Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pictures day 

Some days are words days, some days are pictures days. Yesterday was cold, clear and bright – definitely a pictures day.

It must have been the first time for many months that I’d been out with the sole intent of taking photographs. A few miles away there's a little patch of woodland that's open to the public. It’s managed rather than natural – more of a woodland park than a real wood, but although many of the paths, ponds and streams have been designed, the landscaping is sufficiently subtle and sympathetically implemented that the end result is quite pleasing in spite of being largely artificial. At least it has it's origins in a real oak wood, and although entirely surrounded by housing, its future as a public open space seems secure.

The conditions yesterday were near-ideal for woodland photography; with most of the trees being leafless, shafts of low-angled winter sun were able to penetrate into the depths of the wood, catching highlights of frost-coated bark on a fallen log, a luminously mossy green tree stump, lush bog plants rising out of autumn’s leaf litter.

Outside of the patches of bright sun, within the wood the predominant lighting conditions were still quite dim – but I had a new toy to play with. No, it wasn't Christmas present, I’ve had this for several months, but this is the first time it's been put to proper use. Handling a Benbo tripod (so called because of the bent bolt that holds it all together) has been likened to wrestling with a wilful octopus – loosened up to adjust, the legs and the central column swing free, seemingly at all angles, so that at times you’re convinced you're grappling with more than three legs – but having got the hang of it, I’m very, very impressed with the design. There’s something very satisfying about equipment that just works, doing without fuss exactly what it was designed to do. This piece of gear is intended specifically for outdoor use, on uneven ground, in the wet, in the mud – and it excels in these conditions. The design is so good it has remained essentially unchanged for nearly forty years. I loved it, I loved too the feeling of doing-it-right that comes with having the right gear, and to be truthful I also loved the feeling of “being” a photographer, walking around the woods with the tripod, camera attached, resting over my shoulder, intent only on observing and recording the play of light. I ought to get out and do this more often…

Unfortunately, I still live in the dark ages of film photography, so it'll be a while before any of yesterday's shots make it to these pages (if indeed they make it at all). In the meantime, this is from that same wood about ten years ago:

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