Although late spring was finished off beautifully with a trip to the Brecon Beacons, June fell somewhat flat for me with the conditions somehow sapping my enthusiasm. This is often the case for many landscape photographers in the summer months of course and even a trip to the Kent coast did little to lift my mood. Inevitably I find landscape photography is linked to my general state of mind and ever earlier starts become wearing ensuring it all feels a lot less enticing.
I used my time in June completing my portfolio instead, time well served during this period though I did finally develop an idea which resulted in something of a different flavour to my usual fare; Earth’s Lament came about through an abandoned birds nest in our garden and a bit of imagination. It’s almost the only possible choice to pick from the whole month, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling that it might turn out to be one of my favourite images of the whole year.
What Really Makes The Photograph Work For Me?
This is one of those photographs that is almost certain to need some explanation for the viewer, because there is real intention on my part here. I’d been watching another of Sir David Attenborough’s masterpieces and as always I was struck by some of the powerful sentiment which the programme delivered, I knew immediately what I wanted to do. We’d had a couple of Blackbirds nest in our garden at home this year and once the birds were long gone I did a bit of tidying up and removed the abandoned nest. As is often the case there is usually at least one egg that didn’t make it, sometimes a whole clutch, it’s just nature’s way of course. The birds had collected up a bunch of what I presume were pigeon feathers and lined the nest, it made the most amazing welcoming sight, I fluffed them up and looked around for something to photograph the nest against, the clover through my lawn lit up an abstract idea in me…
So here’s why Earth’s Lament is image of the month:
- The nest represents our planet, Earth. The egg is a universal representation of life, but the feathers around it are a metaphor for how precious life is. But the egg is dead, hence lament. The clover, flowers and feathers around the outside of the nest represent space, the stars and other galaxies. Am I getting through yet? Hopefully… When my wife initially saw this image she loved it. Then I told her the title and what it was really about, and here it is: the photograph represents my view that life on earth, as precious as it is, is being slowly killed my humanity, leading to the inevitability of extinction. She didn’t want to look at it again after that, I often think she’s somewhat surprised by my darker thoughts on such matters.
- I used my Tilt Shift lens and a big aperture here to put a horizontal plane of focus across the egg to help draw the eye into the centre. This leaves the edges of the frame naturally blurred adding to the abstract feel of the photograph but ensuring we can’t help but be pulled into the centre. The deliberate central positioning of the nest makes doubly sure of this.
- Although I converted this one to mono too, in order to push home the sombre mood it was intending to represent, the use of colour creates a real juxtaposition here – most people viewing the image will usually see the egg as alive in their imagination, just as my wife did instinctively. In my mind, there is an additional reality here – we carry on in our confidence of every day life, not believing that death is stalking us or the environment around us, safe in the knowledge that earth and humanity will live on after we’re gone. To me it’s a false gloss with Society and Governments obsessed and pre-occupied with the now, not tomorrow. That’s probably deep enough for one photograph though I think!
The Technical Setup
- Taken with the Nikon D800E
- Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-e (Tilt Shift)
- 5 degrees of Tilt with a horizontal plane of focus through the centre
- f/3, ISO200, 1/250 in bright light at 09:44hrs
- Shot in 14bit RAW, manual white balance
- Finished with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Adobe Photoshop CC
- No sharpening