“𝐷𝑜 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑏𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑟𝑦 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛; 𝑖𝑡 𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑦 𝑑𝑜𝑒𝑠 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤 ℎ𝑜𝑤 𝑡𝑜 𝑓𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑢𝑝𝑤𝑎𝑟𝑑𝑠.” - 𝑉𝑙𝑎𝑑𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑟 𝑁𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑘𝑜𝑣
I’m standing on the Auld Brig of Ayr - in the doorway of a small café that leads out onto the cobbled path. The rain is interspersed with heavy sleet & is falling like steel rods upon the windswept & empty streets. It’s a rather bleak scene but it’s perfect for the photograph that I wish to make; so I must wait.
The brig itself is dated 1236 AD, though it is actually older than this. It spans across the River Ayr as it cuts its way down through the town - through the hills & gorges of Ayrshire & meeting the sea not a quarter mile from where I’m currently standing. Having crossed the ‘Auld Brig’ countless times in my life thus far, I’m aware that the world-famous Ayrshire Poet & Bard Robert Burns actually wrote a poem dedicated to its legacy, found HERE.
My favourite stanzas within the poem are taken from the latter section, wherein the old & new bridges are hurling insults at one another. It’s worth noting that the ‘New Brig’ is much wider than the old, featuring a two-way road whilst the ‘Auld Brig’ is much narrower, accepting only pedestrians in the modern day;
"Auld Vandal! ye but show your little mense,
Just much about it wi' your scanty sense:
Will your poor, narrow foot-path of a street,
Where twa wheel-barrows tremble when they meet,
Your ruin'd, formless bulk o' stane and lime,
Compare wi' bonie brigs o' modern time?
There's men of taste wou'd tak the Ducat stream,
Tho' they should cast the very sark and swim,
E’er they would grate their feelings wi' the view
O' sic an ugly, Gothic hulk as you."
"Conceited gowk! puff'd up wi' windy pride!
This mony a year I've stood the flood an' tide;
And tho' wi' crazy eild I'm sair forfairn,
I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn!
As yet ye little ken about the matter,
But twa-three winters will inform ye better.
When heavy, dark, continued, a'-day rains!”
Robert Burns | The Brigs o Ayr
I’ve waited a wee while to make this photograph as I’ve been considering various compositions - I knew that I wanted to shoot the bridge from the North side, I also knew that I wanted to include the enigmatic spire of Ayr Town Hall, with its giant lion sculptures guarding each corner. With this in mind I’ve set up my tripod & I’m shooting at 28mm to capture a wider scene. I’ve chosen to shoot today as I want the photograph to demonstrate the general atmosphere of the town in the modern day. With over a hundred empty shops, the town is now beginning to look a bit bleak. The dark skies & the soaking wet paving stones help to convey this.
I’m shooting at f11 for a balanced focus across my frame & with a polarising filter to make the wet masonry pop I have an exposure time of 1/20th of a second at ISO 50. With a two-second timer I’m careful to fire the shutter whilst the wind drops so as not to blur the tree to my left too much but apart from that I’m not bothered at the longer shutter speed. Looking good!
I decide that to balance my exposure a bit better, to really capture some shadow detail, I need a graduated filter. I select a 0.8 soft edged filter from my pouch, slip it into my filter holder & make another exposure - much better.
The final image may lack the same wow-factor as a shot from a mountain ridge or a coastal sunset, but it’s a moody depiction of a location steeped in local history & folklore. That, to me, make it worth it! Even after hundreds of years, the Auld Brig o’ Ayr still stands strong & that is reason enough to capture it in a contemporary photograph - a recording of the present if you will.
Camera & Optics by Sony / Samyang.
Elite Filter System by SRB Photographic.
Tripod by Vanguard Photo.
Bag & inserts by Karrimore UK / Lowepro.
Outdoor Clothing & Boots by Jack Wolfskin / Karrimore UK / Decathlon.