Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wicken Fen - one of the last true fenlands left...

Just to the north of Cambridge is Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, which is one of the few remaining fenlands of this area. You can read all about it here.

I really like this place, because it's a landscape unlike anywhere else. It's flat, but it's interesting too, and the windmill is a nice focal point for any picture.

I've been there 2 or 3 times since coming to Cambridge, and intend to go back many times more, as the mood of the place changes depending on the time of year, time of day, and the weather.

The first shot was taken to try and put the windmill and the fen reeds in close proximity, and to go for a bit of a different composition. I like it, but feel it could have been better with a little more care on the composition. The sky was very bland, so I used another sky - taken in the same location - and blended that in using the multiply mode. I warmed up the colours to fit in to that end-of-day feel. It changes the image dramatically, and I think it looks reasonably natural (although the eagle-eyed among you will see that the sky doesn't seem to be "behind" the windmill blades in places).

The next one was taken on another day, different time of day, and feel has changed. This one feels more typically like a summer shot, but I wanted to get the shape of the reeds as they curve towards the windmill. The portrait format helps this movement through the picture I think.

The sky wasn't terribly interesting, so I decided on placing the horizon really near the top of the frame, and allowing the shape of the reeds to dominate. Afterwards, I noticed the nice symmetry of the shape of the reeds with the cut section - like the interlinking "yin and yang" symbol.
Should appeal to Damian's love of symmetry.

On another visit (right), the sky was really stormy and brooding, and the light was falling nicely on the white blades of the windmill. It lasted only a few minutes, but I knew it was coming (this time) and was there, waiting.

I deliberately tried some different compositions, but in retrospect I think I should have stepped out 2-3 steps to the right, and got more of the line of reeds leading to the windmill - in this shot, your eye isn't sure what to look at: windmill, reeds, sky. It's a bit cluttered and messy, which is a shame as the light and mood is wonderful.

In the next shot, I wanted to emphasis the wide open flatness of this unique area.

Thankfully, the sky was still stormy and added some drama, so I tried to get as much of this in as possible, while using the line of the dyke as a visual device to lead the viewer in.

This picture breaks the old "Rule of Thirds" for composition - but that's OK I think. When there's enough going on, and the interest top and bottom is balanced (but relating to different visual themes), it's OK to split the image in this 50:50 way. If I'd chopped it any other way (cropping the top or the bottom), it would not be as effective a picture in my opinion.

The final image was taken at the end of the day, when the light was really beginning to fade, and I was frozen solid. The dynamic range of the lighting meant that exposing for the sunset led to a pitch-black foreground, and exposing for the foreground led to an over-exposed bland sky. So, I took two pictures, and blended them together in Photoshop. This is the digital equivalent of using a graduated filter to hold the sky in traditional film photography, but the level of control afforded by the digital medium if far greater. I didn't blend these two together that carefully - and I intend to return to this image in the future - but you can see how it leads to a balanced image. Your eye can take in a scene with a far wider dynamic range than film or a digital sensor, so to me this represent a much "truer" representation of what I saw, and thus it's justified as a photographic technique.

Hope you like the pics



Critical Light said...

Hi Ivan,

The Wicken Fen looks amazing. If I was living in Cambridgeshire, this would be one of my favourite places. You have really captured the mood in all of these photographs. I feel like I have been there and know the place. My favourite is the first one because of the blurred wheat (if that is what it is) and the sharp windmill in the back. Its just really appealing. I would be interested to see the original sky but this one does add alot to the picture.

The second photograph has good composition as well as lighting and nicely draws the eye into the picture. For me, it is very pleasing to look at. I feel the same way about the fourth picture. I guess I like this type of framing.

The third picture just has wonderful light and it is nicely captured by the wheat crop (both sides of the crop) and by the sky. The windmill here actually gets in the way and if you can, I would remove it. It confuses the eye.

The last photo is probably my least favourite, even though I still like it. The issue for me is the light. The sky in the background is dark and sets the mood for a pleasant sunset. But the light in the water is bright and creates a different more uplifting mood. These two moods clash. But it does nicely demonstrate the blending of two photos with different light characteristics.


Ivan said...

Thanks Damian

I think you may be right about the light in the last picture. I should have toned it down a bit on the reflection, so it was more in keeping with the dimmer and warmer tones of the sky.

I don't neccessarily agree that removing the windmill would improve the third picture. Without that, there's nothing to look at, as the other elements are not arranged in a way that I think holds the eye (unlike the elements in the forth picture, which are strong and bold). Just my view though.


Critical Light said...

Hi Ivan, I think you are right about the third picture. I tried to imagine the image without the windmill (using my thumb to block it) and there isn't much left to focus on. So, I agree.