Monumental granite landscapes

Recently I have been looking again at old photos of Yosemite by Ansel Adams. Apart from the obvious spectacular landscapes for which he is most famous, I am particularly taken with the more abstract shots which highlight the structure of the landscape – the granite domes, the fault lines, the towering cliffs. Also fascinating is the way that Ansel Adams used light and shade to bring out the beauty of the granite’s structure. These photos give the granite a monumental quality, an epic sense of scale, and also a stunning sense of nature as sculpture.

Jersey obviously cannot match the huge scale of the Californian landscape, but I think it’s granite landscapes have their own monumental character, and just like Yosemite, it comes from the structure of the rock. In Yosemite the land has been shaped by ice and river, in Jersey it has primarily been shaped – at least recently – by the sea. But looking back deeper and you discover a shared ancestry; granite is intruded into the earth’s crust and cools underground. The processes that create its deep structure are the same in Yosemite as in Jersey. The rate of cooling controls the crystal size, small changes in the composition of intruded magma change the colour of the rock, cooling also creates defined patterns of fracture lines, later land movements send deep fault lines through the rock, as the weight of overlying strata is worn away the granite bulges up, and chemical processes begin to weaken or “rot” the previously hard granite. All these processes are shared, although the exact way they play out is subtly different in every location.

So I have set myself a little photographic project: to photographic Jersey’s coastal granite landscapes with the aim of capturing the monumental nature of the rock. I’m going to use film, and shoot in black and white, using a medium format camera (I haven’t yet graduated to the large format cameras with which Ansel Adams is most associated). As an initial “tester”, I went out to Grosnez a couple of days ago, and took some (digital) photographs, just to test out the idea. I also had a film camera with me, but I won’t see those results for a few weeks. Still some way to go, but I think it’s going to be a fun project.

Eroded towers of granite
Double promontory, rolling swell
The chute
Cliff and surging wave
Shattered headland
Boiling seas

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