Wednesday, January 24, 2007


click photo to enlarge
Ferns came into being three hundred million years ago in the forests of the Carboniferous period. They pre-date flowering plants, and the examples that we find fossilized in rocks and coal seams look remarkably like those that we see around us today. Clearly ferns are a successful species that found their niche early in evolutionary terms.

Shady, damp places are where we see ferns. Bank sides, dark rock crevices, old walls and under the woodland canopy are typical habitats for the different species that are found across the world. Victorian gardeners favoured the fern: they collected them, cultivated them, and prized their arching fronds, indented leaves, and the way they uncurl in the spring, as if stretching from their winter sleep. However, like the laurel and the rhododendron, the fern fell out of favour and gardeners in the twentieth century saw them as "old-fashioned". The more open, brighter gardens that were created needed the particular qualities of this plant less. Today however, gardeners are re-discovering the value of the fern, particularly in smaller plots that are over-shadowed by buildings.

I found these ferns growing from the top of a wall near Scorton, Lancashire. The wall was beautifully constructed in the nineteenth century and looks like it has needed little attention since that time. Overhanging conifers shelter these ferns, and consequently the tempestuous winter weather has left them relatively unscathed. I photographed them on a cold, bright day, when shafts of sunlight were piercing the shade, illuminating the sharp, serrated fronds, and throwing their shadows across the wall. The contrast between the vegetation and the stonework seemed like a good subject for an image, and so I composed accordingly. I used a zoom lens at 110mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f6.3 at 1/60 second), ISO 200 and -1.0EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen