Time’s Arrow, 2016

There was something about the line of gravestones not just leading to the door but also taking you back in time as you walk along beside them.

The church of St Cuthbert’s in Carham is ancient. At least the association with Cuthbert himself goes back a thousand years even though this church is only a couple of hundred years old. But on a bitter January afternoon, the feeling of ancient history on this site was palpable.

The village of Carham is important to the relationship between Scotland and England. The Battle of Carham in 1018 settled the position of the border between the two countries along the River Tweed. Carham represents the westernmost point of the English border on the Tweed – West and North from here is Scotland.

There was an important river crossing here too. Over to Birgham across the Tweed by way of a ford, or possibly, if the “birg” in Birgham means anything, a long vanished bridge.

Carham from the sunken lane up to Birgham

So much for the history lesson but why this picture? Clearly it was impossible not to be taken by the strong lines of gravestones leading up to the church door, a line repeated by the wall, the driveway and the tall trees. The door itself is perhaps not best positioned off to one side but the weight of the leading lines helps with that. So compositionally it was attractive.

But it wasn’t just the layout of the scene. There was something about the line of gravestones not just leading to the door but also taking you back in time as you walk along beside them. For me it represented the history of the location where you look across vast expanses of history with a continuity of human presence with such a strong link to current times.

It echoed the community memory of times past, a border community, not just in Carham, that still commemorates losses in battles over 500 years ago, and the pride in their shared history as peoples on the Border.

There’s a more philosophical metaphor going on here too. As much as you can see a clear line back through time, the concept of time’s arrow prevents you from going back there. You can see the evidence of time passing but it’s not possible to go back down there – “there” being represented in this image by the church in the distance. It’s good to recognise the past, and celebrate it when it’s right, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to go back there.

Time’s Arrow

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: Canon 5Dmkii
  • Lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f4 L
  • Focal length: 19mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Exposure: 1/180 at f6.7 (on a tripod for once in my life)
  • I use Lightroom and NIK software for sharpening and noise reduction.

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