I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
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Extracted


‘Extracted’, The British Extracting Company Ltd, Sculcoates, Hull
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, 24-70mm f/2.8 L @ 52mm, 1/2 sec @ f/16
LEE Polariser filter.
Manfrotto 441 tripod, Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

“I felt rather anxious for the graffiti artists who must have risked life and limb to practice their art without being ‘extracted’.”

‘Extracted’

I fell in love with this huge derelict old mill the moment I set eyes upon it, in the rear-view mirror of my car while driving past one day in search of decaying urban imagery. It was not until the following day that I made my image, after spending some time visualising this exact result. On the day of capture, the light was ideal for an extracted image, dull and overcast, non-directional, perfect lighting to saturate the beautiful colours and emphasise the texture of this urban monolith.

The towering wall begged for a head-on two dimensional capture emphasising the awesome rustic stone lettering like the title of some tome, imposing, important, describing everything that lay beneath it. The geometric multitude of bisecting horizontal and vertical lines provided a powerful orderly and repetitive backdrop for the imposing diagonal railings of the rickety rusty old staircase. I felt rather anxious for the graffiti artists who must have risked life and limb to practice their art without being ‘extracted’.

Images of two-dimensional objects like walls can often be quite powerful. Maybe this is because photographs normally distil three-dimensional subjects into two-dimensional representations. A photograph of a two-dimensional object is therefore closer to reality. There is a disadvantage though. The two-dimensional nature of a wall means that the entire image consists of subject matter occupying the ‘middle-ground’, there is no foreground or distant content. There is a danger that such a narrow plane of interest could diminish depth but fortunately, in this case there were some compensating features. Although the majority of the wall contains a great amount of detail, it is nevertheless quite homogenous, providing a ruddy-brown backdrop that allows the lighter railings of the staircase and brightly coloured graffiti to really jump out from the page.

Although the final image is two-dimensional, I was actually standing at ground level pointing my camera up at the wall. The bottom of the wall was much nearer to me than the top. I selected an aperture of f/16 to ensure that the whole wall fell within the resultant large depth-of-field. The histogram was narrow as you might expect in dull lighting, so as usual, I intentionally overexposed to produce a histogram to the right of centre. This results in a technically superior result once exposure is corrected back to normal in RAW conversion.

Back home in the digital darkroom I used Photoshop’s free transform tool to ‘correct’ the perspective as though I had made the image hovering about 100 feet above the ground looking directly at the wall. Judicious use of curves and a pinch of posterisation to intensify the colours completed the effect.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.