Bram Stoker was inspired by Whitby Abbey to write the story of Count Dracula. Had he visited Ely in the dark Winter months he would have found similar inspiration for a macabre Gothic novel. When glimpsed through the trees from the march on the opposite bank of the river there are few elements of 21st Century life to break the spell. A web of branches and ivy veils the tower, like a child looking in trepidation through half-open fingers.
The Fenland has visual riches in abundance, but these treasures are easily overlooked or unseen as we drive by on our way to somewhere else. Just off the Isle of Ely Way, or the A141, if you prefer the prosaic designation there is a wonderful example of a Fenland Farmhouse. It embodies the archetypal idea of a house, that childhood notion of what we think houses should look like. It could almost be a drawing, a blueprint. More or less symmetrical with a front door in the middle, uniformly spaced windows, and two chimneys at either end it surveys the flat open space of Curf Fen.
I have photographed this building on more than one occasion with limited success and this evening, with the Winter light fading fast, I was absolutely certain I had left it too late. I was mistaken. The low sun reflected in the broken glass of the upper windows briefly animated the facade providing a counterpoint to the encroaching darkness.
Photography differs from painting. Paintings liberate the artist from the tyranny of the subject and the objectivity of the lens. You can manipulate a photograph to create impossible realities and surreal events, but the light from objects passing through an optic is the starting point. Chance is a key element in a successful photograph, the chance alignment of distinct elements such as lighting, weather, people and place. What are the chances of standing in front of Ely Cathedral in a dense fog as a silhouetted monastic figure walks towards the Gothic doorway? Clearly, much higher than you would imagine if you photograph the Cathedral as many times as I do.
Lumix G9 Olympus 12-40 mm lens
Normally I process my Fenland images in monochrome, but for this scene, you really need colour. I took this photograph of Ely Cathedral in February 2018 and we are all hoping for similarly beautiful days this year too. Best wishes to all of you for 2021, it just has to be better than 2020.
Canon 5D 11, 70-200 f4 Lens
Photographers know that magical moment when the receding tide of daylight and Edison’s mechanical invention compete for ascendancy. A transient beauty momentarily holds sway in this daily exchange of energy. Ely Cathedral radiates a ‘spiritual’ intensity for believers and non-believers alike as a phalanx of street lamps are recruited as night sentinels, guiding the way.