Saturday 15 August 2015

Using New Eyes Part 2

This is the second of an occasional series of posts in which I take time off documenting the park to reflect on how this project is teaching me to appreciate and enjoy Milton Country Park even more.  In the first part I showed that simply paying attention to my surroundings opened up whole new worlds to explore.  In this post, I look at how using an inappropiate idea of what makes a good landscape photograph has blinded me to the charm of the country park.

Long view of lake, blue water reflecting blue sky, with trees all around
Dickerson's Pit - 21 July 2015
Some time ago, I read a quote that said we see 'landscape through art, and art through landscape'.  I believe the quotation was accredited to Cezanne, but I have been unable to confirm this.  It is probably more accurate today to say we see landscape through photographs.  It is through the thousands of images we are bombarded with every day that we form our expectations and prejudices as to what constitutes a good landscape photograph.

Received wisdom has it, that a landscape photograph is a grand, dramatic, vista preferably of wilderness, and certainly with no signs of the twenty first century.  Lakes, high waterfalls, and towering  mountains are essential elements.

Milton Country Park clearly does not fit this template.  It is part of lowland Britain, so mountains and waterfalls are out.  It is small at just 95 acres, and the longest vista, shown above, is the 400metres or so of Dickerson's Pit.

Ornamental trees on cut lawn surrounded by other trees
Remembrance Meadow - 23 July 2015

A shorter vista down Remembrance Meadow shows that the park is clearly a man made and managed landscape. No wilderness here!

It is not surprising that Milton Country Park does not fit the stereotype I have just described.  This type of landscape photography was developed by the early American photographers in the west of their country.  It was developed in response to the vast open spaces of that country, and as reaction to the prevailing European style of landscape painting of the fertile manicured landscape.  It seems to me that the latter is far more appropriate model for portraying England's green and pleasant land.  It is certainly how I now see the country park.

Calm water reflects a clear blue sky.  Water surrounded by trees of all kinds.
Dickerson's Pit - 12 June 2015

If instead of looking for and failing to find drama, we look for peace, tranquility and fertility, then it is not hard to find a beautiful image in the park. What could be more appealing than a clear blue sky reflected in a still lake surrounded by a symphony of verdant green vegetation?

Foreground of ragworts and seeding thistles in nettles leading to background of trees with seeding hemlock at base
South End of Park - 6 August 2015

Further more, what Milton Country Park may lack in drama, it more than makes up for in the variety of scenery and plant life in quite short distances.  In this image, the ragwort and thistle down provide foreground interest.  In the background, the feathery brown of the seeding hemlock sits at the base of a row of trees of differing textures and shades of green.  Yet the distance from foreground to background is less than 200 metres.

Ragwort and thistles besides path leading into woods.
Path at South East Corner of Park - 15 July 2015

Shortening the vista still further to, what is often referred to as an 'intimate landscape', moves the focus on to the interaction between the yellows of the ragwort and the purples of the thistles.  The path running alongside these plants leads into trees and a wholly different environment.  All in the space of just a few yards.

Comparing Milton Country Park and its representation in photographs with the type of dramatic grand vistas I described above is bound to be disappointing.  Looking instead at the park as part of England's green and pleasant land, with all the connotations that has, is far more fruitful and rewarding.  

Navigating This Blog

This blog tells the story of Milton Country Park during the year.  However, the easiest way to read the blog (or any blog) is backwards, which I find somewhat unsatisfactory; I would rather read a story forwards.  To make it easier to read the blog in the more natural forward direction, I have added a link under 'The Year So Far' in the sidebar on the right.  Click on this link and you will be taken to the first post of the blog.  At the bottom of this and every other post except the latest, there is a 'NEXT' link which will take you to the next more recent post. 

NEXT: Summer Flowers

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