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Seeing the familiar in new ways

"And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves." Virginia Woolf

One of my favourite places to visit is Stone Lane Gardens in Chagford, Devon. . It is a woodland on the edge of Dartmoor, with a collection of beautiful birch and alder trees, and in the summer is host to an eclectic range of sculptures.

In my latest visit this autumn, it was almost deserted. I had the whole day ahead of me and the sun was shining. I took out the guide that Charlie Bellamy had provided us while on her creativity retreat in the Netherlands and read through the ideas. Following her advice I started by finding a comfortable place to sit and I took out my journal. Ten minutes of quiet reflection, noting what I could see, hear and feel in this unique space on this late autumn day. I then used my phone to capture some of these initial impressions:

I looked at the images and what stood out were the upright lines of the slender tree trunks, the long shadows on the green of the grass, and the spidery branches reaching up into the light clear blue of the sky.

I was now ready to get out my Canon and work out how to capture those elements using ICM (intentional camera movement). The light proved to be a real challenge to getting a slow enough shutter speed, but I have been able to catch the light on the silvery trunks, their relationship with each other and the various greens in the grass:

I carried on playing, and in this image I was able to keep in the blue of the sky without over-exposed highlights:

Although I liked the colour palette of this image, with the blue of the sky with the browns and greys of the trunks, it is a bit too 'messy' for my liking. I decided on a longer shutter speed and got a more abstract effect:

Walking further through the woodland, I saw the light catching the autumn leaves against the blue sky, revealing golden shimmers. I jiggled the camera to get the shimmery effect:

Having taken the wider views, I turned my attention to the smaller details. The bark peeling off the trunks of the birch trees, caught in the low autumn sun, created abstract patterns. I decided on monochrome and square crop to create a set of images:

Once again, I was reminded that to create images that resonate and reflect a location. I need to immerse myself into it. Take my time, sit quietly, breathe mindfully. Be alert to what I am hearing, seeing and feeling. I sometimes write down what I am sensing, as it can help to offload the 'baggage' and free up the space for new experiences.

(The quote is from an extract from To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf as quoted in Poetry Rebellion edited by Paul Evans (Batsford) p.111)

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