Monday 16 August
I wake up worried. Other than a patch of sky I can see through the side window, it’s dark inside the van. It doesn’t augur well. I don’t usually work in these conditions, but the forecast (as it is prone to do) has changed from sunny intervals to mostly cloudy. I’m staying overnight in a farm yard and I’m committed to photographing the church of St. Michael and All Angels at Tremaen in Wales.
This church was built by a poet, Talhaiarn, who took his own life in 1869. I want to honour his name with my photography. The best approach is to pepper the day with my full attention, hunker up close to the church, and wait for the slightest glimpse of sunlight. It’s 0530am and it’s a little cold, so for the first time this summer, I put the heating on in the van. Up at 0600, a quick coffee, and then over to the church. I find a spot just next to the church backed up against a hedge.
I sit and wait until a patch of blue appears upon the horizon. What are the chances of the patch of blue aligning with the sun and church at the same time?
The church is surrounded by a rustling copse of trees. I’ve been watching a clamour of rooks circle a field. Their arcing display flattens out along the corn field and then rises to meet the church where they crown the bellcote with a shape-shifting coronet.
The patch of blue is getting closer to the brightening haze to the east, so I pick up the camera and head out a few metres down the lane to the church. Most of our photos of places are defined by strong sunlight. They’re often carefully orchestrated shots that are meticulously planned, but I’ve noticed over the years, that there’s a middling kind of light that is quite beautiful. It appears a minute or so before the sun comes out. It’s happening here at the church. The facade drinks in its colour and reveals a maze of textures in the burgeoning light. If this church were a bird it would be preparing for song.
I fire off a few shots in the half-light. It steadies my nerves. Then I watch as the facade reflects the subtle variations of sunlight through the thinning cloud. My camera can’t capture this of course – the human eye has infinitely more receptors than the sensor on my camera.
I walk to the side of the church, out of the trees grasp, to check on the sun. It fires a blast from behind the cloud. I’ve been caught out. Frantically I run back to the front of the church, clamber up a grassy wall and as soon as I lift my camera – it goes back in. I stay put and check my camera settings. Then there seems to be a quickening. As the raucous caw of the rooks rises somewhere in a field to my right, a blast of wind rustles through the trees and the church is flecked in angled light -as if the lid has been lifted off the place.
The kettle’s back on. The rooks have moved on to newer pastures, my feet are sodden and I’m covered in burdock and teasel, but there’s nothing better than having captured a church within my camera and carrying it off home in the van.