I was privileged to take a peek into the past of an Estonian friend’s childhood, visiting the village of Kassari on the island of Hiiumaa. The family Summer house is a thatched, weather-beaten log cabin, which reeks of time.
I tried to soak in the atmosphere with my eyes, ears, nose and camera, enjoying the gently overgrown garden and the house, then concentrating on individual details of life gone by – an abandoned millstone, stacks of Winter wood, a barred, wooden window shutter, a cobweb. I felt like I could have bumped into the seven dwarves heading out of the house to work in their mine or Hansel and Gretel playing hide and seek among the trees.
The light was filtered softly through the surrounding forest and created strange shadows on the moss-covered and weather-beaten wooden constructions. Everything was bathed in a gentle glow.
As I took more time to focus on smaller things, I parked my tripod near the front door and went to investigate its handle. My response to the smooth, rust free, bare metal was influenced by my feelings when I see flights of worn steps in a palace or a church, shaped by aeons of shuffling feet as the faithful pressed in to pray, or servants rushed around doing their work. Who has been here? What were they doing? What were they thinking. Did they live peacefully, or with sadness?
The rough-hewn door planks were a tactile contrast to the hand-smoothed door handle. Their roughness, dents and scrapes spoke of resistance to rain, cold and heat and seemed to breathe out their own story of the moment of gladness to be home, hurrying in to eat or to rest.
Finally, the speckled, rusted fixing points, metal surfaces pocked by rust and the wind, subliminally spoke of the passage of much, much time and another age before aluminium and chrome.
Rather than struggle with shadows by pressing close to the door with a short focal length lens, I parked myself about 2 metres away and chose a long zoom lens. The combination of closeness and maximum zoom created a very tight view of the elements that mattered to me.
The greatest problem was the light glare on the curved metal surfaces. Correct exposure of these would over-darken the rest of the image and correctly exposing the main door would “blow out” the highlights.
The in-camera solution was a combination of using “spot” exposure calculation aimed at the highlight on the handle and using bracketing to give a choice exposed more “to the left”, emphasising the darker/left-hand side of the histogram.
In post-processing, the treatment was to reduce exposure and mildly increase contrast and brightness. Finally, sharpening was used quite aggressively, to bring out the texture of the wood.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G,
Focal Length: 200mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Shutter Speed: 1/50s
Exposure Mode : Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation : +0.3 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 100
Mounted on tripod
I hope you enjoyed this. Please take a moment to see other “instants decisifs” which have marked my photographic journey.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2017 All Rights Reserved