THE STORY BEHIND JURASSIC THIRST

Durdle Door, UK

JURASSIC THIRST: HOW DID I DO IT, AND WHY? HERE’S THE STORY BEHIND THE ART!

I love Dorset. The Jurassic Coast is simply amazing, and the inland is just as beautiful and rich in history. This location in particular is such a well-photographed place that the challenge of coming up with a new, fresh interpretation of it is very real here. “Jurassic Thirst”, created in one of Dorset’s most iconic locations, holds a special place in my Dorset Portfolio. Not only is one of the images I love the most, but is also one of my most copied ones, as far as idea and, especially, composition. In this article, I’ll tell you how I overcame the challenge of photographing well-known locations and how I approach the creation of new, personal work of such famous spots. As always with this series of “Behind the scene” articles, however, this post is most of all about the passion driving me, the force that makes me go out day after day chasing that elusive, perfect image.

“Thirsty. So thirsty. Eternally drinking, hopelessly thirsty. Salt sea water. He knows. The more he drinks, the thirstier he gets. He knows, yet he just can’t stop drinking. Thirsty.

Million years went by. He saw the world around him crumbling apart, but he endured, resisted, stayed. The last of his kind, for hundreds of miles. Memories of the Jurassic slowly fading away in his crumbling mind, he can’t remember neither how he got there nor when, nor why he is still there, drinking.

Thirsty, eternally thirsty. An unquenchable, Jurassic thirst.”

GETTING THERE
In October 2017, I flew from Italy to London, spent a few days working in Kent and then went to Dorset for a few more days photographing my beloved Jurassic Coast. West Lulworth is a cute, small village where I love to spend my time when working in Dorset – I have been there so many times that it feels like a second home to me. Accessing Durdle Door from West Lulworth is very easy. A short drive will bring you to the parking lot, and from there a short descending path will take you down to sea level. Access to the beach is easy enough, but photographing on it can be tricky, both creatively – as mentioned before – and technically speaking as well. I photographed Durdle Door countless times, in different seasons, from every possible vantage point, at any time of the day and under every light. On this particular evening, the beautiful, cloudy sky inspired me to go photographing it from down at sea level.

EXAMINING THE LOCATION & COMPOSING
As mentioned above, Durdle Door is one of Dorset’s most photographed landmarks. While others might feel differently about photographing such landmarks, for me the challenge of creating new, personal interpretations of them is extremely inspiring. Rather than trying and duplicate shots I have seen of it, my solution to the challenge of creating images of an iconic location that are my own is simple. I approach it as if I never saw it before, and as if I’ve never seen images of it before. Incidentally, it’s exactly the same thing I do when photographing unknown locations as well. So, as I always do, arriving on location on that particular evening I walked around, exploring the beach and looking for compositions & inspiration.

On that day, the cloudy sky and the relatively active sea were perfect to showcase the raw, graphic power of the arch through a long exposure. The arch is bulky and imposing, but on this particular day I decided to make it look slender and elegant instead. To do so, I first found the perfect vantage point from where an ultra-wide angle lens would transform the arch to make it look as I envisioned it. Then, I checked the clouds’ movement and organized my composition so that the coastline and the clouds, once long exposed, would create converging diagonals pointing at the arch both from above and from below, thus strengthening my composition.

Durdle Door, Dorset's Jurassic Coast (England, 2017)

PASSION AT WORK: THE WHY AND THE HOW BEHIND MY B&W FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY
There’s nothing like black & white photography, for me. It is timeless, powerful and expressive, and I believe it to be the best medium to reveal the true nature of the planet’s landscapes through my photographic interpretations. Black & white landscape photography is a lifelong passion for me and it’s what I most love doing. Over a decade of love and dedication working with black & white photography’s composition and post-processing are what makes my black & white Fine Art photography unique.

Removing colour from a photograph is an incredibly powerful process in terms of the expressive possibilities it opens, one that requires a completely different approach to seeing the world around us. It brings photography to another level, requiring a craftsmanship in the field, an attention to composition and an ability for abstract seeing, that colour photography doesn’t necessarily need. For me, the decision is made long before pressing the shutter; when a landscape is revealing its monochromatic nature to inspire me, I just can’t help it but let go of the colours.

Processing my black & white work, I first prepare my RAW file for conversion following a dedicated workflow, completely different from my colour work. Then, I convert them to black & white via DxO Silver Efex Pro, using my own processes and presets. One thing I always found lacking in most black & white photography, both film and digital, is the treatment of mid-tones, which are normally flat and lacking depth. During my film days, to create my images I used a self-mixed, Pyro-based developer that rendered a truly amazing tonal range. For my digital work, during the last decade I developed my own Silver Efex presets to recreate the deep, rich tones that I loved on film.

THE AESTHETICS BEHIND SHUTTER SPEED
Rather than thinking in terms of long vs short exposures, I believe that shutter speed control is what really counts. Mastering shutter speed, using exposure times carefully selected according to each shooting situation, is a truly powerful tool to express the feelings that a scene awoke in us.

For this particular photograph, I needed my shutter speed to do two things at once. As mentioned above, I wanted the coastline and the clouds to create lines strengthening my composition by pointing towards the arch. To do so, on one end I needed the sea to become a patch of colour with just a little texture to complement the beach’s pebbles; on the other hand, I needed the clouds to lose all shapes and transform into lines and masses. Looking at the cloud’s movement and at the waves’ speed, my experience told me that I needed a shutter speed of over three minutes.

FILTERS
In the field, I aim at creating my images as close as they’ll look when processed. To make my vision come to life, I am much keener to get everything as close to it in camera as I can, than I am about fiddling with post-processing. Filters are of great help to me to make this happen. In particular, for this image I used a polariser to enhance contrast on the wet pebbles and on the arch’s rocks, a Grad ND to darken the sky & balance the exposure, and finally an ND filter to bring the exposure down to 200 seconds, perfectly creating the effect I envisioned.

BRING IT HOME!
For NFT lovers, “Jurassic Thirst” is available as 1/1 edition NFT on Foundation, following the link: JURASSIC THIRST.

CREATE YOUR OWN
Join us for one of my DORSET JURASSIC COAST PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS to create your own amazing photographs of Durdle Door and many more locations while learning all I know about Fine Art landscape photography. Attendance is limited to just THREE people!

Iceland Photography Workshop

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