Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A West Pennine Night

October is a funny month. It's that part of autumn where things really begin to change. Leaves crunching under feet as they drop from the trees, the beautiful colours of September already forgotten; the first cold snap and waking to winter's jewles as the frost turns the morning dew in to green-white sticks of frozen blades of grass.

Not this year though.

October the first had come with almost every leaf still remaining on the tree.  The first frost still weeks away.  The September storms only now arriving in November.  Instead we were treat with unseasonably settled warm weather. Some nice clear cloudless skies meant that it was great time to get out with the camera.

At this point I should sort of explain something.

This night I was planning to head out to Hollinshead Hall to shoot some scary pictures of the Well House.  Normally, I'm really happy with being in the woods or on the moorlands at night on my own.   If truth be known I am more at home in the wilderness at night on my own than I am in the towns and cities.   However, this night was different.  You see, Hollinshead Hall has a a bit of a reputation for all things paranormal and the ghost stories were quietly running round my head as I was walking down the hall.  Being honest, I freaked myself out.  I really freaked myself out and aborted.  Chicken has nothing in it.

So I returned to where I had parked and noticed something really cool.  Over here in the UK we have light reflective units set in to the road known as cats' eyes.  The cool thing with the ones that were set in to this road is that they are LED lights.  They are permanently lit.  So I quickly came up with an idea.  Cats' eyes, car light trails and stars.  What more could a photographer playing with light painting ask for.  I took a few shots and quickly got bored.

So I decided I would move on.   I've had an idea of shooting Darwen Tower at night for a while.  However, on my own it would be impossible to get the shot that I want.  That being said a nice starry, clear night is something of a rarity at this time of year in Lancashire so I thought it would be a good opportunity to a few test shots.  I have to admit I love the results. It has spurred me on to create the shot that I actually want.  I just need the weather to play a bit now!!!

Monday, 21 September 2015

And then came the snow!

January had been quite warm and dry but then came the snow; and did it.  For once we had quite a decent coverage but not too much to cause havoc as it quite often does here.

I have an interest in images that are quite minimal.  I like dead space and of course I like monochrome photography.  So it was the perfect time to go out with my camera.

I drove around a bit looking for an image and couldn’t find anything I really liked.  Eventually I ended up in Barley struggling for inspiration.  I then remembered a shot that I had taken in the past at nearby Newchurch.  The shot was already done in monochrome previously but the days conditions meant that it would work well.  So I set off in that direction.

I first stopped off at a plantation near Barley Bank Farm.  I quote like the idea of something disappearing deep in to the photograph and I thought that this work well.   It does, sort of.  The image also has an appearance of being monochrome when actually it is full colour.

In the end I got to the location and it couldn’t have been more perfect.  The snow was pristine and the sky was grey.  Nice for subtle changes in colour.  Dialling in a bit of exposure compensation would mean that the snow would be almost paper white and the image would contain all the shades of grey (not just 50!) through to almost black.

A bit of fine tuning in Lightroom meant I had one of the most beautiful images I have ever made.
Snow photography is interesting.  You either go for an images that is real and as a result you’ll have a blue-ish cast to the image or you dial in exposure composition and have white snow.  At the time I wrote about this for Pixel Magazine.

Incidentally, I do tend to print the images I make and I like.  This one prints gorgeously!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Still January

January was quite a productive month.  A few days after shooting the Lancashire Coats a few friends and I had a night out round Blackburn.  I had sort of pre-visualised a shot that I wanted to try and so off we went to a back alley.

I have to admit I have got in to the habit of planning shots and collating ideas.  These are kept in a little A5 notebook that is pretty much always with me.

In there are notes on techniques, sample images, film data even a bit of journal.  The other thing that I do is sketch out ideas and lighting diagrams.

Yesterday I talked about the essay leading you rather than you leading the essay sometimes a shot does exactly the same.  It's easy drawing a lighting diagram away from the location. When you do get on site sometimes things just alter.  I suppose I should do some more research rather than relying on memory but hey ho!

So here is a posh selfie shot and the lighting diagram so you can see the difference!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Back to the Coast

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas was out of the way it was time to return to the coast to try and make a little progress on Lancoast.

I started Lancoast at Lytham last year and that shoot had gone well.  In August of 2014 I had visited Blackpool and had struggled with that.  Making a monochrome image there was difficult.  My eye kept looking for the colourful and garish instead of focusing on producing a monochrome image.
So the return to Lancoast was to start in Blackpool.  This time the shoot went well.  I managed to get a couple of shots that would make nice monochrome images.  I felt enthused again.

Starting quite early in the morning and knowing what I wanted pretty much meant that I was done in Blackpool within an hour.  The next stop was Cleveleys.  I’d seen some images of Mary’s Shell and that was something I wanted in the essay.  So off I went.  On the way there I came across a roundabout that had a cheeky little character peeping out from behind the cover.  It’s made quite a nice shot although it wouldn’t work in black and white.

Next up was Fleetwood.  I got a couple of cracking shots there.  My favourite being of the England house.

I’m a planner.  I like to plan my shots and projects quite carefully but what you find is that when you do start shooting they take you on a journey.  I’ve found that if you fight the journey and stay true to your original idea and planning then you end up with something that seems a bit more contrived, somehow less real.  If you go with it you end up with a far better end result and you also genuinely learn something along the way.

Originally Lancoast was set to be a wholly monochrome essay but by going on the journey it has become something else.  The main focus will still be monochrome.  At the end of the day the outcome has always been to produce a set of salt prints form the images and that is still the case.  However, now it will also have a colour element to it.  It maybe that I transfer the digital files to film and then process them as colour prints.  Don’t know haven’t decided yet.  We’ll have to see where the journey takes me.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Long Time Posting

Its been ages since I last posted.  At the moment I class myself as an amateur photographer.  Why?  well at the moment I don't make the bulk of my earnings from my photography.  Not that there is anything wrong with being an amateur in fact some of the amateur photographers I know are more talented and more professional in the way they go about their photography than those that make a living and in some cases a very comfortable living from the art form.

The problem with being an amateur is time.  You have to balance your photography with family life and work that means sometimes the photography side of your life gets put on the back burner a little.  So lets go right back to when I last posted to see what I've been up to.

Well December so my return to Pendle's Mayors' Bit of a Do event.  This event is organised by Pendle Council staff on behalf of the Mayor of Pendle and is for the pensioners of the Borough.  Its a lovely little Christmas event and is often the highlight of the year calendar for some people that would otherwise be lonely.

My role during the event is to document people that are there and some of the acts that perform.  The first year I did this I found it quite a challenge now I don't find it that difficult.  In fact I think I've got this stage photography thing pretty much down.  My camera performs well at high ISO's required
for working in dark environments.  The stage light are quite bright so spot focusing is a must and often the ISO stays quite low.  The difficulty I have with this subject is predicting those little moments that make the photograph special.  So instead of slowing down like I do with film I tend to shoot quite a few shots and then narrow them down in the editing stage.  I don't particularly like working like this but it does get the shot.

When I'm documenting this type of event I have to be really careful that  I don't go all Martin Parr.  I like the that Martin Parr documents life.  He is sometimes described as being quite sarcastic however, I think he has a tendency to tell the story as it is.  Have a look at his essay The Last Resort.  Anyway  I caught two images that I felt were good.  The first image I think is a comment on old age.  The second is a little moment between the Mayor and Mayoress.

Is this something that I would like to do professional?  I think not.  I love music and would love to shoot some events, but I think I would soon get bored of it pretty quickly.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The River

'Oh my God!' A damp feeling ran down the shin and calf of my right leg. The cold shooting through my body was intense like being wrapped in a blanket of ice. It could not have been worse than if I had been slapped in the face with a wet trout.

A welly filling with ice cold river water in the middle of December is probably not anybody's idea of fun. Well, perhaps only fishermen and photographers. It's funny, now that I sit here at my desk I remember just how cold it was. At the time getting home, the comfort of central heating and a few hot chocolates quickly dissipated the memory.

It was on a whim that I visited the waterfalls of Earby. I didn't have any particular shot in mind. The only thing that I had actually thought about was that I wanted to make exposure time quite long. By making long exposures the water becomes blurred and often gives an impression of movement throughout the picture.

When making landscape photographs I tend to start with a very wide view taking in as much of the scene as possible. After a while I begin to settle in to what I am doing and see the micro landscapes and abstracts that I actually find infinitely more interesting than that of the whole. I guess I like details.

A few hours sat at my PC and the cold amnesia had firmly set in. The collection of images I had made were good. In fact it is fair to say that an abstract from the set is one of my favourite photographs I have ever made. I should really find a way of making a nice print of it.

The thing is shooting something like this is a really bad idea for me. I don't really tend to work in single images. I actually prefer to make essays. That is a collection of photographs that tell a story. So when I see something that is beginning to work it tends to start the steam engine to whir the cogs of my brain and the Christmas holidays gave me plenty of time to think.

Taking these shots also coincided with me reading Ted Hughes book of poetry on the River Dart in Devon. Each poem is accompanied by a photograph by Peter Keen. So it was no surprise that my brain went into overdrive. However, there was no chance I was going to attempt to write poems to go with my images. It's one thing writing an article for my blog or a magazine but a completely another world writing poetry and I don't think my command of the English language extends that far.

The festive season came and went and the idea of The River had firmly set in. As with all my ideas for essays the initial idea behind the project had started off too big. Originally the subject of The River was going to be the River Ribble but with a timescale of nine months this was not going to be possible and so I had a re-think. The answer to the brainstorming session was to document a river that was and continues to be much closer to my heart; one that I could visit easily when I had a spare hour or so; the answer was Colne Water.

Colne Water is a river that stretches around five miles from the hamlet of Laneshawbridge, through the town of Colne and ends in the village of Barrowford. Unlike the Ribble it has a very definite start and finish. Very much like the Ribble it has a variety of landscape characteristics from rural through urban fringe, industrial and back to urban fringe.

It turned out to be a good time to document this river. Major changes to it were about to happen. Some of the wiers were removed to allow breeding salmon upstream. No bad thing at least not in my book. Also permission has just been sought to generate electricity from another part of the river. Again, in my opinion no bad thing. And then there was also the demolition of the mill at Waterside.

I tend to take some test shots before I settle in to producing an essay properly. It quickly became apparent that I had found a look to the images that I was happy with. This wasn't going to be about big beautiful landscapes taken during the time of days referred to as the ‘golden hours’ (that is sunrise and sunset). It wasn't going to be about the wildlife of the water course and although there would be some small space for it within the essay the final piece would be more abstract than that.

Beth Derbyshire & The Ark
I began shooting the images that would be included in the final piece without an idea what the final presentation of the piece would be. In general when I start out shooting an essay, I only have a vague idea of what the finished piece will be like. This usually evolves and clears as the process of making photograph continues along. In terms of The River the final piece would become an audiovisual presentation.

Model of The Ark
Some time ago I got involved with Beth Derbyshire’s Ark. This was a converted canal barge that travelled up and down the Leeds Liverpool Canal showing a multi-screen video installation and this proved to be an influence on my final piece. Not having access to multiple screens or projectors I decided that I would create slides with a series of interchanging images from up and down the river. The soundtrack to the imagery would be a soundscape created by recording my walk along the river bank. This hopefully meant that the viewer would be immersed in sights and sounds that I was seeing and hearing.

The River is made up of around 70 images most of which are quite abstract or show some small detail often missed by someone walking along the course of Colne Water. There are some images of the landscape that it sits in; there are some photographs that document some of the wildlife; some are quite pretty; others are quite hard to look at.
The River was never going to be a beautiful celebration of a prized landscape feature. It was always intended to show the viewer how nature and man affect the landscape in a warts and all manner. I think it achieves this.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Heptonstall - Still Messing with Film

I think I wrote previously that I had been ill for several months this year and this has taken its toll on my productivity levels.  A quick way of telling how little work I have done is the amount of film I have lying around.  I still have the majority of my stock of Superia 400 waiting to be used on Laundry; I've got several rolls of Fujicolour 200 and a roll of FP4+ rolling around my camera bag.  There is also nearly a full box of 4x5 sheet film still sat in the fridge.  On top of this I had a part used roll of Ilford's FP4+ in my K1000.  In fact it had been in there quite a while.  It was time to use it up.

I decided I would have a little trip to the nearby village of Heptonstall.  I had been meaning to do this for ages.  So while I had a roll of film to use on nothing in particular, I thought I would take a visit.

Heptonstall is quite a large village on the Yorkshire side of the border with Lancashire.  As far as remote goes in England it is quite remote being, that it is set quite high up in the Pennines  and is quite distance from any major towns or cities.   This probably one the reasons that it has stayed the way it has for many a year.

Even being so close to where I live and work, I had never heard of it until a couple of years ago.  Heptonstall first came into my consciousness through the work of Fay Godwin.  Godwin struck up a life long friendship with poet Ted Hughes.  Hughes collaborated with Godwin on a book of poems and photographs entitled The Remains of Elmet.  The poems were a reflection of Hughes' growing up and life in Heptonstall which lies in the ancient former kingdom of Elmet.  Each poem was accompanied by one of Godwin's' photographs.  The combination of these two extrodinary talents meant that visiting Heptonstall would appear on my to do list.  It would be remiss of me to mention that Heptonstall is also the final resting place of American poet and Hughes' wife, Sylvia Plath.

As it turned out this wouldn't be the last time that Hughes would have an influence on me.  His collaboration with another photographer, Peter Keene on River would lay the foundation stones for my project The River (more on this in the very near future).

Anyway, I managed to find a bit of time to visit and I have to admit I found the place captivating.  It certainly lends itself to photography and in particular film photography.  The centre of the village could be straight out of 1940's inspired film set.

It’s definitely a place that I must visit again and spend a bit more time photographing.  The shots into this post were shot on FP4+ rated at 50 ASA and developed in D74.