Sally and I squeezed in another visit to the Fen last weekend. A shorter visit than our previous ones but we are keen to make the most of what remains of the winter. The weather was duller than had been forecast but at least it was mild.
The Workshop attached to the Fenman’s Cottage was open and so we went in to explore. The 18th century cottage was inhabited until the 1970s when the National Trust acquired it as a rare survival of a vernacular Fenland building. The workshop was filled with tools and examples of Fenland crafts. Tucked amongst all these were a collection of animal skulls and, bizarrely, a stuffed mole poking its head out of an enamel mug.
It was hard to take good photographs in the low light without a tripod. Sally and I were drawn to the collection of old photographs pinned to one of the walls. The photos were faded, speckled and curled with age. We were interested in what this did to the images.
Constrained for time, we headed towards Baker’s Fen which was less busy than the main part of the reserve. This time I was concentrating on the colours of the fen. On this overcast February day, the overall impression was paleness. Bleached reeds, withered leaves, silver water. The reeds have a warm red undertone but everything else is a cold grey. A pile of freshly cut willow on the other hand was blue-green and rust. A short-eared owl glided over the reeds, stopping us in our tracks. Its feathers matched the fen.
I deliberately over-exposed some of my photographs. This exaggerated the paleness, removed detail and created more abstract images. The results remind me of the faded photographs in the fenman’s workshop.