Inside this issue
Loitering in the Countryside at Night
Al Brydon braves the night...
I'm a photographer based in the north of the UK working on long term landscape photography projects. I have been published and exhibited both in the UK and abroad and am co-founder of the Inside the Outside photography collective.
Landscape photography is the perfect vehicle for narrative and storytelling. I'm interested in the history of landscape and human interaction and alteration of landscape. The long departed people who have shaped that world sing songs. I'm slowly learning to listen.
It was only a matter of time before I ended up loitering in the countryside at night.
This series is my attempt at challenging my own relationship with and understanding of the landscape around me. When I was contemplating my next project, night time seemed an obvious choice for a few reasons. It would be technically and physically difficult and would certainly initially be fairly unpredictable in terms of what I would achieve photographically. Starting with no plan was as good a plan as any. I didn't really have any idea what was going to happen and there was a lot of trial and error. In fact there still is. I'm fully aware night photography isn't a new thing and I'm hardly cutting edges or blazing trails but I wanted to explore the heavily photographed landscape of the Peak District in a new way. I wanted to find a balance between the application of fine art photography, satisfying my own creative needs and making something that can be appreciated by a wider audience.
All the images to date were made in the Peak District, which can have a sense of foreboding that I wanted to accentuate by photographing it at night. The initial photographic results were encouraging and I started to formulate the basis of a long term project. I also received very positive feedback from a broad range of people.
In terms of making the images the whole point of the project was to use artificial light to create a sense of unreality and get viewers to question the photographs, making a series of well known landscapes into something different, possibly an uncomfortable difference. The idea was that I closed off all non essential aspects of light (that I could) as a way of purifying the subject matter. I could then choose to illuminate certain parts of the landscape or allow others to do the hard work for me, as in the Winnats Pass light trails image.
I used various lighting sources. I started with a 1,000,000 candle power torch. This proved effective yet very time consuming due to the long exposures and as usual was never guaranteed to get anything that resonated. I managed maybe four or five shots per shoot. I also used my car headlights to light some of the tree shots but most recently have resorted to using off camera flash. This allows a modicum of control the torch doesn’t offer and I have found planning shots easier and the results I envisaged more achievable.
Other difficulties are getting to and from your location safely and the dreaded composition. Generally I have an idea of what I want to achieve and set out in daylight to compose the photograph. Then it's a case of hanging about till darkness falls.
The biggest problem was overcoming the nervous reaction to sometimes being a long way from anywhere on my own at night. I haven’t always found making the images to be an enjoyable process. It is a strange side effect of the project. When you're working you don't notice but it's always there. All those bad dreams and childhood imaginings reappear. At first I didn't think that this would come across in the photographs but looking back over the series so far I feel they encapsulate some of these emotions. I probably need to man up a bit.
I will keep going with the project for another year or so. It's always running in the background and I intend for it to be the basis for an exhibition and finally a book. In terms of this series of photographs I will be heading further afield to locations around the country to let the project evolve. The next trip is to the Norfolk coast for some late night work by the sea. Should be a mission but the harder the photographs are to make the more I seem to love them.