Tracie Callaghan

fine art | photography

Of light and land...

PhotographyTracie CallaghanComment

With all the dreary wet weather we’ve been having lately it made a real change to see some sunshine. No more encouragement was needed, the camera was grabbed and off to Frensham Ponds for a mooch about and to snap some sights.

Frensham common is an area of almost 1000 acres of heathland in the surrey hills, with two large artificial ponds created in the Middle Ages to provide the Bishop of Winchester with carp for his estate.

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These days it’s owned by the National Trust and designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), largely due to its heathland supporting a number of rare species of wildlife including all five native snakes and lizards. Not that I saw any, but I did see a small group of people making what appeared to be a pop video; complete with lights, camera and pink smoke machine!

As it was such a nice sunny day I took along my Infrared filter to try out after some success setting the white balance correctly. I won’t bore you with the details, but basically I’ve worked out how to retain some colour in the image, rather than looking all just red and fit for only black and white conversion. When I saw this tree standing all by itself, I knew it was the perfect subject. I’m a real sucker for a lone tree – like most photographers.

Leaving the tree and Great Pond behind it was a quick walk up to the top of Kings Ridge as the locals call it. Along the ridge are four bowl barrows,  scheduled ancient monuments believed to date from anywhere between the Neolithic to Bronze Age and used to cover the remains of long forgotten ‘kings’.

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Time for some more Infrared photography, at which point I discover my 50mm isn’t really suited for IR as it creates a very obvious hot spot in the centre of the images when pointed any where remotely facing the sun. On the plus side it was a good spot for some HDR (high dynamic range) panoramas of Frensham Great Pond.

A few more interesting facts for you now – the area was used as tank training grounds during the second world war, when the lakes were drained so prevent aiding German Bomber’s by providing location markers.

And in a completely different vein, have you seen the 1999 file The Mummy? You know the one with Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and John Hannah? (yes I did just look that up on IMDb!) And not forgetting all the sand, scarabs, general Egyptian-yness and Imhotep himself? Well, that wasn’t the Nile, that was Frensham Ponds! Apparently the setting for the filming of various scenes on the Nile. Who knew!?

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Passing by the reeds the other side of the lake is more heavily wooded and largely coniferous. The sun shining through the trees was really quite something magical, streaming down in rays and lighting up the bracken a bright orange.  It brings to mind the forests of Tolkien, where elves might wander and most definitely bears and wolves.

The sun is starting to get low, late in its winter arc and the light just keeps getting better and better. Despite how I dislike the dark, cold months of winter, I cannot deny that when it chooses to it puts all the other seasons to shame. There’s a magical, ethereal quality to it that brings legends and fairy stories to mind. A timelessness that makes you wonder how many others, how long ago, stopped and stood just like you; to take a moment and breathe it all in.

I know, I let my imagination run away with me – but it’s hard not to in an ancient landscape with scenes like these.

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