Halnaker Windmill – on site creative decisions

How often do you arrive at a destination only to find that the image you had in mind before leaving home isn’t possible when you arrive on site? This may be down to the weather which affects the light and mood of the shot. People or vehicles in the way of the ideal view or possibly other factors which your research had not revealed beforehand.

Earlier this summer the restoration of this very fine windmill finally saw the replacement of the sails. For a number of years it had looked naked without them so when I heard the windmill had been returned to its former glory it was time to revisit this lovely location. The mill is perched on a hill to the East of Chichester in West Sussex. It overlooks the glorious countryside of the South Downs as well as having distant views of the coastline as far as the Isle of Wight.

Yesterday the clouds and light looked promising and driving there I had an image in mind. A wide angle view of the mill with a good sky, and perhaps a path and grasses for foreground interest; probably in colour for a change. On arriving there was a significant problem. Restoration is still not complete so to prevent people entering the mill builder’s arris fencing had been erected visually ruining the view of the bottom section of the mill. However hard I tried there wasn’t a composition I could find which was to my liking. Cloning out the fencing would have taken forever and it goes against my way of working anyway.

I had to have a re-think. From a creative point of view what if the composition excluded the lower section of the mill thereby eliminating the land on which the mill stands. Could the composition be simplified and made more graphic? Could I stand further away so that the mill was much smaller in the frame. The arris fencing would be less likely to show and the image would be more about a dramatic sky. Very soon I was visualizing black and white and not colour. I had my tripod and a set of filters with me. A 2 or 3 stop ND Grad and perhaps a 6 or 10 stop ND filter would blur the clouds although there was very little movement in the sky.

I moved around the location and after about one and half hours I thought I had a few frames which I could work on back in the so called digital darkroom. There are three images here which I am pleased with. Are they what I thought I would make before leaving home? Definitely not. Are they the pictures I thought I might make once I had decided to shift my creative decisions? Yes they are. So following the initial disappointment, the trip to Halnaker Mill was very worthwhile.

A return trip is on the cards once I know the ugly fencing has been removed!

For those of you who are interested in the technical details, all 3 images were taken with a Leica SL, Zeiss Distgon 18mm F4 lens. Shot at 50 ISO, F11 and in the case of the first two images an exposure time of 8 and 20 seconds respectively. I also used a 2 stop ND soft grad to darken down parts of the sky.  The images were made in Lightroom and exported to Silver Efex Pro for further processing. Grain was added to the second and third image to enhance the dramatic appearance.

8 Responses to “Halnaker Windmill – on site creative decisions”

  1. Robert Parker

    Hello – With only those dramatic clouds, and no landscape context, the windmill suggests an alien radar facility. I remember reading last year that someone in Suffolk had turned a windmill into a futuristic “Dalek.” I think these are very successful photos, very cool! RPT


  2. westdeanie

    I think you were forced to take some creative shots – sometimes a restriction turns into an advantage – it’s the same with art – a restricted palette of colours or a limited size of paper makes you think of new ways to approach a subject

    Liked by 1 person


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