August 11, 2020

Applied Practice | Dream Theory Project | Waverley Abbey


Collaborating closely with my location expert we identified another venue, Waverley Abbey, in West Surrey.

Waverley Abbey

Waverley Abbey is a ruined monastery dating from the late middle ages. It is accessible to the public at all times and has three large semi-intact structures still standing. I felt this was an ideal location to try to capture images that would speak into my theme.

The archaic symbolism of Jungian Dream Theory, the sense of a half-forgotten place, a place full of memory, a place once devoted to communication with something beyond knowable reality. All these characteristics were there.

I felt that there must be something in the architecture of the place that would be possible to capture for an image about dreams—specifically the inexplicable transportation to unknown places that happens in dreams. Places half-remembered, or half imagined, like abandoned corners of the mind.

Shooting at dusk (First trip)

On my first visit I had time to scout the area and set up two shots. Panoramic as usual. I had learned that I was shooting too many bracketed images, more than I would need, so I was a little better at this. I did focus stack a little but only with objects quite close to the lens.

I had the advantage that I could shoot as long exposures as I wanted knowing that the ruins would not be moving around like the pine forest.

My last two shots were of the same location inside the old refectory. By this time the light was fading fast. I captured the space with plenty of light for the first shot and then decided to try to get a much darker image.

I wanted to try to illuminate the partial ceiling I was standing under, as it was getting very dark. I had brought a speedlight, a large softbox and a light stand with me but with my very long exposures (25-30seconds) I didn't think the speedlight would have much effect—plus it was going to take too long to set up.

I solved the problem by using the light on my phone. Opening the shutter I switched on my phone light and moved the phone in a wide arc behind the camera. I figured that moving the light source would soften the shadows in a similar way to the softbox. It worked very well.

First position

Second position, first image

Second position, second image. 30sec exposure, ceiling lit by moving a phone light from side to side


I'll detail this in a later post, but after this shoot I was able to build another image for my series. I had used a technique of merging my two images together as mirrors of each other, the different lighting conditions contributing to a sense of unreality that worked well with my theme.

It was a valuable, mid-project appraisal that informed subsequent decisions. I shot the rest of the scenes for this project with this mirror-image idea in the back of my mind.

Shooting in the morning (Second Trip)

I was enthused by the success of the first trip to Waverley Abbey, so I returned hoping to capture more of the location without my time being curtailed by failing light. I arrived just before 9.00am. This time I had a better idea of how my image set was starting to look, so I was able to shoot into that idea more cogently.

I produced a series of images from this shoot, some of which made it to my final six composites.

The dormitory, this is composed too flat

Learning from the previous shot, I made a more abstract composition, with near and far elements

An ancient Yew

I wanted to try a closer in water shot

I couldn't pass this up. Analogous to the Willow

A WWII Pillbox (machine gun position) on the Waverley Abbey site

Pillbox interior—I have numerous bracketed shots of this image with which to bring the blown area back

There are pillboxes all over this area, they are part of the GHQ Line. I had thought I might try to photograph one as part of this project, but I wasn't aware that there are more than one on the Waverley Abbey site.

I was struck by the intense similarity that the interior of this pillbox bears to a previous work on memory. The image-within-an-image. But it seems like an inversion, the insider looking out as opposed to the outsider looking in. Something to think about, and perhaps expand to a future project.

I wanted to try a more unusual composition


After these I returned to Bourne Woods for another attempt at my motion blurred pines. But once this day was over I'd decided that I now had enough images to deliver six final composites.

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