Monday, November 27, 2006

The Eyecatcher

click photo to enlarge
The English tradition in landscape gardening grew out of eighteenth century Romanticism. Forsaking the formal garden ideas of the French and Dutch, with their neat geometrical parterres, the English took the paintings and ideas of seventeenth century artists like Claude Lorrain and Nicholas Poussin, and turned them into reality. The grounds of country houses were effectively moulded to look like sublime paintings!

However, the paintings that these wealthy people admired, whilst sometimes based on actual landscapes, were often either augmented by imaginary additions, or entirely the product of the artist's mind. Consequently when designers like Lancelot "Capability" Brown and Humphrey Repton came to create these desired landscapes, they had to add not only lakes, streams, and trees, but also rock outcrops and romantic "eyecatchers". Popular eyecatchers included a columned and domed "temple", a ruined turret on a rocky prominence, a bridge, a statue (perhaps a stag or a nymph) on an elaborate pedestal, or an ornamental cottage (which might also house the gamekeeper). This idea of a focal point in a landscape was carried through into nineteenth and early twentieth century century park design, where bandstands, fountains, sculpture, and pavilions often served as visual punctuations.

The Mount Pavilion, at Fleetwood is just such an eyecatcher, located at the summit of a small park overlooking the sea. Its elaborate design, clock, and columned verandahs, as well as its prominent site, all draw the eye - and they draw the photographer too! My shot was taken on a November afternoon, against the light. The bare silhouetted trees, the building's complex shape and the wispy clouds in the blue sky all pointed to a photograph, but a figure was needed. I rejected a solitary walker - not enough interest. But then a cyclist appeared, giving the necessary focus and detail that the right of the image required. I used a wide zoom lens at 44mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera at ISO 100, Aperture Priority (f9) at 1/320 second, and the EV at -0.7. The high contrast black and white conversion gives greater emphasis to the shapes on that windy hilltop.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen