A year in the life of a Devon field
PUBLISHED: 13:57 02 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:57 02 March 2015
Matt Austin Images 2013
A remarkable Devon Life-inspired project spreading over a whole year comes to fruition in our pages this month. Here, Editor ANDY COOPER explains the story behind the Devon Field Project
Photography by Matt Austin
See more pictures of the Field of Dreams
JANUARY: An eerie, misty start to the year as the field lays dormant at the height of winter
OCTOBER: autumn moves towards winter as leaves fall and the field lays fallow
NOVEMBER: a shadow cast by late evening sunshine catches the trees as the last leaves of autumn cling to the branches
FEBRUARY: leaden skies and little sign of growth as the field remains stark and wintry
MARCH: the first shoots of Spring as the days lengthen and sun peeps through
APRIL: the field tilled and prepared as the tree's branches show their leaves as temperatures warm
MAY: the field in full spurt as the sun warms the ground and growth abounds
JUNE: a sunny, summer scene as the field basks in the long, warm days and nights
JULY: the crop is browning as days in the sun have their affect on the field
AUGUST: harvest home as the field is cut and the dry, dusty landscape bears testament to hot days and nights
SEPTEMBER: the first signs of autumn as leaves and hedgerows turn and the field is readied for winter
DECEMBER: the stark, crisp skies frame a field which lies dormat after a busy year
It started with my regular drives hither and thither in the county over the months, spotting familiar features and fields bathed in different light or at different stages of the seasons. Once one becomes familiar with a landmark it becomes a fascination to see how its look can change over the course of a year.
What, I thought, if Devon Life was to record the changing face of the exact same spot in our county over the course of a year? What changes would we see to the landscape, to the light, to the shape and contours of the view?
And so, late in 2013 the idea of the Devon Field Project first took shape. We needed to find an iconic spot in Devon which we could photograph and record once a month, every month, throughout 2014. To help I called on the services of our regular freelance photographer Matt Austin, pictured inset. Firstly, was he up for the idea and, secondly, did he know of a suitable spot to conduct this photographic project?
Fortunately, the answer from Matt to both questions was a resounding and enthusiastic “yes” and with no more than a “leave it with me” he was up and running.
I knew the project was in safe hands and so I left him to get on with it. In his laidback and affable style when we occasionally spoke Matt said it was all going well and so it wasn’t until the autumn of 2014 I first saw the results beginning to bear fruit when he sent me the first few pictures.
And what results they were. Choosing a field just outside Newton Poppleford, Matt had clearly alighted on a special spot. The iconic tree in the centre with the gentle slope of a typical Devon hill in the background, this was also a ‘working’ field and so the terrain would change dramatically over the course of 12 months.
Talking to him at the conclusion of the project Matt explains: “I’d always known and admired that field from a photographic point of view so when the project was first suggested it seemed the obvious place to take the picture.
“To me, that tree in the centre is almost the perfect little tree. It changes the way it looks every month and so it was ideal for going back to over the course of the year and taking a picture.
“It was a case of just making sure I got the camera set up in exactly the same place and at the same angle each month so the pictures were mapping the way the field looked. It’s been a good project to do. You don’t realise how much the field changes over the course of the year until you look at the pictures together.”
Matt, who shot the pictures using a Nikon D4 camera with an 80-200mm 2.8 Nikon lens, has been a photographer for 15 years and his work is a mainstay of Devon Life’s pages.
From our point of view it has been a project which has required patience and perseverance, but the results feel very special and memorable.