Inside this issue
Nigel Morton talks about his Highgate Woods project
I reckon I’m quite a busy chap. I certainly spend less time behind the camera than I would like, but can’t most of us say that? When I do have an afternoon to myself the weather rarely plays ball, which is how two years ago my Highgate Woods project came about. It’s practically on my doorstep: just a ten-minute walk from my home. When Mrs M insists on listening something non-heavy metal, I can high-tail it out of there. Great!
The area is quite small and I’ve recently begun to feel that I have explored and photographed there to it’s full potential. I work in central London and the final part of my journey home takes me along the main road past the woods. The route is well lit with very tall lamps along one side of the street. I have photographed the trees in the woods from the roadside during daylight hours in the past.
A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that there is enough light emitting from the lamps to illuminate the trees several feet back from the boundary fence. After dark the woods become very eerie and the side-lit trunks and branches take on a different, very graphical form. With this in mind, I took my camera and tripod to work one day and had a slow wander back along the road at night, making a few images on the way.
This little exploratory dip into night photography added whopping 20 minutes to my journey home. Each image is fairly two-dimensional. The darkness meant there was very little in the background that I needed to worry about in the compositions.
My biggest problems were highlights burning out in areas closest to the lamps and the occasional double-decker bus driving across the frame. Other commuters thought the bloke dressed in black at the side of the road pointing a camera into the darkness at apparently nothing was a bit weird…perhaps they were onto something there.
Upon inspecting the results of all my backbreaking hard work and subsequent Photoshop jiggery-pokery, I thought I had around seven or eight ‘keepers’. A record for me in such a short space of time! The following week I repeated the exercise. The light catching the smaller branches reminded me of capillaries on a Gray's Anatomy illustration. Two or three of the larger trees resembled monsters skulking in the darkness (childlike imagination required). I decided that as well as tweaking the colour balance, de-saturating the images gave them a more spooky appearance. The finished work wouldn’t look out of place adorning one of those dodgy Scandinavian satanic black metal records I know you all love to listen to. I also had Kevin Abosch’s infamous potato picture in the back of my mind; although I doubt anyone is stupid enough to pay £750,000 for any of my work (please get in touch if your are).
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