In my Last Week’s Shoot – A Brontë Pilgrimage post last summer I talked about how reading Wuthering Heights had led me back to explore Haworth Moor again some time after my initial photo shoot there ten years ago (and I’ve been back a few times since) so I thought in honour of Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday today I’d have another look at my images from that first shoot ten years ago.
I use this shot of Top Withins in my introductory talk for Natural Light Photography Workshops as an example of a “work in progress” image – something that I want to go back to and improve on. I like the skeletal winter tree next to the ruined farmhouse but I’m not keen on the expanse of plain blue sky and would like some more moody clouds above it, perhaps. I often say that it might have worked better in black and white, so I thought I’d give that a try! Here’s a black and white conversion using a high-contrast red filter effect:
I quite like the way this makes the sky really dark, creating a more moody image. I think I prefer it to the colour original. There are some great black and white images of the moor, by Simon Warner, as part of the Making Thunder Roar exhibition celebrating Emily’s bicentennial at the Brontë Parsonage Museum this year, which is well worth a look.
I was also pleased to find another link to the Sunderland family name on my visit to the exhibition! I was already aware that it’s thought that Top Withins may have inspired the location for Wuthering Heights but the farmhouse itself bore no resemblance to Emily’s description in the book – and that the descriptions of the building may have been more inspired by the now demolished High Sunderland Hall near Halifax. That’s the first connection.
However, alongside the exhibition at the Parsonage I was looking at descriptions of the buildings at Top Withins and discovered that some of the former residents there were also called Sunderland!
Coupled with that, it was also nice to see that the Walks Around Brontë Country booklet by Colin Speakman, published by Dalesman, is still available in the bookshop at the parsonage as the cover photograph also features a Sunderland – as photographer and model – it being a self-portrait taken on that original Top Withins shoot. So I’m claiming that makes a third, albeit rather loose connection between Wuthering Heights and the Sunderland name. I’m hoping this entitles me to a slice of Emily’s birthday cake!