Tuesday, September 08, 2009

View of Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire

click photo to enlarge
I had an email the other day from someone in the United States who'd been following my photographs from Grimsthorpe Castle with some interest. In the course of quite a long passage my correspondent asked if I had taken a shot of the main elevation that I could post.

It occurred to me that the idea of a main elevation is an interesting one. On most buildings it can be identified quite easily - it's where the main entrance lies. However, on some large buildings there may be more than one significant entrance, so it's not so easy to identify which is the principal one. Many years ago I took part in a planning inquiry into a proposed public building. The organisation I was associated with had concerns about the way the new building would fit in with the older buildings around it. In particular, we could see that the main elevation faced the main road, and the subsidiary, less well-managed elevations faced a selection of historic buildings. The architect was at pains to point out that his design gave equal importance to all elevations - it plainly didn't - and that he had put great emphasis on harmonising with the context. Successive owners and builders of Grimsthorpe Castle have also tried to give all four elevations strength and purpose. However, it seems the case that over time there has always been a recognisable main elevation, but it has moved from the south (see this earlier blog post) to the north (above).

What makes me say that the shot above shows the principal facade? Well the straight, third of a mile drive in a direct line, from the park gates towards the centre of this composition, gives it massive emphasis. Then the walled courtyard with its low corner towers and carriage turning space builds on this. And finally the imposing front, with banks of windows, tall flanking towers, and a large, central doorway seal the argument. Interestingly, a north-facing elevation is never seen with quite the effect that those facing other directions manage, simply because it is in shadow for much of the day, and the sun cannot model the architecture so well. That also presents a problem for the photographer. My answer was to stay well back for the shot and give the facade the context of parkland, trees and sky.

I took a photograph of the west elevation earlier in the year whilst walking near the Castle. The way the roof line falls from the north front (left) down to the south front (right) clearly shows where the main emphasis lies.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On