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Countryside at Night

August 26, 2017

by — Posted in black and white, long time exposures

When I was a kid, I lived with my parents at the countryside, although close to the outskirts. I enjoyed the seasons and the different moods they caused. Watching the moon rising on a cold but clear January evening. Flying my kite while standing on a stubblefield in August. Or collecting chestnuts in late september. But what I liked the most were these summer nights in July, when the temperature didn’t fall below 20 °C. I could see the combine harvesters illuminating the corn fields around with there strong headlights, smelled the omnipresent scent of wheat.

Recently, I read a book about my famous painter, Otto Modersohn (1865–1943). He witnessed the Industrial Revolution in Germany, with coal mining and heavy industries rising quickly. Villages turned into cities, and cities grew to metropolises. That made Modersohn believe, nature would vanish sooner or later. Driven by this fear of loss, the painter spent most of his time strolling through woods and bogs. Modersohn created not only paitings of the landscapes he saw but also lots of sketches.

Modersohn’s work has inspired me for this series. Now that I live in the center of the city, I miss all the countryside’s faces. Every summer I feel forced to get in the car and leave the populated areas. This time I drove around looking for some bales of straw. I figured out they would make a good subject to visualize my vague nostalgia. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so easy to find some. I started about one hour prior to sunset and drove directionless from village to village.

It seemed that all farmers in my region had ceased livestock holding, therefore no one gathered the straw anymore. When it began to rain, I almost abandoned my plans. But then, finally, I spotted a stubblefield full of round straw bales! The light quickly faded and suprisingly, the thick cloud layer also disappeared. (This was the moment when I wanted to clap me on my shoulder for not giving up.) As the clouds retreated, they even released a full moon. Voilà!

Moonlight creates specially lit scenes. I like photographs that leave you a little bit uncertain, if they were captured at day or at night. Maybe the night photographs have slightly deeper shadows than their day counterparts, and there are these fine star spots in the sky. Interestingly, I rather prefered technical objects in my images over “empty” landscapes. A nearby farm provided me with a variety of agricultural tools.

I captured the photographs with my Leica Monochrom and the 50mm Summilux lens. By opening the aperture to f/1.4 and setting the ISO speed to 800, I cut the exposure times down to approx. half a minute.

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