Finchcocks was somewhere I used to visit semi-willingly with my parents as a child, but for some reason I had never come back since moving home ten years ago. Embarrassingly, I was only reminded to do so by its featuring on the hoardings of local photos on the abandoned cinema site.
I remembered the old instruments, but I’d completely forgotten the beauty of the house. It is a Georgian brick building which manages to look far bigger than it actually is from front and back by having virtually no depth whatsoever.
Inside the rooms are quite simple but classically elegant with beautiful light from the large windows illuminating wood everywhere:
Outside is a small and very traditional garden:
Despite all this elegance, the real attraction is the musical instruments. The owners, Richard and Katrina Burnett have been collecting ancient keyboards- Harpsichords, Clavichords and early pianos, since 1970 and for many years have also built replicas of the same:
They are beautiful instruments which are crying out to be touched and surprisingly they can be. Twice a day, there are free concerts by Richard Burnett and others, but even more wonderfully around the house, every keyboard seems to be being played, from my son hammering out some year 8 school music homework, to really talented amateurs dreamily lost in the chance to play such a perfect instrument:
I have written before about how important it is in landscape photography to try to create three dimensions in an image which is in reality flat. The classic way of doing so is to find something to put in the foreground of the composition, then something in the middle distance and then something far, far away.
This is why, for all that I like the mystery of the shot above, it is lacking something which might drag our eyes through the frame. It is also one of the many reasons why landscape photographers including me return endlessly to places such as Ullswater in the Lake District.
Voila- three plains- foreground, middle distance, long distance:
But what to do when a return to the otherwise appealing Haysden Lake in Tonbridge doesn’t provide such depth- almost everything is in the middle of the view.
One solution is just to concentrate on something beautiful and near:
…Or even on something that only I will find beautiful:
…Or to step back somewhat, so everything is middle distance:
…Or just to turn away and find my three plains behind me:
…Or to give up completely and head for foreground in the woods:
…But then I remembered that tiny pier that I had found so appealing earlier- time to get down on my knees and let it point into the distance:
Photographing in a wood or a forest is a real challenge that I have never quite mastered, but I am determined to keep at it. On a walk today around Ashdown Forest near Hartfield, I tried a few techniques out.
One first problem is that the trees are so damn tall it is often difficult to get enough of them in the frame- in the shot above I have stitched together two pictures vertically to give some sense of how this tree dwarfed everything around.
This picture also is evidence of another problem within woods- deciding with so many different trees how to make a simple composition- in that picture, the comparative bulk of the main tree made it simpler. In an exit from the woodland, it was even easier to create a single-minded image:
At other times, I was presented with a path and trees all around- I’ve ended up having to use Photoshop to try to create some kind of distinctive contrast to draw the viewer through the frame and along the path.
On other occasions, as I turned away from the path, there was simply a mass of undifferentiated trees. At least today, the cloudy conditions actually helped me, as the glorious dappled light of summer woodland is actually particularly challenging to photograph without the bright spots getting all burnt out. No risk of that with today’s dulness which I could then contrast up in my cheating software:
Nevertheless, I wanted some foreground- the legendary Pooh Bridge, where the fictional bear and Christopher Robin played Pooh sticks provided some:
And then, out into the open and just enough colour to make me switch off the black and white for a moment:
Not another big album of gloomy black and whites to wade through this time- just one grab shot of a gorgeous evening in Southborough.