I love shooting in fog, as I’m sure many photographers do. It is a magical thing, and seems to change everything around us. Everyday scenes become otherworldly when blanketed in an impenetrable mist. I’m always looking for ways to simplify my compositions, and reduce them down to their most basic elements, because I want to emphasise the things that drew me into the scene in the first place. Sometimes this is really quite a difficult task, but shooting in fog seems to do all the work for me!
Here the focal point is, of course, the church, obscured by fog at the back of the frame. The leaves in the foreground, intentionally left out-of-focus, provide a bit of interest, but the eye is inevitably drawn to the shrouded figure towering over the scene. There are faint hints of detail in the stonework of the church, which makes me want to get up close with this picture and really interrogate it. When I photograph a scene I do so because there’s something in it that speaks to me personally, and intrigues me about the elements before me. My intention is to capture that experience in a frame so that I can present it to you, as nature presented it to me in the first place.
In stark contrast to the tranquillity of my last snow image, this one feels busy, the falling snow giving a sense of restlessness. The contrast between dark and light is here again, with the dark sculpted hedges standing against the overcast sky, making them seem imposing. There is depth, unlike the last image, with layers of these hedges stretching to the back of the frame. Scenes like this are difficult, because the falling snow makes it hard to frame a shot, and you risk getting your camera very wet! I think I managed to pull it off though, and I’m glad I made the effort.
I’m aiming for a calendar this year, which means that I need to take at least 13 images (12 months, plus a cover image) that I feel comfortable putting in a print. 13 images might not sound very much for a year’s worth of photography but trust me, it’s harder than it sounds!
This image is definitely going to be on there. Not only does the beautiful snow make it a perfect contender for a January picture, or even a festive-themed December one, but the arrangement of the trees and the minimalist composition makes this one of my favourite images so far. The tones of the snow-covered ground and the overcast sky contrast perfectly with the dark forms of the trees, giving this picture plenty of negative space and making me feel peaceful just looking at it.
The garden is the city-dweller’s landscape. Whether it be a small plot of land behind your house, or a large public garden like those in London and Paris, these green spaces give an atmosphere of relaxation and serenity to an otherwise bustling metropolis. Plenty of photographers have made the garden their subject, from Michael Kenna to Eugene Atget, and I am no different. I like to try and find beauty in everyday places, and nowhere is this easier than in the garden.
Last week I started exploring the Quiet Place, a garden here on campus, at the University of York. It really is a beautiful place, and certainly lives up to its name. The sculpted hedges give endless photographic opportunities, but there were several times when I stopped photographing and just stood, tripod and camera by my side, soaking in the tranquillity of this man-made landscape.
These are just a couple of images I’ve made here – there are plenty more to come. Photography doesn’t have to be about breathtaking vistas or awe-inspiring monuments. I try to avoid these things, and instead focus on capturing the beauty in scenes that people will walk by every day without a second thought.
I find myself revisiting certain places a lot. I like to do this because I enjoy the challenge of finding new compositions and images in these subjects. At first I might take some images using the most ‘obvious’ compositions, but once I have exhausted this, I find that I have to get up close and personal with the subject, to try and tease out some more interesting shots.
I’ve been doing this with York Minster a lot recently. Starting back at university has meant that I haven’t had as much time to travel, so my photography has been limited mainly to the city of York, and areas that are within walking distance of my house. It’s interesting to take such a prominent and well-known landmark like York Minster, and try to find something a bit more intimate in this Gothic colossus.
This image, of the west face of the Minster, was taken on my Lubitel 166B, with Ilford FP4+. I was particularly attracted to the shadows cast on the stonework by a tree in front of the Minster, causing ripples of golden evening light to fall on the face of the building, and these ornate wooden doors. The benefit of a medium format 6×6 negative is seen here. The exquisite detail of the Minster’s stonework makes me want to study this image up close.
This is the west face again, this time from a different angle. This was taken on a completely different day, with Ilford HP5+ (still with the Lubitel, a wonderful twin-lens reflex camera). Here the slight vignetting draws the eye up to the detail at the top of this ornate wooden door, the dark colour contrasting with the detailed stonework around it. The image is very soft-focus, with the sharpest part of the frame being the detail at the top of the door. I think this gives off a slightly pictorialist look, although I wasn’t intending that when I took the image.
Now we’ve moved away from the west face. Here the light from inside the Minster contrasts with the night outside (this was taken at about 7am). This illuminates the beautiful stained-glass window and makes it stand out against the darkness surrounding it. The only thing I don’t love about this image is the slight flare from the lights inside the Minster. If I were to take this shot again, it would be from a slightly lower angle, to avoid the direct light.
Finally, we come to the door on the south side of the Minster. Recessed beneath this beautiful archway, and surrounded by ornate pillars and the decorative arch, the wooden door fades into black at the top, leaving an area of mystery near the top of the entrance-way, accentuated by the shadow provided by the overhang. As with the images of the western doors, this is once again shot with a soft focus (I don’t think the Lubitel 166B’s lens is very sharp at f/5.6 or f/4.5) which adds an unintentional glow to the scene.
I’ve enjoyed critiquing these images, and I’m glad they turned out as well as they did. I believe there are some more images of York Minster, hiding away in undeveloped rolls of 120 film somewhere on my shelf, so it will be interesting to see what they hold. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I enjoy writing these critiques, so it would be great to hear your thoughts as to whether or not you’d like to see more in-depth posts like this in the future.
A very long time ago, I bought a Lubitel 166B. I wanted to experiment with both TLRs and medium-format photography, and I already had a (small) collection of Soviet and Eastern Bloc cameras. It’s not got the style or sophistication of a Rolleiflex, but it’s still a beautiful object and is a joy to use.
The first time I ever shot on this camera was the first time I went to Cambridgeshire to see Katie’s parents. I was mostly just playing around for fun, but here and there I tried to do some ‘serious’ photography. I had the film lying around for a while, because uni and work had caught up with me and I had never managed to get it into the darkroom, but recently I re-discovered it and sent it to a lab to be developed and scanned.
Whether the light-leaks are due to the camera or the fact that the film had been lying around for so long, I don’t know, but most of the images have at least one splotch of white on them, and some even more than that. This one, of the ceiling in the entrance-way to Peterhouse College, Cambridge, is missing a lot of detail, but that doesn’t stop the pattern from being striking, and I think gives the image character.
Some others have come out a little bit better. This is Peterhouse again, this time from the outside. The image has some fading but I think this works in its favour. The beautiful contrast between the intricate pattern on the roof and the texture of the columns, accentuated by the grain of Ilford FP4+, gives the image an almost painterly quality.
The same goes for this image of a church door in Huntingdon. You can see the beautiful grain on the door, contrasted with the decoration and the stonework above. These images have been edited in Lightroom, of course, but not much.
I’m quite pleased with these images, although I probably shouldn’t leave it a year before getting them developed next time. If I had the time and money I think I’d work more with film. I enjoy the feeling of working with a mechanical camera, especially something like the Lubitel, and I do love the quality and character that you get from film that you really can’t achieve with digital. However, like many, I am limited by material reality, so for now, I’ll have to say goodbye to my archaic Soviet TLR.
During my time in Andalusia, I visited Ronda. The city hasn’t changed in the slightest since the last time I was there, but I found myself with an appreciation for the history and medieval architecture of the place that was lacking before.
Ronda, like many places in Andalusia, has had a variety of rulers over the course of history. The current city is of Roman origins, starting its life as a fortified outpost, but it has changed significantly since then. The city has changed hands many times over the years, and this can be seen from the range of different architectural styles that can be seen throughout the old quarter, from the minarets of medieval mosques to the nunnery in the image above.
Walking down streets like this can make you forget that Ronda is a city of 35,000 people. This quaint little alleyway would not look out of place in a village of 350. I love the way the buildings lean over the street, their imposing presence exaggerated by the wide angle of the shot.