Stonehenge, Hitchcock inspired

Stonehenge, on a bland day, Hitchcock inspired

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The outcome of this project is a Neolithic image inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

My other articles have stressed the importance of visualisation of the image outcome, but the accuracy of the pre-visualisation is not always easy.

Following Ansel Adams’ Camera-Negative-Print design, the outline process for visualisation has been noted as:


Recognition and assessment of the (likely) subject then Application of the resources required: selection of focal length, selection of ISO, then aperture/shutter speed


Shooting the image then processing the image: conversion from RAW, enhancement, cropping, tonal adjustments/sharpening


Rendering and Displaying the image to Print / Web / Tablet

One (not very fine day) the family journey was from the Herefordshire to Dorset but we decided the night before that we would visit Stonehenge en route. The weather was expected to be fine albeit with some cloud.


The location was already decided, and being a famous iconic subject the subject matter was known. There were thoughts of taking in a wide angle vista with lovely clouds overhead. That said, there was some thought to changing meteorology, as well as trying something different so an idea to shoot for a black and white outcome was born. A decision was made to limit photography to the super-wide 10-20mm zoom and the standard 18-50mm zoom.


On arrival there were no blue skies, but the grey sky did have a little detail. It was cold but there was a little breeze so it was hoped slow shutter speeds could be avoided so that camera shake would not be an issue. At 10mm the following was rendered:

[7248 as shot]


A black and white outcome was now firmly intended with thoughts of the old hard contrast photographic papers of the past creating a gritty outcome. This shot at 18mm was reconsidered and reframed with that idea in mind for post production. Graduated filters were rejected as being clichéd at Stonehenge, so exposures assumed there would be some dodging of the ground and stones in the face of the brighter sky.

[7254 as shot]


The opposite side of the monument seemed more promising, though it was farther away requiring 26mm in focal length but was nearer to the previous night’s visualisation.

[7261 as shot]


When zooming in more (40mm) a grazing crow was noticed leading to another idea germinating within the high contrast black and white idea.



A few yards walk later and back at 18mm another photograph was taken that included two large crows flying out of the monument. The last shot of the day was taken and by now the open landscape was getting cold and coffee at the visitor centre was beckoning, but it was also then that the idea of using the grazing crow in the foreground.


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Back at base the RAW files were processed and converted to black and white to retain as much detail as possible bearing in mind the original visualisations. The refined first shot holds much more detail than might have previously been recognised, especially when increasing contrast in the sky and adjusting the tones of the stones.

[7254 outcome]


A similar process was undertaken for the shot with crows and the grazing crow was cut and pasted from the previous image.

It was in post-production that created the idea of adding an image of the eclipsed sun but in negative (a black sun) that would give the mysterious flavour to the outcome.

[7281 outcome]

smallHenge Hitchcock7281


A finished print is always the idea in my mind but displaying this process as an article to illustrate the image generation process seemed positive.


Finally, I overlayed a dismembered skull (Damien Hirst inspired) and copied the Stonehenge stones into several storeys making the final composite with crows, black sun and contrasty light.

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Of course, this final image was not entirely visualised when the pictures were taken, but obviously the viewer is not being tricked into believing a non-existent scene. This image is more about imagination… or do we all need our imagination to be inspired in order to create subsequent imagery?


Stock photography by Philip Chapman at Alamy

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