alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

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.

A day at The Royal Academy of Arts in London

I recently went to The Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, London to see three exhibitions. The Great Spectacle – An exhibition celebrating 250 years of The Summer Exhibition, this years Summer Exhibition itself, and last but not least ‘Landscape’ by Tacita Dean. More than enough to fill the day. It was also an opportunity to see how the newly opened gallery spaces and link between Burlington House and Burlington Gardens improved the visiting experience. Please note that all three exhibitions have now closed.


A sculpture of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of The RA.

Before going any further I should just say that this post is quite long and includes 30 images. However if you are interested in a wide variety of art, both historical and contemporary please click on the ‘read more’ link below to see the whole post.

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A walk around Chesil Cove – the joy of seeing

Chesil Cove is the most southerly section of Chesil Beach. It lies at the extreme eastern end of the beach by the village of Chiswell on the Isle of Portland in Dorset. Chesil Beach forms part of the Jurassic Coast and is the largest tombolo in the UK. A remarkable natural phenomena being some 18 miles long and estimated to be made up of 180 billion pebbles. The largest pebbles, roughly the size of a fist, are to be found at Chesil Cove. The further west you go the smaller they become until they reach pea-size at Bridport.

I took a walk around Chesil Cove and I was attracted to the beach huts perched on the rising land about the cove itself. Nestled amongst boulders and below now redundant quarries, the huts are rather ramshackle. Undeniably they enjoy a wonderful view looking west along the coast and by virtue of their position are probably quite expensive to buy.

To reach the shore I descended a flight of concrete steps, a type which I find always lend themselves to being photographed.

I then followed the shoreline and noticed some graffiti which had been painted on the sea wall. This country is gripped by ‘Brexit’ at the moment but I wasn’t sure if this inscription of the word ‘EURO’ was a vote in favour of leave or remain. Is the ‘Euro’ invading the UK or to be washed away by the incoming tide? I think it could be interpreted both ways depending upon your point of view.

Further along the coast and at the end of the sea wall, pebbles had been placed in wire cages and made quite an interesting geometric design.

Walking back to the car I couldn’t help but notice a rather tired looking door in a Portland stone wall. Helpfully the owner had painted the word ‘Garage’ at its entrance, I guess to deter others from parking in front of it. This I understand although it always amuses me when people do this, however photographically the inscription made the image.

I could have spent more time wandering around the Cove and Chiswell itself. The pleasure of taking photographs is not necessarily about making stunningly beautiful images all the time. Having a camera and taking pictures encourages your eyes to look around, to notice and perhaps photograph things which the average passer-by may or may not see……and therein lies the joy in photography – the art of seeing.

Stillness in time at Idsworth

Photography is very often a solitary pursuit and when outdoors in a beautiful landscape I find it is one of contemplation as well. Time passes swiftly as I immerse myself in the surroundings with just the occasional person walking past who may or may not say hello. That’s fine by me. I don’t wish to sound unsociable but nor do I want my concentration broken.

This weekend I decided to slow things right down and do some long exposure captures. It’s not an approach I have taken before for one principal reason. I have always thought myself to be a spontaneous, albeit considered photographer, who enjoys hand held compositions. The flexibility of being able to move a camera quickly from one position to another is in stark contrast to the tedium of carrying and using a tripod. However long exposures and tripods go hand hand in hand assuming of course you want the static element in the frame to be sharp. If you enjoy ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) then a tripod is no longer a requirement.

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St David’s gravestones – light on the dearly departed

Photographers are drawn to many things. Decay in its various forms is a favourite, churchyards can be another. Without question though we are always drawn by the light, so when you combine old gravestones and shafts of early morning light, a certain fascination starts to develop in the photographer’s mind and it’s very hard to resist taking a few frames.

This set of three images were all captured In the churchyard which surrounds St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire in Wales.

After a hearty breakfast in preparation for the day ahead, the early morning winter light was illuminating the headstones of the dearly departed and long shadows were being cast across the ground. Far from my usual style I used a ‘cool tone’ which you may or may not like but I think it suits the subject matter rather well. Do please comment and let me know what you think.