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  • Ashley Cochrane

Old Sarum Shoot Journal - 2nd March 2021

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

I decided to take a leisurely walk to Old Sarum, taking advantage of the River Avon as it winds from Salisbury Cathedral up to the former site it occupied at Old Sarum. This is contextually important as the river would have served at the main artery from trade and resources for both sites for much of their history. I took some shots at Harnham Water Meadows surrounding Salisbury Cathedral, and of the Avon further upstream looking towards Old Sarum, it was nothing I would use for the project, but they were nice scenic shots, nonetheless. There was a low-lying morning mist in the valleys of Salisbury which I was very keen to take advantage of as it had worked very well for me in the Netherhampton shoot previously. I had also made the decision to undertake ‘recce’ shoots for the key locations in this project. What this means is that I will go to a location which I felt was imperative to the project, and take a few shots on my phone, get a judge of the lighting conditions and which shots will need more precise development. Given that Old Sarum could be useful for three or four key shots, I felt it was best to take my time with this and going out to explore the landscape first was an important part of the development of this project.

When I arrived at Old Sarum, the mist had largely lifted, but given its high elevation, there was still enough mist in the distance to make some nice compositions. It also must be said that because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the top of Old Sarum is closed to the public, meaning I could not go to the castle and shoot. It is owned by English Heritage, and you must pay to reach the very top, but the lower levels are accessible to the public for now. I was still confident I could get all the shots I needed regardless. My attention was instantly grabbed by six trees that ran in a parallel line from the outer ring to the inner ring. These trees looked out of place, as although there were trees around each bank, these trees seemed to jut across the lower platform, perfectly following the radius of the circle. The trees were strangely shaped, the newer trees were almost sliced in half down one side due to the proximity to the older tree beside it, its early Spring too so there were no leaves, just strange silhouettes against the misty sky behind. I largely ignored anything else here and became determined to get this shot. It took me around half hour to remember I was on a recce shoot and would be revisiting with a DSLR at some point soon, so I moved on.

With the castle off limits, I was worried I may not get to shoot any ruins which was my primary aim for this shoot. There were the ruins of the cathedral, but these were largely an imprint in the grass and difficult to attain any worthwhile shots. There was an odd ruin on the bank of the outer ring, a substantial wall with an arrow slit carved into it. It was in between two small trees which meant I could experiment with some symmetry. But again, I got bogged down in getting the shot when I knew I would be back later to invest more time in acquiring these shots. I walked two laps of the site from here, one on top of the vast bank and one in the ditch below it to see if I could get any shots of the impressive fortifications, but this provided very little. It was difficult to show the extent of the bank in camera. I came back the next day when it was sunny to see if having shadows in this shot would give it the depth it needed but again this was fruitless, so I decided to ignore the ditch and bank shot and focus on the trees and the ruin at the top of the hill. There was also the possibility of shooting the inner bank from the outer ring, to give a more environmental perspective of Old Sarum.

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