Sunday, August 02, 2009

Harvest evening

click photo to enlarge
One of the things that photography does very well is document the past. Yet, inevitably, when the photographs were taken that recorded the world of the past, it was the present. In fact, it's probably true to say that most photographs that we use today to see what the past was like weren't taken with that purpose in mind. The exceptions to this rule include the work of documentary photographers such as recently deceased Jimmy Forsyth (1913-2009) who chronicled a disappearing kind of working class life in North-East England, and also the work of specialists associated with heritage organisations who document buildings, transport, artefacts, etc.

I must say that I've only rarely taken photographs with a view to recording something for posterity, yet I suppose that quite a few of my images could be used in that way. However, two years ago, at the beginning of August, I took the photograph shown above. I took it because it was unusual in showing a method of collecting and transporting straw that seemed to have died out. As I write this piece the combine harvesters are rolling over the Fenland wheat fields, gathering up the seed, depositing the straw in neat lines, and other machines are coming along and converting those rows into multiple, squat, cylindrical bales. That has been the way for many years now, and yet here were these trailers piled up with straw that, for all I know, could have been loaded with pitchforks. It was like a scene from fifty years ago. Swap the wheels for ones with wooden spokes and rims wrapped with steel, and it could be a scene from a hundred years ago. Why this reversion to times past, I thought? Had the baling machine broken down? Was someone shooting a movie that was set in the 1950s? I'll never know, but what I do know is that if this image only existed as a print it would be impossible to date it with any accuracy. As a digital file, of course, it carries its birth certificate wherever it goes!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On