Posts Tagged ‘solstice’

Solstice 2006

Monday, December 21st, 2020

Today, 21 December 2020 is the Winter Solstice, when in London we have only 7 hours 49 minutes and 41 seconds (or 42 seconds) between sunrise at 8.03 am and sunset at 15.53 pm. It’s a depressing time of year for photographers who work outdoors, though we have now passed the earliest sunset which was on 12 December at 15.51pm. Sunrise continues to get later until almost the end of the month, but at 8.06am I’m usually still eating my breakfast rather than wanting to take pictures.

I had forgotten when I began this piece what it was that dragged me away from the fireside and out to take pictures on 21st December 2006, but I had been working on a set of pictures for the book by Cathy Ross, ‘The Romance of Bethnal Green‘. As my text below makes clear, although most of my pictures which feature in it (and I get a credit on the cover and title page) are from the 1980s and 90s, I think she had wanted a picture of the frieze on the Bethnal Green Museum (a double page black and white spread on p36-7) and I had gone up to take this, but I also took a short walk around the area and made a few more pictures.

You can see some of these in My London Diary, beginning towards the bottom of the page for December 2006 under the title Bethnal Green Solstice. In the colum to the left is the following text:

thursday was a cold dark day, the mercury hanging on zero and grey in the air, a fog which never quite cleared. i needed just one more picture for the project on bethnal green and emerged from the underground half an bour before the shortest day of the year officially turned to night. having done what i had to do, i kept walking as it got darker still, and more lights came on.

My London Diary then was a rather more tentative and arty production , even less polished than in later years, and I then eschewed capitalisation, writing in a rather less formal style.

There are 13 panels along the side of the museum facing the park, each depicting a rural pasttime, and I photographed thoroughly in the dying light in various combinations and some singly. I was working by then with a Nikon D200, with a much improved viewfinder over the D100 I’d started with and which gave 10Mp files. Later when I got home I chose the image above – with ‘Picking Apples’ and ‘Fishing’ – and converted it to black and white for publication, cropping it slightly at the right to fit the double page.

Having taken the necessary image, I walked north up Cambridge Heath Road to the canal, taking a few pictures as I went and on my way back, including a couple more of the museum. The light had been dim when I was photographing the frieze, but it was now definitely dark, with most of the lighting coming from the street lights. I was soon back on the train having spent around an hour on the streets taking pictures.

These pictures were all made at ISO 800, though on at least one the shutter speed was only 1/13s. Even at this relatively low speed some have a high degree of noise. They may have been underexposed but I think that comparing them to pictures taken with the D750 or D810 shows the great advance in sensor quality over the past decade or so. And I suspect re-editing the files in Lightroom now would show the improvements made in software too. The noise isn’t (at least to me) objectionable, any more than the grain in a black and white film image would be, but it is noticeable.

More in Bethnal Green Solstice.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Summer Is Here

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

I woke up this morning just after 4am as I often do these days and made my way to the bathroom. A glimpse out of the window as I made my way back to bed assured me that there was little point waiting the few minutes until 04.26 to see the sun rise. And probably not to turn on the computer to watch that even live from Stonehenge, open this year only to a small team live-casting it to the nation and quite a large team of security guards. The sun, as English Heritage commented on Twitter was “elusive”, failing to put in an appearance.

I’ve never been to join the Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, though I have visited the site on several occasions, the first as a young teenager when ‘Group’ pulled up the lorry taking us to Scout summer camp in Cornwall by the side of the road and we jumped down and rushed towards the stones.

Earlier this year, going through my old slides, I came across the picture at the top of this post, taken I think around 1980. I remembered having made a number of trips to Wiltshire with a group of photographers, but had completely forgotten going to Stonehenge to photograph the sunset over the stones. Of course over the years I’ve seen so many pictures of the place, some more memorable than this.

Although we drove by it on a number of occasions, I think this was the only time we stopped to take photographs, mainly concentrating on wider landscapes and on other mysterious and sacred sites including Silbury Hill and Avebury.

I found the circle of stones at Avebury perhaps more interesting than Stonehenge and visited them several times with the late Terry King, including at least one visit where we struggled to photograph them with a large wooden Kodak 10×8″ camera which he had on loan for several years to make large negatives for alternative printing processes. We’d learnt to use it in my back garden and by the Thames not far away, almost mastering its movements and the sequence of operations, and I acted as his unpaid assistant for several trips including to Avebury.

It would have been Terry who took us to Stonehenge too. I’m not sure if we were inside the fenced area to take the pictures, but if so I suspect he will have used his many connections to get us inside free of charge, perhaps as official photographers. Though I think the 10×8″ probably stayed in the car boot on this occasion.

Like many of the colour transparencies I took in the 1970s and 1980s the two here have deteriorated over the years in storage, and both required extensive digital retouching. But though there were local patches where mould had damaged the images, the overall colour remained. With many of my slides of Avebury, fading of the colour pigments has made recovery impossible. I did make a few black and white pictures, like that above – made inside a damp mist covering the area which seemed to suit the subject.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.