Another black and white photograph from my walk around The Ring of Colle Astoro. I was immediately taken by the contrast between leaves on the forest floor. The lighter ones shimmered, moistened by a thick fog which had descended amongst the trees. At times the visibility was down to just several metres. This is my favourite type of weather in which to photograph the landscape.
This photograph was made beside a road I have driven up countless times, through each of the four seasons. This was the first occasion I have stopped to make a photograph of the view.
In 2009 a series of wildfires broke out across Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece and France. 5 years on, near Passo Lanciano, the effects are still visible, as shown in the foreground of this picture. I pulled the car over and waited for the fog to thin, wanting enough to break up the landscape, but not so much that it lost its smoky, wispy character. In black and white, I lightened and darkened the photograph selectively, to help the eye move around the picture. This is perhaps my favourite image from the trip.
My parents will be retiring to the Abruzzo region of Italy, where they have a house. At least once each year I visit for company, good food and wine, and ‘bad weather’ as they amusedly point out.
Spring and Autumn are my favourite times to go. Summer is too hot, the sky cloudless and the mountains too hazy. Winter is stunning, but heavy snow can make exploring quite restrictive. In Spring however the trees are beautiful, and the low morning and evening light reveals wonderful textures in the rugged mountains. The season seems to compliment the landscape, which is more dramatic and less ‘perfect’ than in other parts of Italy.
My most successful photographs have been made in Autumn, and I am not back two weeks from a short but productive trip. A forest in fog is a motif which has been done to death, yet is not one I tire of. As David Ward explains in his inspirational book The Landscape Within, photographing in a woodland poses a particular set of challenges: namely control of colour, contrast and complexity. When fog descends amongst the trees, it diffuses the light reducing contrast, limits visibility and simplifies the view. Trees in the distance become a blur, whilst those closest to the camera stand out as salient features.
I photograph in black and white largely because it is less literal than colour. Instead of recording the way something looks, a photographer, through the manipulation of contrast, brightness and tone, can more easily explore the way a landscape feels. It affords greater interpretation, which personally, interests me more than description.
I made this black and white photograph toward the end of a walk taken near the hermitage of San Bartolomeo, Italy. It was the rays of light over the trees, as well as the leading lines in the grass created by agricultural machinery that caught my attention. Looking at the picture in the edit, it reminded me somewhat of a pencil drawing – sort of charcoal like and a bit rough.
I often add grain to a photograph to break down unwanted detail. It reduces contrast across the image and softens busy areas like grass. I find a small amount of grain makes me look into and explore a photograph, where high contrast, hyper detailed images I tend to appreciate more quickly then move on from. Before switching to digital capture for most of my work, I would use a faster (and so grainier) film in a small format camera. By then varying my choice of film developer, the speed of agitation*, temperature and time in the chemicals, one could manipulate the intensity and sharpness of the film grain. Of course where experimentation and careful note taking were required then, a few tweaks on the computer and a good eye for the effect are all that is needed now.
* Film is wound onto spirals in the dark, before being placed into a light tight tank for processing. As the developer works on the film its strength is weakened, so the speed at which the developer moves over the film has a bearing on contrast. The movement of the developer over film is known as agitation.
As the sun set over the Abruzzo landscape, I jumped out of the car to quickly make this picture. Although I missed the best of the foreground light by mere seconds, there was enough directionality to show some texture in the rocks. The track was dodged (or lightened) to anchor the frame. Were it not for this track, I would not have given the image a second look. buy a research paper for college
Another dramatic black and white photograph of the untamed river which flows below the town of Caramanico Terme in Abruzzo. I have made pictures from this viewpoint before, clambering up a rocky mound to get full view of the curved river and path. I like the way they mirrored each other from this angle, which was the first of several compositions that I played with. The exposure was two minutes long, which gave the water a milky quality. Along this stretch of the walk, and at this time of year particularly, the leaves on the trees make the paths dark and ominous. I exaggerated this when editing the image, leaving the shadows dark but full of detail, which should print beautifully with the long tonal scale of a platinum and palladium print.
I love working in black and white, because there are so many opportunities to change the feel of an image through creative editing. When composing an image through the viewfinder, I’m looking not only at arranging the subject in a pleasing and interesting way, but also imagining how that image will print – what parts I will make lighter and sharper, where I will darken or soften to add mystery or help focus the eye. This is much harder when making portraits (of children especially!), because the whole process tends to be more spontaneous, but when composing a landscape we usually have the luxury of time.
I arrived at Colle Della Civita too late to photograph the infamous dry stone huts, which were built originally to shelter shepherds. The light was fading fast, and looked most interesting toward Montagne del Morrone. I clambered up the steep hill in search of an interesting vantage point, trying a number of compositions which looked too cluttered. The diagonal line of rock and tree eventually caught my attention here, as it mirrored the shafts of light in the background. The textured rock face was pleasing, and although not one of the defined hut structures I had hoped to photograph, would provide a strong point of interest for the image. This photograph was quite striking in colour, but made all the more dramatic with my usual black and white treatment.
Abruzzo is renowned for its ‘tholos’, or dry stone huts. Unfortunately I have yet to make a good photograph which shows one off clearly. Most are in poor condition, with years of brutal conditions and a lack of maintenance taking their toll. I expect to return to the region this winter. My hope is that after a heavy snow, they will stand out more clearly from the grass which usually surrounds them. You can see some more black and white photographs of Abruzzo within my Italian portfolio. There is so much work to add to this still, with a folder full of negatives yet to be explored.
Another black and white photograph from Italy, this time made of the Orfento River which snakes under the sleepy town of Caramanico Terme. I love this place and have walked here on many occasions. The first forty or so minutes are passed beside the river on a gentle slope upward. Crossing several bridges just like this one, it usually takes me a lot longer to navigate, given the rich photographic opportunities. The climate at this level is wonderful. In Summer it remains remarkably cool, and throughout most of the year is dense with greenery.
Although beautiful to look at, it does make for a challenging environment to photograph. All too easily compositions become crowded with the complexity of dense tree clusters and contrasty rock faces. I think next time I will swap walking boots for something more suited to wading through water. In some places the current is easily tame enough to walk through, and getting into the water should give a different perspective from the paths which I have explored many times – although it would not have been safe to do so here!
The length of the exposure was somewhere in the 30 second range. I cropped to square to simplify the composition, before darkening down the frame edges of this black and white photograph.