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.
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.
Hoping to shake off some of the Christmas holiday period cobwebs Mrs M and I went on a morning visit to Charlecote Park. There had been a heavy frost the night before, the car was thoroughly iced up before we started and there was a thick, cold, fog laying low over the houses. The sun was trying to shine through but was being severely diffused by the pea-souper.
When we got to Charlecote, we found it too was laying beneath a thick fog and frost with the sun trying desperately and ineffectually to burn it off. The light that sifted through the fog though was glorious. Softened, it gave the trees and surrounding parkland an eerie, unearthly feel.
This image was taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135, f/3.5 – 5.6 lens. I overexposed by a stop to ensure that I got the glow from the sun, and you can see that the sun itself, diffused by the fog, looks huge in the sky.
This was just a quick visit to the property today to get one of their sausage batches and to accompany a club member who was trying out a new standard lens on their Olympus OM-D E-M1 (can Olympus camera names get any longer or more complicated)?
The weather was overcast and there was a spot of two of rain. However the light began to pick up, and we had some lovely raindrops on flowers and plants. I used my Nikon D800 and a 50mm f/1.8 standard lens.
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.
Last week Mrs M and I headed down to Somerset for a few days and called into the National Trust property Dyrham Park on the way. The whole roof was under renovation, 46 tonnes of lead and 8000 slate tiles have been removed, the roof structure is being repaired and then re-cast lead and new tiles replaced. The whole project has cost £3.8 million. To cover the building a huge scaffold roof was placed over the whole structure, keeping the rain out and allowing the roofers to work in all weathers.
Visitors could go up to a walk way constructed above the roof to observe the work, 90 feet above the ground.
True to form, it was raining when we arrived so I decided to use my iPhone. You can go up to the roof in a lift or use stairs. It’s very impressive, and you get a view of the roof that will not be available again for probably 150 years.
Today we were at Upton House in Warwickshire. After the tumultuous thunderstorms of the night before, the weather was getting hotter again.
The National Trust have made a really great show at the house decking it out in a second world war style. There were tents outside, sandbags, posters and staff were dressed in costumes of the day. The house actually became the home of a bank during the war, and some of the rooms were dressed as offices with desks, type-writers and all the paraphernalia of the war.
The picture today is another attempt at a faux infra-red image and was taken by the large pool in the garden.
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.
Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire is one of my favourite places in the county. The ruins of this former Cistercian abbey are huge and magnificent. At the time of the Dissolution it was the richest Cistercian abbey in Britain, which no doubt helped in its demise.
It was a lovely warm spring afternoon when Mrs M and I visited the abbey again. We have been here two or three times now, and it always impresses us. Walking through the ruins or along the river bank you can get an idea of what it must have been like for the monks and the lay workers of the abbey. There is a feeling of peace and calm that permeates the whole place. Trees line the valley sides and the river wanders through the ruins and on to the 18th century pleasure gardens further down the valley. A great place to spend the afternoon, and the National Trust have a great restaurant above the valley.
I took myself off to one of my favourite National Trust properties this morning for a treat. One of their excellent bacon batches (that’s ‘roll’ to any southerners), and a cup of coffee.
It had rained just before I left so I didn’t take any of my cameras, but I had my iPhone for any emergencies.
The breakfast was excellent and as I sat there the sun came out so rather than go straight home, I decided to have a walk around the garden. I’m glad I did. There was no one else around and apart from the birds singing away, all was peace and quiet. The sun was warm, I wasn’t at work and I had an enjoyable breakfast.
I took a few pictures with my phone and the one below was edited in the TinType app. I liked the fact that if the artist Rebecca Ferrers of Baddesley had took Ferrotype photographs as well as painting and sketching in the 1870’s, she may well have taken an image like this of the house.
Today I was out and about at the National Trust property at Croome in Worcestershire.
It has had a chequered history over the years being owned by the Earls of Coventry who emplyed Capability Brown to design the house and gardens and some of the interiors by Robert Adam. During the Second World War it housed RAF Defford, after the war the Coventry family sold it and it was used as a school and later by the Hare Krishnas. It lay empty from 1984 for 12 years until it was again purchased as a private home. The Croome heritage Trust purchased the house in 2007 and leased it to the National Trust.
I have been here a few times and the Trust have always been working on the Red Wing to restore it back to its former state. On arrival today, I saw that the whole house is now covered in scaffolding, but was pleased to see that visitors can actually go up the specially designed structure to roof level where there is a café. A great idea.
I took the D800 and 50mm f/1.8 standard lens with me today, but the picture above was taken with my iPhone and processed in Snapseed. It was taken at the top of the scaffold in the café area.
This image above was taken with the D800 from the café area at the top of the scaffold looking over the river towards the orangery which is lit by the sun in the distance.