My image this month is of the tidal salt-water open air swimming pool at Bude in Cornwall. There are many such pools situated around the UK and they provide excellent subject matter for those with a penchant for a minimalist approach. There are numerous possibilities to create extracted close-ups of railings and bars descending into the water, introducing a welcome element of mystery. We arrived well before sunrise and as the pastel twilight hues started to reveal their magic, I elected to shoot this wider view.
I made my image with the help of two stacked neutral-density filters totalling 5-stops of ‘darkening’. ND filters have huge creative advantages for landscape photographers: they facilitate dynamic imagery, eliminate visual clutter and introduce an element of anticipation.
Since reading Galen Rowell’s ‘Mountain Light’ I have long championed the creation of dynamic images, and what better way to dynamise our imagery than to take control over time, to celebrate the ‘moment’ over the ‘instant’ and allow blurring of the moving elements within a scene. This isn’t just simply about sticking a Big-Stopper in front of the camera for every image; it is assuming control over simplification of texture to a carefully controlled degree, by varying the length of exposure depending on the image. ND filters facilitate this by forcing the necessary, but welcome, requirement of longer exposures at any given aperture and ISO setting.
Such controlled blurring of the moving elements introduces an increasing degree of homogeneity to areas within the scene, this has the effect of simplifying the image, creating a degree of ‘negative space’. Such textural reduction provides a visual contrast with the main subject and helps to emphasise it within the composition. The longer the exposure, the more texture is subdued, but unless we use exposures of several minutes, there is often a degree of subtle form that remains, like the wave patterns in the foreground of this image.
The final advantage of ND filters is perhaps more nebulous: because they encourage longer exposures, they slow down the whole process of making a digital image, they allow us to imbibe more of our surroundings while we await the appearance of the captured image on the LCD and at the same time, there is a growing anticipation, they make the moment last.