Back to Newark Cemetery again, which is proving to be a great source of inspiration (I hope no-one finds this too depressing – for me it’s a place of peace and beauty). I went there intending to photograph the banks of snowdrops and crocus each side of the main path through it, but nothing worked the way I wanted it to and I found myself doing something entirely different.
The cemetery is full of trees, some of them very old, and what caught my attention was the intricate criss-crossing of the skeleton branches. It’s a difficult thing to make something of, because there’s so much going on and framing it in a way that makes visual sense is challenging. What started me off was the walk down the main pathway – there are very tall trees either side of what is quite a narrow path, and some of them lean in over the path. Looking up into them, it felt as if they were about to fall in on me. The image above was the one I took at that point.
I began to get an idea. By underexposing a little, I could emphasise a feeling of darkness and threat, an ominous quality. This isn’t at all how I felt, incidentally, but I liked the look of the images and felt that portraying the place this way was something I wanted to explore. This is a darker kind of vision for me – most of my pictures are light, bright and colourful, but there comes a time when it’s good to investigate other types of expression. There is also a certain Gothic element to this place that I feel these pictures bring out. These are not huggable, friendly trees – these are strong, silent, don’t-mess-with-me kind of trees.
The images have very little post-processing. They were deliberately under-exposed in-camera and I didn’t mess with the exposure settings afterwards. What I did experiment with was a technique I’d heard of but hadn’t tried before – when processing the RAW files I moved the clarity slider in the opposite direction to usual, making the images softer rather than sharpening them (which is what you’d usually use it for). I tried it both ways, but really liked the slight softening effect and so I went with that.
‘When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity?’