A photographic challenge – Entrance to Blisworth Tunnel
The south entrance to Blisworth Tunnel is a photographic challenge, especially in late winter light with grey, low-contrast surroundings. The entrance is, in essence, a black hole surrounded by bricks that disappears into a hill. Not the most photogenic of settings. However, I set out to create a pleasing photograph of this location. I knew this would be difficult because I had been there before and I had failed to create an image I was happy with. The entrance to the tunnel is shown below!
This article takes you through my thought process to create, to my satisfaction, a pleasing image of this scene.
Blisworth Tunnel is on the Grand Union Canal. It opened in 1806, is 3,075 yds long and wide enough for two narrowboats to pass. The tunnel is a quarter of a mile from Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire and 15 miles North of Milton Keynes. This is a picturesque little village. It is cut in two by the canal. It is a tourist hotspot. Themed pubs and restaurants are plentiful and provide an ideal place to enjoy an evening or day out, especially in the summer. The village retains much of its character and charm. It was, and is, a service point for canal travellers. They can stop and prepare for ‘legging’ their way through the tunnel to the north, or navigating a series of locks in the village and to the south. A visit to the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum is a good investment of time.
As you expect, the walk to the tunnel runs along the canal path. Every few yards canal boats are moored. This is a lovely sight and a photographer’s dream. The boats are colourful and there are usually interesting people to speak to and photograph. Birds and flowers are all around with lots to look at and admire and photograph, especially in the summer.
The sides of the canal get steadily steeper as you approach the tunnel entrance. The path comes to an abrupt end. As a photographer, I was immediately challenged by the lack of interesting features. Yes, the tunnel is there and a snapshot photograph can readily be taken. This falls short though of my ambition. Faced with the steep canal sides and the imposing entrance to the tunnel, I set about creating a composition. My immediate thought was “How on earth can I make an interesting photograph here? there is nothing that comes together. ” Not to be discouraged, I pressed on and started to get to grips with the location and challenge.
Try a long telephoto to compress the perspective. Use a wide angle to give the big picture. The gaping mouth of the tunnel – how can I make that look dramatic? Where is there light, colour and texture? The tunnel entrance has green mould and the concrete has colour streaks running down the sides! Lots of choices. Nothing stands out.
Ha ha! There is something I can use… Just before the entrance to the tunnel, on the right bank of the canal is a large circular concrete moulding. It is a left over example that was used to reinforce the tunnel wall in the mid 1980’s. The moulding is big. It has shape. It has texture. Definitely something to work with.
Photograph of the day
My wide angle lens was mounted on my camera. I climbed the embankment. I worked the scene to create and test compositions. I had what I wanted. I pressed the shutter button. My photograph of the day was on the data card in my camera!
The image above is my photograph of the day for the following reasons:
- It has strong composition. It uses the circular moulding that is positioned in camera against the curves of the surrounding brickwork at the tunnel entrance.
- The line of the canal complements the curve of the moulding, leading into, or away, from the tunnel.
- The wooden fence is complimentary to the brickwork and the concrete moulding. They each give perspective and interest to the scene.
- Black and white rendering makes best use of the available lighting that brings out the texture on the tunnel brickwork and the concrete moulding.
The photograph is very different from those taken in the village and at the locks. They were easy to photograph. This images was more difficult to visualise and create.
My photograph of the day at the southern entrance to the Blisworth Tunnel was taken with a Lumix G9 and 7-14mm Lumix zoom. The other images are combinations of the Lumix G9 and Nikon D850.
I am not claiming the photograph of the day is anything special. It is however an image that I was not expecting to create. It involved experimentation, imagination and creativity in post processing. This photograph made the walk productive and enjoyable.