September Field / by Graham Dew

September Field, 2001 © Graham Dew
September Field, 2001

Of all the months, I like September best. I love the quality of the light, the weather can often be really good, and the days are still long enough for light in the morning and evening. It is a time of change, a time for looking forward and embarking on new projects – at home, work or study. It is also my birthday month, which probably goes a long way to explaining my preference for this time of the year.

Yesterday, although the last day of August, felt very much a September day; beautiful bright skies and cool fresh air. After having been cycling every day whilst in France, my son and I were itching to get back on the bikes and enjoy the last few days off before going back to school and work. I’m pleased that my son, now twelve, is turning out to be a keen cyclist, and I wanted to show him some more distant trails that can be reached from home. Which is how we came across the point where I took the picture above, some eleven years ago.

September Field was an important picture for me back then. For a large part of the nineties I took a break from ‘art’ photography, a result of simultaneously starting a family and a business. However, by the start of the new century I needed a creative outlet and digital photography was really beginning to take off, which would allow me to print once again but this time without the darkroom, which had given way to a much need bedroom.

The picture was taken when out on a mountain bike ride on a similar day to yesterday. In my pocket I had a small Olympus mju-II (Stylus Epic in the US). This little camera had a great reputation for image quality, but I really struggled to get consistently sharp images from this camera, mainly due to the way in which the lens would always move focus a fraction of a second before the shutter fired; pre-focus only served to measure the focus. It would always take its best pictures in bright light.

The leaf shaped plough marks were the key to this picture, but it was difficult to bring out their shape from the rather flat brown of the original colour negative. Once converted to a black white image in Photoshop I messed around with curves to create a solarisation effect, and adjusted overall contrast thereafter, until I got the graphically effect I was after. Back then we were all really excited about the possibilities of Photoshop and how we could manipulate the image. Now with Lightroom the emphasis is on a gentler photographic editing of images; a better approach I think.

Why was this an important picture? Firstly, I had been trying to move to a more simple graphic style, and the picture was one of the more successful experiments in this regard. Secondly, was a time of change. 9-11 had happened two weeks before. My father died three days later. Photos are so often about memories.