Willing Suspension of Disbelief

‘Turf Fen’, Turf Fen Wind-Pump, How Hill, Norfolk
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 17-40mm f/4 L @ 17mm, 4 seconds @ f/16, ISO 50
LEE 3-Stop ProGlass ND + Singh-Ray ‘Gold-N-Blue’ Polariser Filter.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

“In reality of course, reflections in water are usually the same colour as the sky they reflect.”

Willing Suspension of Disbelief

By the end of the 18th century, following the Age of Enlightenment, high-society shunned superstition, the science savvy intelligentsia were wise to the ways of the new-world and the Industrial Revolution was having a profound cultural impact. Creatives like writers and artists found the dehumanising effects of all this scientific and industrial rationalisation stifling. In 1798, the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth published a joint volume of poetry, ‘Lyrical Ballads’ which marked the start of the English romantic movement.

Romanticism allowed feeling, intuition and spirituality to continue to permeate the art world, and it modernised literature and the visual arts. Intellectuals, who were accepting of the enlightened and rationalised society, were able to embrace the emotive and supernatural world of romanticism due to the genius of Coleridge in popularising the concept of ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’. Coleridge professed that educated audiences might willingly allow themselves to be entertained with otherwise fanciful romantic ‘make-believe’, by intentionally suspending their rational beliefs, in order to be entertained more imaginatively. He maintained that the inclusion of a “semblance of truth” was necessary to secure collusion. ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ remains a ubiquitous principle in the movie industry, television, literature and the visual arts, including landscape photography.

My image this month was made in the golden-hour surrounding dusk opposite this lovely old wind-pump in Norfolk; a pictorialist portrayal, blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction. It was made with a Singh-Ray ‘Gold-N-Blue’ Polarizer; a bi-colour polarising filter that provides a continuously variable change in polarisation and emphasis between the two colours gold and blue as it is rotated.

In reality of course, reflections in water are usually the same colour as the sky they reflect, but even with less than perfect conditions, this filter allows our creative juices to flow freely and creates fictional but compelling images with wonderful complementary colours in-camera. One thing to watch with this filter is that, just like any other polariser, with wide-angle lenses, the effect can vary noticeably throughout the frame. Some post-processing was required here to rebalance the effect throughout the length of the lower half of the image. My hope here, is that I might persuade you to ‘suspend your disbelief’ and enjoy this visual fantasy with me.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.