Behind the lens: Avebury 1847

© Emil Joachim

The winner of the expert vote in our Let it glow! assignment shares the story behind his winning shot Avebury 1847.

"After trudging through cold and mud for a couple of days my spirits were low as the light was very grey and flat, and as unyielding as the Avebury landscape. Although there were wonderful standing stones nearby I was looking for something different.

I had with me a Petzval 85MM f2.2 lens bolted to my Nikon D600. This particular lens is handmade of solid brass and based on the original design from 1840. It can be a challenge to use with only the central area retaining any 'sharpness'. It has no autofocus or any connection at all with the camera, so you set the manual mode for an 85 f2 lens to get a reasonable exposure. I almost always use it at f2.2 because that's where the image really shines if you manage to nail it. It uses Waterhouse stops, which are little fiddly aperture holes that you have to put into a slot. They have a habit of falling into the mud, which may have had a slight bearing on my choice!

When I finally found the cornfield at the bottom of a hill I immediately saw the potential - the long rows of rotting corn and the waterlogged furrows of the field, especially on a cold and dull day, really caught my imagination. After a few exploratory shots the image finally condensed in my viewfinder. Focusing was critical to knock out the background and this was where the Petzval lens really glowed. Later when I saw the muted form and colour of the image on my laptop I was really excited. And then applying a sepia finish just sent it back to some distant Civil War, maybe 1847, a good year for a good day..."

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