I haven’t had the feedback through from my last tutorial yet so I have concentrated on other areas of the course this week.
I was however intrigued why the footpath in my photograph of Flatford Mill and Constable’s painting of it was so different. According to the National Trust website in 1705 an act of Parliament was passed to make the River Stour navigable and then a turf-sided lock was installed in 1708. The turf in the lock was eventually replaced with wood in 1776, the same year that Constable was born and it is this lock that Constable included in his paintings. In 1838 a new wooden lock was installed next to the original lock so that the old lock could continue to allow boats to navigate the river while the new lock was being built.
In 1926 the wooden lock was replaced by a concrete lock and that was restored by volunteers int he mid 1970s. More recently in 1990 a weir was included in the lock construction to help manage the water levels during the winter.
The River Stour Trust website explains that “a distinguishing feature of the locks was the lintel that prevented the locks from collapsing inwards. This was almost unique to the Stour. The early designs of staunches or flash locks had a single gate that upon opening would release a sudden surge of water. Boats moving downstream would wait above the lock until the gate was opened and a ‘flash’ of water carried the boats with it. Later designs comprised two sets of lock gates and a central chamber. Craft enter the chamber and water is released either from or into the central chamber. This brings craft to the same level as the water beyond the second pair of gates to continue passage along the river.”
Although Constable included the lock in several of his paintings he often chose to leave out the lintels because this interfered with his sight-lines!
This week I’ve also been considering the copyright implications of using another artist’s work within my own.
According to the .gov website artistic work is copyrighted automatically and, for paintings, usually lasts for a minimum of life plus 70 years. This would mean that if there was no extension to the copyright it became available for Constable’s paintings in 2007. Additional to this, users may be allowed to use copyrighted material in a teaching environment or if a ‘less than substantial part of it would be seen.’ I plan to reduce the opacity of the representation of the Constable paintings I am using by 60-70% and blend out the edges so that I would actually only be using perhaps 20-25% of the original image. I think I should be ok.
After a week of terrible weather in Essex I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to get my camera out at all. Thankfully in the morning of the last day I was there the sun came out briefly and I dashed over to Dedham.
Although it was sunny it was bitterly cold, very windy and a weekday so I knew there would be few, if any, walkers or tourists around for me to include in the photos to give a modern day feel to them so I treated my time at Flatford as another test for some panoramas.
I started by setting my tripod up in front of the Haywain scene. My mind really wasn’t on what I was doing and it took a few sweeps of my camera before I was able to focus and count the number of photos I was taking for each panorama. At one point I was completely distracted by a fat Robin who hopped out of the hedge I was standing in front of and started scrabbling around my feet and turning over the dirt I had moved when setting up my tripod.
I eventually tried a couple of different focal lengths and two lenses but this panorama of three rows of eight photographs is my preferred.
Back on the laptop I used Photoshop to merge a copy of Constable’s Haywain on top of my photograph and reduced the opacity so that some of the photograph is still visible beneath.
The painting image that I have used is very low resolution and cannot be used for printing but on a screen I think it gives a really good illustration of how the landscape has and hasn’t changed.
I moved on to the scene of Constable’s Boat Building. By now I was in full swing and only needed to try a couple of different focal lengths in order to get what I wanted. In the end, this one of three rows of nine photographs is the one I prefer although I haven’t quite approached it from the right angle. I don’t have a decent copy of Constable’s Boat Building but from the images I have seen in the books I think I need to stand about a foot or two to the left to get it perfectly right.
Finally I moved on to the scene of Constable’s Flatford Mill. Again I only needed to try a couple of versions before I was satisfied. This version has three rows of eight photographs.
As with The Haywain I used Photoshop to overlay a copy of the painting onto the photograph. I think the Stour changed route slightly when a new lock was installed in 1838, just over 60 years after Constable was born, and this is why the towpaths are going at such different angles.
I chose to only take three of the scenes on this occasion, I wanted to know that I was getting these right before I moved on to take any more.
I think I will include a copy of the original painting overlayed on my photograph. I want it to be blended in well and a low 30% or 40% opacity so that viewers can see both the painting and the detail in the photograph below. I think this will give the painting context in the wider scene. Then if I keep the photograph black and white and the painting in colour, it should create a nice effect and add to the timeless nature of the countryside.
I have also decided to only use my digital camera for this project. I will ‘play’ further with the Rangefinder but I am pleased with the results of the digital panoramas and will stick with them.
I’ve included a gallery of all of the above images so that they can be viewed larger and in more detail.
This week I managed to take a few more photographs in Flatford of some of the Constable scenes. I will write up my efforts as soon as I can.
I also took the opportunity to shoot a roll of film on the 6×9 Rangefinder. It will be a couple of weeks before I can get into Hull to get it processed but I will do that as soon as I can.
This week I showed the print outs of the panoramas that I have done so far to someone who really liked the Alkborough image. They have asked for a copy that they will frame themselves. This means that I will need to work out a way of printing the image, or a portion of the image, at a size large enough to show all of the detail but not too large that it is too big for the room.
Other than that, I haven’t really managed to get much of my FMP done this week. I did a wedding on Saturday so I have been concentrating on getting the bride and groom their photos instead.
This week I have been to Flatford for a first test shoot around the area. I found it all a little bit overwhelming. I went with a National Trust guide who was so enthusiastic about what I was doing that I could hardly keep up with him and take it all in.
We began by looking around the site where the Haywain was sketched from – Constable made a lot of sketches and then painted the final paintings back in his studio.
Constable seems to have adjusted some of what he sees in order to make it look good on the canvas. The first thing that was pointed out to me was the roof on Willy Lott’s Cottage, in the Haywain painting it is much shorter than it is in real life.
The field at the back of the mill pond is now hidden by trees and long grasses and has a popular footpath running through it. The footpath where the dog is looking at the cart now has steps – incidentally the dark patch that can be seen on the painting next to the dog is from a painting underneath, the oil that has created the Haywain has worn thin over the years vaguely revealing what is underneath.
There is no fishing on the Mill Pond now and the only rowing boats are on The Stour, the other side of the mill.
I found that I couldn’t fit everything from the painting in my camera frame, even with my 18mm lens. I have had to stitch two photographs together in Photoshop. It is pretty close but still doesn’t include the end of the mill wall on the right side of the painting and also doesn’t include enough sky. Constable’s painting is dominated by a dark moody sky and I need to ensure that I include clouds too.
I took another couple of photographs and stitched them together with slightly more success. This time choosing to display the photograph in black and white with the contrast boosted to ensure as much detail can be seen as possible.
The second painting my guide talked to me about was Boat Building.
It had been raining heavily for several days before I went to take these photographs and the dock was full of water. Apparently there is a plug where the bow of the boat is in this painting that allows the water to drain out of the dock, under the canal and into a ditch on the far side of the river. I would like to return when the weather is dryer as some wooden boat rests can be seen in the dock when the water has gone.
My guide showed me an exact replica of one of Constable’s sketch books which includes a pencil sketch that he later used to help him complete the painting.
The National Trust cafe now sits on the right of this scene and wooden tables and chairs cover the field on the left.
Again I needed a very wide angle to take a photograph that included everything that is in the painting and still think that I could do with a slightly wider lens.
View on the Stour
A View on the Stour near Dedham is a view from the river, looking towards Dedham, at the entrance to the dry dock seen in the Boat Building painting above.
A new bridge has been built now and I was lucky enough to capture a wave from Mr and Mrs Claus as they were looking for small children to entertain. In the painting there is a lady with a baby on the bridge and as I was photographing a lady with a pushchair just happened to be passing across so I took another quick photograph of that. Also the cottage that can be seen on the right of the painting is now partially obscured by the cafe.
The season is closed for the winter and there are no boats on the river at all at the moment. There will be some small rowing boats available for hire from March or April but nothing the size of those in the painting and certainly nothing with a sail.
Dedham church, that can be seen in the distance of the painting is all but obscured by trees today.
I wasn’t standing in quite the right position for this photograph. I need to try again, standing closer to the dock and further to the right.
I have a panoramic setting on my camera and experimented with a panoramic photograph of the scene. It is quite interesting but I have taken it too low and missed the tops of the trees and sky from the image.
We crossed over the river to the foot of the bridge where my guide showed me the next view point.
Flatford Mill was painted a little differently to the others in the series. I understand that Constable set up a large piece of glass on a stand and etched into the glass what he saw through it. He then took that back to the studio took a rubbing of it which gave him a reverse image and then reversed and transferred that onto the canvas.
Constable did make other sketches from this spot which may also have helped him complete this painting.
Apart from the trees, this scene has changed very little since Constable painted it. And again I needed to stitch two photographs together in order to fit everything in the frame.
The painting shows quite a busy scene with people on both sides of the river but when I took these photos it was very cold and only a few dog walkers were around.
The ditch shown on the right of the painting is still in the landscape but cannot be seen from this angle. It goes from behind that green box and I think, in front of the trees. It is much smaller now than it was then.
We walked along the path ahead to the lock and the sight of the next painting, Boys Fishing.
Here I stopped a family and asked their two children to quickly pose for me.
I guess the main difference here is the lock. The lock in the painting has long since broken and the new lock was placed to the side of the original lock. I had taken in too much information by this point and was struggling to keep up with what my guide was saying so I will need to double check the details of this as I’m not sure if the footpath has been moved to the right too.
I only took one photograph of this scene because of the children getting bored and their parents also wanting to take photos and get in my space!
The viewpoint for The Lock is in the middle of the river so I am unable to photograph this viewpoint at the moment. I believe the boats will be available again in the spring so I may not be able to include this in my project until a later date.
Again it is worth noting that the lock is not the same lock and not in the same place so that will be reflected in my photograph when it is eventually taken. Below is the spot across the river that is the scene of The Lock but clearly not from the correct angle.
My guide had me climbing over the bank to show me a view of Willy Lott’s Cottage from the south of the river. Apparently there is a painting called The Ferry from this angle hanging in the Tate Gallery. I wasn’t aware of this painting and wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be photographing.
This is the photograph I took without having seen the painting. Clearly I am the wrong side of the tree!
Finally, after battling my way through some very boggy reeds and stinging nettles my guide took me to the spot where the White Horse was painted.
Again it was tricky trying to get everything in the frame and I think I will need to take a couple of photographs and stitch them together. You will notice that the river has changed shape considerably here with ‘the spong,’ that piece of land that causes the river to fork slightly, has grown to make the scene almost unrecognisable.
Climbing back up the bank with my guide and his daughter
This week a second copy of Constable’s The Lock goes up for auction. The first copy sold for £20m in 2012 and it is anticipated that this copy will be sold for even more. While researching this painting I came across this great little video that explains what is going on in the painting.
What I have also discovered is that the lock itself has moved. The original lock broke and the canal was diverted with a new lock installed right next to the original. This, and that the painting was sketched from a boat in the middle of the pond is going to make recreating this painting a bit tricky.