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I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain recording and interacting with special places that have a spirit about them. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.
Camper Van Camino Edition - Part Two: The Romney Marsh
I'm travelling into Kent for some photography in the Romney Marsh. I thought I'd bring you along with me. Below is a map of my full journey.
If you missed last weeks digest (day one of my journey) here it is:
Hold on tight and strap yourself onto Woody.
Enjoy the ride.!
Journal Entry: 23 August 2023 - Day Two
0445: Daleacres Caravan and Motorhome Site
I'm woken at 0445am by my alarm. It's still dark and I feel tired. I look out of the van window, but it's difficult to see how the day will pan out. I check the forecast and it's still showing a decent morning with lots of sunshine. I start to turn my lodging back into a vehicle: roll up the duvet, open the curtains, spin the cockpit chairs. It takes around 20 minutes. I feel clumsy.
The camper van changeover.
Every morning, before I set off for a photo shoot I have to get the van ready. I have to remember to switch the gas off, close the top roof light, and make sure the exterior hook-up is unplugged.
For a photographer these moments are wracked with anxiety. Will the day turn out as promised? Will I get to the site on time? I beat myself up with every clumsy slip of concentration. Sometimes I'm too hard on myself, but it keeps me moving.
"For a photographer these moments are wracked with anxiety. Will the day turn out as promised?"
The first hurdle is to get through the barrier on the campsite. I have a swipe card, but they don't always work. At Ashwell in Hertfordshire my swipe card wouldn't work, so I hovered around the loo-block for 20 mins at 0600 hrs waiting to bag somebody with their own card.
Thankfully the swipe card works.
My plan is to visit two places today. Each place has its own set of specific logistical problems. If I can get all the shots today I'll be over the moon.
0555: St. Mary the Virgin, St. Mary in the Marsh.
The first place on my itinerary is St. Mary the Virgin at St. Mary on the Marsh.
I arrive early, but the sun is blotted out by a bank of cloud. In my younger days I would spend my time running around the site with my tripod and camera in a state of growing angst - but, these days, I've learn't to stop and slow down and wait patiently.
Whilst eating breakfast I sit and observe the church. The tower looks old, perhaps C12th. The spire is a late medieval addition.
It's the spire where I see it first - a touch of warmth, a faint glimmer of light. I head out into the churchyard and set up the tripod. The light is growing, but it isn't quite there.
Today, the sky is liturgical: moving west to east along the line of the church. The cloud graces the sky with undulating altocumulus tinged with the pinky glow of dawn. I look east and I can feel the warmth of the rising sun on my face.
"The cloud graces the sky with undulating altocumulus tinged with the pinky glow of dawn."
It's good to be here - the earlier trials and tribulations in the van have dissolved into the dissipating clouds.
This time, this hour is often called 'the golden hour'. It is a time where magic seems to slip into the realm. The rays shift in hue and tone and embellish the building with textures that fizz in the raking light.
I stand and watch the Kentish rag rise up from the dull nights refrain and prick out lines and glyphs that are older than the church itself.
And then I hear the dawn's refrain - an audible cackle from the copse behind the church.
Inside, the light is my master - I watch it creep along the north wall and spill onto the triptych. I am watchful - careful not to miss a ray. I drink it in through my lens.
When the light moves on, I set to work photographing the ghost tiles in the chancel. They are medieval patterned tiles that are barely visible but, in their geometric simplicity and worn voicefulness, utterly beautiful.
In the shade I seek out the apotropaic marks on the walls and capture them as a record. These marks are the most vulnerable part of a church, often missed. Mostly they represent the preliterate: people without a voice that have managed to find a way to express their hopes and their fears. This is why they're important to me.
This is the last resting place of Edith Nesbit, author of The Railway Children.
After a brief shoot at Dymchurch, I head to the Star Inn, across the road from St. Mary the Virgin for a fish finger butty.
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1500: St. Clementine's, Old Romney
My key objective for the rest of the day is to get to one of the most photographed buildings in Kent: St. Thomas Becket, Fairfield.
My brief is to try and get a photograph of it at sunset. Although the day has been kind, there's a worrying accumulation of cloud on the horizon out to the west.
I decide to head over to Fairfield, park up, stalk out the best locations and after dinner - try and beat the weather and get the shot.
On my way to Fairfield, I'm waylaid by the site of St. Clementine's at Old Romney. I swerve off the road and park up for a look. This is such a divine looking church. It's also the final resting place of Derek Jarman.
I head inside and the light is wonderful. In the side chapel I watch the Good Shepherd detach himself from the cames and travel along the north wall.
The interior is unique - honeycombed with Georgian interventions.
But the crowning glory of this church is the medieval crown post roof - a thing of real beauty and craftsmanship. The central, king post, rises upwards and splays out to take the weight of the roof.
"But the crowning glory of this church is the medieval crown post roof - a thing of real beauty and craftsmanship."
1600: Lay-by, St. Thomas Becket, Fairfield
It's a waiting game - the clouds are rolling in and I'm getting a little concerned for the twilight shot. I take my mind off the evening's work by cooking dinner.
My Stress Busting Vegetable Wrap
I cook one of my vegetable wraps. So easy to make. Here's the ingredients:
aubergine, courgette, plum tomato, chives, sweet pepper, basil, goats cheese, grated pecorino, plain wraps.
Chop the ingredients - start frying the aubergine (this takes the longest) and then add the remaining contents. Then add the the cheese and stir. Add the chives and basil last.
1915: St. Thomas Becket, Fairfield
St. Thomas Becket has a kind of personality. It looks humble, full of humility and all alone sat in the Walland Marsh.
It begs attention from every angle. Its isolation is the biggest problem for me. My task is to connect the building and the two spheres: the sphere I'm standing on and the other sphere that seems to be stuck behind a bank of increasing cloud.
I head out to the perimeter of the marsh and stop and stare at the church.
I can sense the gravity of the building. It is rumoured that the church came about because Thomas Becket was saved from drowning at a spot nearby. Its Georgian brick straight jacket belies one of the most glorious interiors. It was here that a BBC adaptation of Great Expectations was filmed.
My best chance is to head into the marsh behind the church towards the cows. The landscape is cut by water filled dykes and bridges. I set to work with the tripod and camera before the sun dips behind the bank of clouds. I become increasingly worried that I might be too late.
The sky is starting to colour up, but I can't quite get to the right location until I find a spot that silhouettes the church. I'm too low, so I fire up the drone and take it up to a height that just feels right.
Against all the odds, I manage to get the shot.
The final photograph shows the church stacked up against the dying light.
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Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.