Some time ago* I posted a picture made the same day as this was in November 2010, except in that one I was pointing the camera across the fields to the right of this scene.
It shows part of the road called The Struggle in Cumbria, England, which runs between the town of Ambleside and the Kirkstone Pass Inn. We’d driven it the day before on our way to Ullswater from where we were staying at Rydal, and I’d made a mental note to come back the next morning to get some snaps.
As it happened, the next morning threw all sorts of weather our way - it started off raining and remained quite windy, with clouds scudding across the sky allowing brief moments when the sun was able to poke through - there is even some snow on the hills in the far distance. So it rewarded a bit of patience and, as I’d come there for the precise reason of looking for a good photo op, I was quite happy to find a picturesque spot and linger until (hopefully) something interesting started to happen with the light. On days like this one, it invariably does.
I am really happy with this picture, which is one of several I took at the time of variations on the same scene. All of a sudden a vivid sweep of sunlight shone through between some clouds at a really interesting angle, brightly illuminating the foreground rock wall and barn to the left, the top rocks of the wall on the right and the background hills. The parts of rock wall left in shadow provided wonderful modelling and a sense of depth, and the sky appeared a lovely churning grey that looked incontrovertibly moody.
This happened very fleetingly, and was gone by the time I went to take another picture from a slightly different angle. I had a few cameras with me that day with various lenses, but I think this picture, taken on Tri-X with my Canon A1 and a 100mm f2 lens (which is simply the camera I happened to have in my hand at that moment), remains my favourite. It is, to my mind, a really good example of how black and white landscapes can be so powerful, evocative and so visceral.
Thanks to the ruggedness of the terrain, and given the name of the road and the apparent volatile nature of the weather, the picture powerfully suggests determination to make good in the face of adversity. Certainly this would hold true for those hardy current-day cyclists who try to conquer the gruelling 20% incline. Technically the picture runs the complete gamut between black and white, and even abstractly as just an example of a black and white picture I think it works quite well.
As an aside, I’d actually sold the lens I used to take this picture, but when I rescanned and looked at the picture again I decided to buy another copy. Which is not to suggest that the lens makes the picture or that you can’t get the picture with some other camera or lens - but because looking at this picture brought back the experience somewhat, and made me realize that I was very comfortable with the gear I’d used that day, and being comfortable with the tools you use leads to using them better.
Sometimes pictures do that for you, and more, don’t they?
* August 7 last year, in fact.