Image of the Month: St Michael's Mount

February 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

St Michael's Mount: Island of Monks, Barons, and Fairy Tales

When we lived in the Netherlands, my wife and I developed a special fondness for the landscapes and history of Great Britain and we regularly - that is, basically every year - spend our summer holidays there. First only the two of us, and later with our daughters. We have some great memories from these trips, although most of these memories involve rain; summer in England can be challenging for campers.

 

One of the parts of Great Britain we kept going back to is Cornwall: for a long time one of the areas where the Celtic culture and language have been kept alive. Unlike Wales and Scotland, Cornwall is now a part of England, but it still has preserved that magical feeling of Arthurian legends and fairy tales.

 

black and white image of the island and castle of St. Michael's Mount near the British coastSt. Michael's Mount, 2005black and white image of the island and castle of St. Michael's Mount near the British coast

St Michael's Mount is an island off the Cornish south coast, and it shares a name, history, and a unique feature with its sister island Mont Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy, France. This unique feature both islands share is related to their accessibility: at low tide, you can walk over a causeway to the island. At high tide, however, this pathway is covered by the sea.

 

St Michael's Mount has a long history, going back to prehistoric times. The first recorded inhabitants were monks; the same that owned and built up Mont Saint-Michel. From the later Middle Ages into the 17th century, the island and its castle have been the site of numerous fights between warring parties. It eventually became the property of the St Aubyn family, who still own it today.

 

St Michael's Mount's history includes many legends and fairy tales. Probably best known is the tale of Jack the Giant Killer. The story goes that after slaying the giant Cormoran, Jack buried his heart in the pathway that leads up from the island's harbor to the castle. During our visit my, then eight-year-old, oldest daughter was keen to find it and point it out to me. And indeed, embedded between the cobblestones is a clearly distinguishable heart-shaped stone.

 

I wanted to create an image that shows the uniqueness of the island while at the same time conveying the brooding atmosphere of the fairy tale.

 

To achieve this I converted the original image into black-and-white and increased contrast. Although the island is rendered quite dark, it stands out very well against the lighter backdrop of the distant sky and sandwiched between the natural vignette formed by the dark-gray sea and clouds.

 

St. Michael's Mount, 2005St. Michael's Mount, 2005Original image of St. Michael's mount black and white image of the island and castle of St. Michael's Mount near the British coastSt. Michael's Mount, 2005black and white image of the island and castle of St. Michael's Mount near the British coast

 

I like how the start of the causeway is just visible. Disappearing into the sea, telling the story of the unreachable and calling world of fairy tales. By cropping the image from its original 2:3 aspect ratio to the 4:5 aspect ratio I created more focus on the impact of the line of the causeway pointing towards the island.

 

The final result, with the brooding sky and the dark lump of the island: scary and at the same time calling.

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I hope you enjoyed this background story about the creation of St Michael's Mount. Don't forget to subscribe here, to ensure you will receive new information like this, and Haiku, PicTales, and other stories delivered to your email inbox the moment they are published.


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