Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dawn at Minster Lovell Hall

Minster Lovell Hall

Yesterday morning I decided to head over to Minster Lovell Hall for sunrise, I thought there might be some autumn colour in the magnificent trees that stand behind the ruins, and I wanted to see if I could complement them with a bit of early morning colour.

I'd never had much luck photographing the ruins themselves before, either because the light wasn't suitable or I couldn't find a composition I liked, or more usually, both. So I wasn't holding out a great deal of hope, but I still wanted to give it another go. They should, in theory, should be a good place to get some decent shots, they are interesting to look at and are set in a picturesque spot next to the River Windrush, so I when I think of them it's always with a sense of frustration at my inability to do them justice.

The alarm woke me at six, and I stumbled straight over to the window and peered through the curtains to see if it looked promising, it didn't, but I was awake, and the idea of going back to bed because the sky was full of cloud seemed like a feeble excuse. Better to be surrounded by the sounds and sights of nature at dawn, than in a darkened room trying, and most probably failing, to get back to sleep.

After getting myself together and picking up my camera gear, I jumped in the car and took the short journey over to Minster Lovell, all the while hoping that the clouds would begin to part, and I might be treated to a bit of light at daybreak.

I stopped in the small, deserted car park in the village, pulled on my boots and took the 5 minute stroll down to the Hall. The first thing I noticed when I arrived, after a weary resignation that the sky was as muffled and overcast as it had been, and wasn't about to change anytime soon, was the noise. 

Crows alight on the tops of the trees, many more were sailing above.

A line of ash trees growing along the river bank held an assembly of crows in their lofty rafters, cawing away, with a noise that always seems deeply guttural yet full of melancholy, their numbers creating a riotous wall of sound. But despite their best efforts, they couldn't drown out the scattergun shrieks from a large group of ducks `residing in a pond at the rear of the Hall, nor the cooing of the doves, a handful of plump, ivory white birds roosting in the ruins, making sure they were not forgotten in the morning melee.

A collection of roots from one of the trees that line the river in the soft, overcast light.

Wispy branches trailing into the water and being jostled by the current.

Standing on the bank of the River Windrush, I watched the small, fast flowing currents create ripples and curls on the surface of the water as they rushed past, and listened to the surrounding bird population prepare for another day. From my new position, I could hear another participant to the morning orchestra, the urgent chirping of a couple of coots, who were sailing back and forth across the river from bank to bank on some kind of morning mission.

A small tree marooned in the pond, with reflection of a much larger character on the shore. 

I walked over to the pond, which was surrounded by trees and fringed with a rusty autumn carpet, to check out the large gathering of ducks, as they busily skimmed from end to end, enthusiastically shuffling each other and exchanging calls. I tried to get close enough to get a shot, and hoped they were familiar enough with people not to take fright and fly off. After a few more steps, they became agitated and before I had time to move back, they did exactly what I hoped they wouldn't do, and that was the last I saw of them.

Some of the ducks whizzing along the pond before they noticed me and took flight.
Autumn colour on the far side of the pond.
I took this while I scrambled to try and get a shot of the ducks as they took off en masse. I failed miserably,
but I actually prefer it to the static shot of the same tree above. It looks like an autumnal rainbow.

Feeling like a bit of lout for disturbing them so conclusively, I took some shots of the dark trees silhouetted against the morning sky, whilst hoping that ducks didn't hold grudges. 

The sun, while not yet visible was starting to warm the parting clouds.
This shot, although quite busy, reminds me of decoration you might see on a piece of oriental china.

After a little while the sun started to creep out from behind the clouds, tentatively at first, as if it wasn't sure it was welcome, but once it had gained confidence its rays soon lengthened and reached over the surrounding landscape, lingering on the tops of plants and greeting the trees, as the particles of light, diffused by the autumn canopies, sprinkled warmth on their solid trunks.

Looking along the River Windrush with the first rays of light illuminating the vegetation.

The warmth of the dead plants against the cool of the living trees.

A young tree shines out in the sun.

The crows by now, had left of their own volition, I hadn't scared them off, so the place was quiet and calm, only the soft cooing of the doves and the infrequent warble of coots could be heard, even the occasional dog walker or jogger who passed by kept their thoughts to themselves.

Looking into the sun as it brings a sparkle to the woodland.

The change in character of the surroundings had altered significantly since I’d arrived. From a cool, muted yet rowdy atmosphere, to warmth, vibrancy and stillness. I think dawn is where you get to see nature transform the most, it doesn't become more of one thing or less of another, it moves and shifts like a tide. A fundamental force that can't be destroyed or created, just converted from one state to another.

Before I left I got a few shots of the ruins, backed by a couple of magnificent elms, their full, towering, autumnal splendour set ablaze by a liberal coating of morning sunlight, and complemented perfectly by the azure blue sky. It was as if the remains of the old building were put there as a piece of scenery, the trees themselves were the stars of the show, and this was their stage.

The trees tower over the Hall, as if to prove their star quality.

Leaves obscure one of the walls.
A branch hangs in front of the ruin.
The autumn foliage chimes with the warm stone.

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