.

“Photography is great it gets me out of the house and relaxes me,” he said.

“Nothing makes me happier than being in a field and taking pictures.”

While juggling nursery and school runs Chris likes to get out to photograph the area at least once a week.

He has taken pictures at Chatsworth House and uses a slow shutter speed to capture the water at Derwent Dam.

And when the weather warms up he would like to leave his Dronfield home and camp out at Chrome Hill to capture some good photos.

His photographs have now caught the attention of renowned Peak District snapper Villager Jim, who said: “What Chris does is simply jaw dropping.

“I was in shock and total amazement to the point of being totally humbled and knocked for six when I saw his work.”

Chris’ tips for taking photos

“I can’t tell you what makes a good picture, but I know what makes a bad picture.

“When I first started my photos were really bad, I had no idea how much difference good lighting can make.”

It was a case of trial and error for the ex-soldier.

“Clouds can be flat and boring and the sun at the wrong angle so it’s about waiting and be willing to move around to get the best shot.”

The favourite time for Chris to take his landscapes is in the last couple hours of daylight when the sun is full of warm colours.

The amateur photographer said your equipment is also very important.

“Don’t go into a camera shop and ask for advice - they will just try and sell you what ever stock is on offer, do your research first.

“Then read the manual so you know what it can do - I prefer to watch videos online but know your machine.

“Always have a tripod, a shaky hand can ruin the shot.”