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  • Writer's picturePatrick Smith

A Windmill On My Mind...

(with apologies to composer Noel Harrison and The Thomas Crown Affair)

I have had a location in my mind that I have been waiting for the right conditions to photograph.

I’m sure that I am not the only photographer that spends a fair amount of time planning to visit a location and imagining the ideal photograph that they would like to achieve – and probably overthinking the project - subsequently being disappointed that the imagined conditions did not come up to expectations!

It is often that we also overlook locations that are on our doorstep - but the recent Covid epidemic has made us look anew at places nearer to home.

It was in January this year on a Sunday morning that I woke and looking out at the weather could see that a heavy frost with fog had descended over our house and garden. As we live at the highest point in East Sussex we get very local weather conditions but it seemed that there should be an opportunity to attempt some landscape photography. Living in the increasingly mild south east of England, these heavy frost conditions seem to be increasingly rare.

My mind immediately returned to thoughts of a location on Ashdown Forest – which is only about 3 miles from our house – where I had been planning to visit and photograph the Nutley Windmill, with the hope that conditions would give a soft, hazy light to the subject. Nutley windmill dates back 300 years and is the oldest, and the only working, open-trestle post mill in the country. Given that we were in lockdown [v3] could I justify a drive to the Forest - where we walk our dog regularly - but this time leaving the dog behind and taking my camera and tripod instead!

After just a few moments indecision I set off in my car to the park at ‘Friends Clump’ where normally there are 2 or 3 other dog walkers parked. Not so on this morning – with the sunny, frosty conditions and the restrictions on travel to places further afield there were already at least 15 other vehicles crammed into the small parking area! I squeezed into the car park – maintaining as much social distancing as I could – and set off with camera in hand, my tripod and a couple of extra lens in my coat pocket.

The frost was much heavier as I walked down the frozen path and I learnt subsequently that this was a ‘Rime’ frost* which I had not knowingly come across before. By this time I was well clear from other walkers and after about 20 minutes trek down the hill I came to the boundary of a field where I remembered getting a good view of the windmill when I had visited this part of the Forest in the summer It was a magical morning in the Forest and without having to travel far at all I had fulfilled my imaginings of a ‘windmill on my mind’.… As I walked along by the fence I started to become concerned that I couldn’t see the windmill at all! However, after another 200 metres I realised that my memory was just not what it was and across the fields the windmill hove into view.

Having set up the composition I took some shots and stayed to photograph a few other images of the beautiful frost on the trees.

(*Rime frost – the main difference between rime and hoarfrost is that rime is the result of freezing fog, hoarfrost forms in the absence of fog. Rime ice is formed when small supercooled water droplets freeze on contact with a surface which is below freezing.)

All Images ©Patrick Smith Photography


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