The Serpents’ View, 2015

“Even a poor serpent needs a place to rest”

Josh Ritter

Three serpent-supported benches, the result of a bulk-buy from a defunct railway, with a tree and a misty view, bracketed by bushy trees. The shadows we can see tell us it must have be a bright day despite the haze. There’s no one there on the benches, nor on the path heading off down the hill, although you half expect to see someone climbing up towards us at any minute.

The tree breaks the composition into nearly-halves. Everywhere the land falls away from the seats, more steeply on the left. The feeling is of a high ridge with views forever. But the ridge is not completely exposed – the tree offers the feeling of shelter, however tenuous, from the elements.

For the time being this is a peaceful location to sit and take in the view. Or it would be, but from the lack of leaves it’s clearly early in the year. Despite the bright light, it’s perhaps too chilly still to sit out.

We’re not shown the view, only tantalising glimpses of something, presumably across a valley. The nearest bench appears to be hidden away behind a bushy tree which obscures the view. The other two benches, to the right of the central tree, are more open though we still have to imagine what the view could be.

The scene is graphical, the monochrome treatment contrasty. It’s a sparse picture with separated elements. Your eye is taken along the line of benches, then off to the right, down the hill, along the path, but the benches with their snakes look the other way – their interest is clearly over there, but why exactly? We’re not told: the haze is impenetrable, and the picture enigmatic.

Has something just happened? Or is something about to happen? Or perhaps nothing ever happens up here in the waiting room on the roof of the known world.

The Serpent’s View, 2015

Despite my misgivings about talking too much about camera settings and other configuration matters which aren’t too important, these are the bits of technical information about this picture some folk find useful:

  • Camera: Fuji X20
  • Focal length: 28mm (about 40mm equivalent for a full frame 35mm camera)
  • ISO: 100
  • Exposure: 1/80 at f5.0 (handheld)
  • I use Lightroom and NIK software for sharpening and noise reduction.

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