Saturday, 25 July 2015

Inspired by walks in Rye and Hastings

Yew and Boat
If the weather on our visit to Rye was mixed – two days sunny and dry, two days wet and grey – it didn’t ruin the trip.

On Sunday, with drizzle in the air, we headed back out across the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve to Camber Castle, a low fortification built by Henry VIII.

Now a ruin – and only open to the public on limited days – our only company as we gazed inside were sheep.

The Little Gate
It was a walk that had already taken in the Stanton shelter from WWII, and the sight of a lone Spitfire above the salt marshes, banking
and turning to head back east.

I’ve seen Spitfires before – and Hurricanes and a Lancaster bomber: ceremonial fly-pasts in London come in low over our little patio garden, with The Mall just seconds away; so low, you can see the markings on the wings above.

But to see one like this, as one would surely have seen one, 75 years ago during the Battle of Britain, over this same landscape, had something both awesome and haunting about it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera to hand.

The Gate Post
And later, when we spotted a hare leaping among sheep in the distance, and shortly afterwards, a marsh harrier hovering over the vegetation, the camera was absent too – but not our pleasure in seeing such sights.

There were flocks of geese – of at least two species – plus ducks (not just mallards), and a family of swans out for a Sunday morning swim with a cygnet.

You could stand in the middle of the reserve, reeds towering on one side, and listen as the wind rustled through the greenery: the only sound to be heard. In London, there is always at least the background hum of traffic.

As reported previously, it’s an environment that provides plenty of inspiration for local artists – and little wonder.

Camber Castle
So to conclude these posts about the trip, here is a small selection of my own efforts, inspired by the same surroundings.

The photographs were all taken on an iPhone 6 Plus, which saves lugging something bigger around and produces some very good results. They have been processed in Photoshop and I have experimented with a wider variety of approaches than usual.

The first one, Yew and Boat, was taken on the Friday walk and is a perfect illustration of how, sometimes, youre torn between whether to not to use monochrome or colour.

Sheep Under the Hawthorne
Its wonderful in either, but I think the colour version simply sings – and, of course, alongside the others, gives a real impression of just how sunny it was.

I admit to be particularly please with this – a good framing, but still requiring the fortune to come upon it.

The Little Gate is another where I was fortunate enough to spot it – and the contrasts between the light and shaw work so well.

Its almost a cliche of the English countryside – and none the worse for that.

Gate Post, Camber Castle and Sheep Under the Hawthorne were all taken on the Sunday walk, in the conditions mentioned above.

Door at Ypres Tower
The first of these has been de-saturated – a quite trendy look – and has been sharpened to bring out the detail even more. The second has a simple monochrome treatment.

The third has had some desaturation – but nowhere near as much as the Gate Post, and has none of the same degree of sharpening.

And while I appreciate that its the wrong part of the country, theres something about the subject that makes me think instantly of Thomas Hardys novels.

Door at Ypres Tower is just what it says on the tin – but works well in black and white, which adds drama to the strength of the inside of the door itself.

Anchor Detail
Anchor Detail is also what it says. This is a close-up of part of the wood of a two-ton Napoleonic anchor thats on display alongside the net shops in Hastings.

While photographed like this it becomes abstract, theres so much beauty in the pattern and colour of the wood.

Lastly, Ive included Teasel, which was done on a 15x10cm scraperboard, taken from a photo I shot during the first walk on the nature reserve.

I did quite a lot of scraperboards in the mid 1970s, copying an etching of an otter that my parents had, and selling form for something like a fiver a throw.

It was last year when, contemplating producing my own Christmas cards for the first time, I bought a packet of small boards – black ink over a gold-coloured background – in order to produce an image.

It took some time to get back into the swing of it – and theres some debate about how much I managed that – but while I wasted plenty of the small boards, I found myself with two left.

A picture of a teasel, snapped from above during our first walk in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve had the sort of graphic quality that seemed to be crying out for a treatment along these lines.

Its a reasonable effort, I think – given how long ago it is since I played with the technique.

I hope you enjoy these pictures here – it is, of course, entirely possible that the inspiration will continue in the coming days and weeks.

But only time will tell – and that will be for another post, another day.

• All images are copyright.

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