Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Image of the Week - Ashton Windmill, Somerset

I seem to be in a creative drought right now. Since the snow in December, it's been almost wall to wall dull grey cloud cover. There has been the odd exception, but these have mostly been clear blue sky days without a cloud in sight. It's hard to get motivated on these days as the landscape rarely looks it's best with a clear blue sky overhead.

So when another rare, but boring, hazy blue sky day came along yesterday I forced myself out of the door in the search for creative inspiration. My hope was that the haze might produce some interesting colour at the end of the day. I headed for a familiar local landmark that I'd last photographed 5 years ago.

Ashton Windmill at Chapel Allerton in Somerset is an 18th century windmill that was modernised in 1900 but stopped working in 1927. After a period of neglect it was restored in the second half of the last century and has undergone several restorations at intervals since then.

It was late March when I last photographed it but by then the daffodils that grow around the windmill were well past their best and it's been on my list of unfinished projects ever since. I returned a couple of years ago only to find it undergoing restoration and completely missing it's sails. Third time lucky perhaps?

I was surprised to find that there weren't as many daffodils as I remember growing round the windmill - my memory playing tricks I am sure. After a while crawling around in the grass amongst the flowers looking for an interesting composition I concluded that I needed a wide angle lens for my Panasonic GF1 which I don't have. So instead I waited for the sun to sink in the sky to see if anything interesting caught my eye.

The haze weakened the light of the setting sun which ruled out a possible image of the mill bathed in warm sunlight, but the haze did mean shooting straight into the sun was a possibility and so I settled on this picture. I dismissed my large format camera as I knew the high contrast Velvia transparency I had with me would leave the windmill a black silhouette after scanning which was not what I wanted. I would need my digital camera but with just a 20mm lens, I was unable to fit the whole windmill into a single horizontal image so instead I made 4 hand-held overlapping vertical exposures with my GF1 and later stitched them together to create the image you see here.

As well as producing a higher resolution file, the stitching process also conveniently corrects the converging verticals that I would normally see with a fixed lens camera. A much more pleasing large format like picture is the result.

Sadly the haze was not sufficiently high enough to cause any significant colouration of the sky after the sun had set so after a 30 minute wait, just to be sure, I packed up and called it a day.