alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Harthope Valley in The Cheviots – A nod to Fay Godwin

During a recent visit to Northumberland I visited Harthope Valley in The Cheviot Hills. It reminded me of Fay Godwin who is one of my favourite photographers. She was famed for her black and white photographs of the British Landscape as well as being a very fine portrait photographer.

Below is a short extract from an obituary published in The Daily Telegraph on May 30th 2005.

‘Fay Godwin, who died on Friday aged 74, was the foremost landscape photographer in Britain, and also collaborated with the poet Ted Hughes, going on to produce portraits of other writers; her insight into the British countryside, which led her to be compared with the great American photographer Ansel Adams, was also her recreation, and she was president of the Ramblers’ Association from 1987 until 1990.

Her photographs, which captured the differing moods and textures of moors, forests and country trails with a remarkable sensitivity and lack of sentimentality, were mostly produced in black and white, but with an extraordinary tonal range’.

Read more

Dunstanburgh Castle – constantly changing stillness

What does this title mean exactly? Let me explain.

Whenever I visit a beautiful location for the first time, there comes a point when I have to leave, to head home and then long to return another day. I distinctly remember when I first witnessed the glorious Lake District. It was many, many years ago and I was on my way back from Scotland with my parents. We decided to take a detour through The Lakes as we had never visited this part of the UK before. We didn’t stop or stay, just drove through and admired the view.

Read more

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.