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I always try to inject some atmosphere into my black and white photographs and the following images taken at Stowe gardens are indicative of how I try to make my photographs more interesting.

When I’m out on a shoot I tend to see most of the pictures I take as monochrome. I look for texture, tone and shape in order that they will help me make the photograph stand out to the viewer. During processing, I then try to recreate and enhance my vision for the scene as I saw it on location.

The following two photographs were taken with a Nikon D800 and the 24-120mm f/4.0 zoom lens.

The first image of the garden temple is fairly straight forward, but what I liked about the angle from which I was looking at the building was that it gave the impression I had just discovered it in a clearing in a wood. In reality, there was a footpath running in front of it with people walking regularly past.

I waited for a gap in the flow of visitors and knelt down in the grass so that I couldn’t see the path in the viewfinder and then took the picture. This low angle also meant that the temple looked as though it was slowly being overtaken by the undergrowth.


The Clearing

This next picture is of the Palladian Bridge at Stowe. The reflections of the bridge in the water especially the arches and the way they almost seem part of the physical structure really grabbed my attention. Once I had started processing the image, I darkened the clouds a little to add atmosphere and also to keep the viewer’s attention held down onto the bridge.


Still Waters


For our last day in Somerset, Mrs M and I decided to go to one of our favourite National Trust locations, Stourhead. The gardens are fantastic and the house is an interesting trip back to the turn of the 20th century. The weather for the visit was quite nice. – nowhere near an Indian Summer day but you take what you can get in the UK.

The trees were only just starting to think about autumn, and still looked lush with so many different shades of green.


The photograph is a classic Stourhead composition showing the view across the Palladian bridge to the Pantheon monument in the trees.



Today I was out and about at Lyveden New Bield a National Trust property in Northamptonshire. The lodge and garden were created by Sir Thomas Tresham between 1595 and 1603. Upon his death in that year, the family wealth depleted, the estate passed to his son Francis Tresham. However Francis along with his cousins Catesby and Wintour, he became involved in the Gunpowder Plot. It is rumoured, but unproven that Tresham penned the letter which was intercepted by Secretary of State, Robert Cecil and which proved decisive in the failure of the plot.  Tresham was arrested and sent to the Tower, but died of natural causes in 1605. The estate then passed to Francis son Lewis. The lodge was never completed, Lewis lost the remainder of the family wealth.

What remains of the lodge, and what we saw today is a virtually complete structure minus the roof and interior.

The image below show one of the mounds in the gardens which are surrounded on three sides by a moat.

Lyveden Gardens

Lyveden Gardens


It was off to a favourite haunt today as I headed south to Stowe Gardens. It was a bit of a last minute choice as I realised that it was half-term week here in the UK and the schools were on holiday. That means virtually everywhere is going to be over-run with parents, baby-buggies, pre-teens and everything in-between, not to mention the 2.4 dogs that is apparently the new British requisite for a happy middle-class family. I must say that some of the mums these days would give the sherpas of Nepal a run for their money, the way they negotiate the Peak and Lake District hills and fells with tri-wheeled buggies, changing matts, nappy bags and food hampers, whilst dragging a labrador tied to the handle of the buggy.

Anyway, I chose Stowe because it is a big place and I hoped to get some photographs without a bright red water-proof jacket appearing at some point in an image. It was busy, but not too bad when I got there but by the time I left a couple of hours or so later there were hoards of families descending on the gardens and trails. The day was very sunny although cold and this obviously helped to entice people out.

I took the D800 with me today, together with the 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 wide angle and my old mate the 50mm f/1.8. I have said on this blog before that I am not a huge fan of the wide angle, I seem to struggle with it and end up composing and taking images that I invariably crop in post-processing. But today I enjoyed using it – a lot. I revelled in being able to get most of a monument into one shot and also shooting the wide vista shots across the lakes. I changed to the 50mm later on, and overall I had a very pleasant day.

The postcard-type image below shows the octagon lake in the foreground and Stowe School in the distance. And… I did have to clone out a bright red anorak on the far-side of the lake.



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