April was a real mixed bag of weather from warmth to snow and a profusion of April Showers – sunshine one minute, pouring rain the next. How trees, plants and flowers make sense of this is a mystery but they do, although sometimes they misjudge and get frost-nipped. May has now arrived and the temperature is set to climb sharply as the week progresses.
I haven’t got out as much as I would have liked to record the arrival of Spring this year – moving to a new area means that the best woods for photography need to be discovered and investigated and that takes time.
However we do have areas of woodland very close to where we live – a small bluebell wood is a two-minute walk away, and a nature reserve can be reached by car in five minutes and those are the locations of today’s images.
In the course of the last week or two I’ve been pruning the archive. It’s a necessary task as hard disk space gets swallowed up. Images that no longer hold appeal or have been duplicated (or bettered) can be binned, and always lurking there in the long-forgotten past are images that have never seen the light of day and about which I now become curious – for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because, among all the others that I wanted to process, they sat at the back of the queue, and I never quite got round to them before newer images took priority; and in other cases I simply wasn’t sure of their merit and how to exploit them.
This image falls into the second category. I’m a sucker for light-paths, and staring directly into the light. This image was taken way back in 2009 in a hotel in Brighton (name forgotten). It had a vast high atrium at its centre with a series of roof lights through which light spilled, casting long highlights across the internal walls within which were layered windows of some of the hotel’s rooms. It wasn’t particularly strong in colour but when I quickly converted it a few days ago to B&W I saw it in a different light. And so I’ve spent some time processing it, and the more I look at it, the more I like it.
Deciding on the final ‘cropped’ image has been difficult. The headline image is more or less full frame – the original has been fine-tuned shall we say. But I am also a lover of symmetry and alongside here there is a thumbnail of a more symmetrical version. Which is best? My leaning is towards the one at the top as I think the off-centre frame adds to the composition. But you may think differently…? Do make a comment.
Click on the images to see the full-size enlargement.
This was processed in Nik Silver Efex, a little bit of Posterization and finally it is a solarized image. Surprised to hear that? We tend to think of Solarization as being a bit wacky, but on many occasions it simply adds an additional level of contrast and ‘punch’ to an image. In Photoshop go to Filter/Stylize/Solarize. The initial result will not look good – go to Levels and adjust the sliders and watch your image come to life. A slightly better result is obtained by using Curves. Click to highlight the pen icon to the left of the Curves window. Then hold down the Shift key and click in the bottom left corner of the Curves window, then the top of the middle of the window and finally the bottom right corner. Hold the shift key down throughout those three clicks. You will now have an inverted ‘V’ shaped curve. Click OK, and make subtle adjustments with Levels or Shadows/Highlights. Alternatively try creating a ‘W’ or ‘M’ shaped curve using the same technique just outlined. If you don’t like the way the tones are represented, try Inverting the tones and you may be surprised by the outcome. Experimentation is always great fun and it can be undone in a second – what’s to stop you trying it out?
Solarizing a B&W image in Photoshop is very simple and is always unpredictable. What surprised me on this occasions was the way the process handled an elliptical cloud that hung over these steps – it was the cloud that had attracted my attention in the first place. Drama has been created that was never present in the original colour shot.
It was, however, an image even when solarized that was without a point of interest to anchor the viewer’s eye and so I borrowed a figure that first appeared in a shot taken at London Bridge (click here to view). This is not something I do very often but occasionally a little creative license creeps into my thinking.
Last week we discovered Winkworth Arboretum, a National Trust site close to Godalming. It comprises an extensive wooded valley with a lake, once owned by Dr Wilfred Fox to use ‘as a canvas for planting trees to paint a picture’.
Dr Fox was Chairman of an organisation with the quaint title: ‘Roads Beautifying Association‘ and Winkworth, it seems, was at least in part an arboreal experiment by Dr Fox. The NT claim Winkworth contains over 1000 different plants. It is a place of colour throughout the seasons and when we visited last week Camellias and Rhododendrons were in flower. Bluebells were also in bloom although they had failed to provide the blue carpet that I had hoped to find. But in such environments my eyes often look up and a soaring tree always attracts my attention. Another rather hackneyed subject, but so what…still worth an image.
I pass this spot every day on my way into the shop where I buy the daily newspaper and quite often there is a dog tethered to the wall waiting patiently for its owner to reappear. I couldn’t resist a shot of this little cutie – could you?
When you move house you inherit much more than a building, you also inherit a garden and all that is within it. We moved house in late November when Autumn was well advanced and most of the plants and shrubs in the garden had died back, shed their leaves, or been pruned. It was difficult to know, or visualise what the garden would look like when Spring arrived.
In March I plucked up the courage to tackle a much neglected Clematis just outside the back door of the house. Tackle is probably the right word. It must have been years since this climber had been pruned – it resembled a tangle of spaghetti. Old dead wood predominated and suffocated the newish growth that was struggling into life. It took me two days of slow deliberate work to cut out the old and tease out and disentangle the newer growth which at one point draped the ground in long slender tendrils. These I re-attached to the trellis, (being as careful as I could not to damage the early signs of life), crossed my fingers and waited.
And to my great surprise and delight we have a beautiful flowering Clematis Montana. A joy to the eyes as the buds have swelled, and now one by one they are opening out into delicate pink flowers.
I found this tree in an exposed location high up on the South Downs at a popular viewpoint known as Devil’s Dyke. John Constable the well-known Landscape Painter described this place as ‘the grandest view in the world’. Certainly there are extensive panoramic views and hopefully a future Post will document these.
The National Trust owns this place and I quote from their literature: ‘At nearly a mile long, the Dyke valley is the longest, deepest and widest ‘dry valley’ in the UK. Legend has it that the Devil dug this chasm to drown the parishioners of the Weald. On the other hand, scientists believe it was formed naturally just over 10,000 years ago in the last ice age.’ Nearby there is also evidence of an old Iron Age hilltop fort.