Mill Isle, Ireland

From Mill Isle, Ireland tradiional monochrome photographic artist specialises in abstract realism and the interplay of light and shade. ...

Insight into an Image #1 Miller Lite

Insight behind the image.: Miller lite

It was eight years ago, an August bank holiday Monday, just before three o’clock in the afternoon;

It was only a very basic early digital compact camera, with a maximum file size of just 1002.9KB (1026922 Bytes); tiny in comparison with some of today’s cameras.

It doesn’t work any more; it is nothing compared to today’s digital offerings; but it hadn’t cost me anything, …. and to be honest although I’ll never capture anything with it again.

It had its limitations, but I’ll never throw it out ~ it’s in my sock drawer, and will remain there. Simple reason it enabled me not only to capture some significant images on my journey through photography, and in doing so taught me a little bit more about the place of digital photography in the grand scheme of things.

[A short time before, I was in the doctor’s surgery waiting room, waiting for a flu jab; when this bloke from England contacted me on my new mobile phone. He was from a leading camera magazine. Tell me about how you captured the red glass windows with a cement mixer in the background. Why, came my reply!? Well you have just won £1000. It is our magazine’s image of the year. Having picked myself up off the floor; I gave him an answer which satisfied him and enough for the headliner and article for the magazine. A month later I had been to the local Jessops camera shop and collected my prize. All I had to do was buy a compact flash card. That set me back £90 for a ‘huge’ 125MB card which would give me 36 frames.]

So I went local, took frames carefully and sparingly. I achieved a Focal Length of 7.1 mm with a Shutter Speed of 1/23.2 second and an Aperture of F2.8. With a tiny low level of light from a small windmill attic window, I wasn’t expecting anything much. I had fifteen minutes before the place closed.

It was low light; and the extremely bright outside simply served to make my eyes dimmer; and I had poor eyesight even then and honestly couldn’t see much to compose.

I had only one chance; no bracketing, no second or third frame attempt. It was a one off, but it had shadows, shape and structure; it was different from anything I had ever taken before; but it was intriguing, and I liked the result!

I didn’t compose it, neither did I calculate an exposure, or select a particular lens or aperture for the environment, conditions or setting. In fact I never do, I only use one lens; it is to do with the eye-brain-capture theory. If I were to involved in decision-making surrounding lens diameter, aperture or exposure setting then I would quite simply miss the photographic moment! The lens I use quite simply has to be one which has to represent my natural eye view.

The wider the lens employed at the capture stage; (I use a 20mm lens 90 – 95% of the time) which for me provides a better perspective. It not only allows you to take in more, or it can exclude more. It is critical in design and depth, as well as being better balanced for light.

The lens on the Nikon Coolpix 5000 used in this particular image is 7 mm which is equivalent to my normal 20mm Nikkor lens (used initially in my Nikon F film format bodies) (and then subsequently later with my Nikon D digital SLRs.)

I use program mode; on the simple basis that the hundreds or thousands of experts at Messrs. Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Sony et al have at their disposal more knowledge and resources etc. than you or I will ever have, given that they have our thousands or millions of our collective monies invested in devising the best systems and programs. Apart from that it allows me to get on with something rather more important ~ i.e. focusing on the scene and subject and giving my undivided attention to that.

The white light in the centre with no detail at first glimpse looks out of place suggesting disambiguation or disagreement with the rest of the scene. However I perceive it as echoing and referencing the only other light source, an identical window on the opposite side. It enables the illumination of the scene and an insight into the image.

I had never thought of it before (but have often done since) that it was the influence of Jean-Lou Sieff and his fantastic and inspiring images of monochrome and models that had embedded itself on my brain as a right route to travel.

I was always intrigued by shadows and shadow play (as many of you may have guessed by now through perusing my image portfolio) and I suppose some sub-consciously find their way into my captures and images.

Apart from shadows, shape and structure and space plays an essential part in my designing of an image and the story it tells.

Space; The space (not to be confused by the place) here is cramped and confined; which is another reason why I use a wide angle lens which will incorporate as much as possible into the scene, study or scenario. It also affords a more natural image environment enabling the viewer eye to travel around the space and pick up perhaps even more than what I have spotted or focussed upon.

[A photographic image frame landscape or portrait contains length and height; but photographic space has to be designed to have length, height and depth. Space includes the background, foreground and middle ground, refers to the distances or areas around, between or within components of a piece. There are two type of space: positive and negative space. Positive space refers to the space of a shape representing the subject matter. Negative space referring to the space around and between the subject matter.]

Structure I believe is a fundamental, if intangible, notion referring to the recognition, observation, nature and stability of patterns and relationships of entities. The wooden structure of the hopper between echoed and related to the shadows on the wall via the dark foreground shapes and forms.

The light (or rather lack of it in part) suggests abandonment and equally perhaps redundancy of usage which is I believe is appropriate to current utility and function of the mill as a shadow of its former self in a past era, born out by the shadows on the wall relating to a time past and gone.

So how does it work in this particular image. I perceive it to be a dynamic image. Dynamism in an image is extremely important and here I sense flow or play to the image via the nuances of ‘notional movement’ through the interplay of light and shade, from the evidence of the light source through the detail and shadow on the wooden structure and on across to the shadows on the wall. There is (intentionally) little or much above this line of left to right that occupies the centre of the capture.

Shadows are there whether we like them or not; perhaps they can teach us lessons about life; maybe even revealing connections or connotations of something of the past. They are not dead or lifeless; instead they move, have motion and flow. They can be fascinating. They form part of storytelling. They can be inquisitive; causing us to consider or contemplate the whys and wherefores, the when’s and the what’s!

It is a well known tourist attraction of Northern Ireland; and oft photographed from the outside. I spend time inside as I sense a smorgasbord of storytelling awaiting to be revealed.

That short time spent at Ballycopeland Windmill was to play a part in my future, I moved to just a mile of there to the townland of Ballycopeland, Mill Isle, County Down just six months ago.

I hope you have enjoyed this insight. Maybe you have a different interpretation than my own background to, or insight of my image; and in fact it may be even more relevant and worth sharing. If so, please do via feedback and comment.

Journal Comments

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