In fact, ‘The Great Game’ tends to refer to the geopolitical manouevering that took place between the British Empire and the Russian Empire in Eurasia during the nineteenth century, as the British pushed north and west out of the Indian subcontinent, and the Russians moved south. The implications of this colonial struggle can be seen in the arbitrary demarcation of the Pakistani-Afghan border and the resulting ethnically-driven conflict that is taking up so many of our news headlines recently.
For once, that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m also (once again) going to show incredible restraint by not hauling out loads of fascinating factoids about the game of chess. Suffice to say that it’s really, really old, and that it apparently started off as a way of strategising the movement of different units on the battlefield during war. Other than that, it’s a fascinating and enjoyable strategy game which I really ought to play more than I do, and which I tend to take far more seriously than it has merit when I do actually get around to playing. Also, that it’s highly enjoyable to drink a glass of port (or three) while playing. Which may not necessarily aid the strategy much, but certainly adds to the overall experience.
In the little A-frame cabin we stayed in in the Porongorups, there was a chessboard. It was a glass chessboard, which is something I’ve seen pictures of, and maybe seen in shop windows once or twice, but never really looked at before. To be honest, it’s a little impractical. One of the key features you need in a good chess set is a) pieces that are easily differentiated, and b) teams that are easily differentiated. This is paramount in visualizing the lay of the game while strategising, and not being able to see clearly can undermine the ability to play well, believe it or not. In this case, one side was clear glass and one side was frosted glass. Not great for easy differentiation.
However, they look really cool.
More to the point, they do cool things in light. And in the slanting early morning light that was coming through the window of the cabin, they looked awesome.
I’ve always liked natural light. I want to learn flash photography better than I know it now, but I think I’ll always be into natural light over any other medium. I’ve seen cool things done with strobes and glass chess-sets before, but I wanted to play with what was naturally available, so I moved the board around a little and then lined up some shots with my 85mm f/1.8 (mmm… depth of field…). These shots are the result.
The shallow depth of field let me take shots that focused on just one part of the board while throwing the rest of the scene out- an effect that at times was a little overdone. It also allowed me to ramp up the shutter-speed so I could be assured of sharp photos even in the relatively low light (or at least, highly contrasted light) inside the cabin. The light leant itself perfectly to the monochromatic theme of the chess-board, with slashes of intense bright sunlight contrasting with deep shadows that mirrored the black-and-white of the board itself. As a result quite a few of these photos have been converted to black and white, to take out colour that would otherwise distract from the image.
Hope you’ve enjoyed something a little different today.