Balderhead and Shacklesborough

In my last post I had written how the weather had me trying to find shelter beside the River Greta from a howling north westerly wind, but as it often does in these northern parts it soon started to change. With improving conditions I was able to go back to my plan A and start exploring the high moorlands surrounding the lonely top of Shacklesborough at the head of Balderdale. I’ve been to the summit of this gritstone outcrop a couple of times in the past but I wanted to try and photograph it within the greater landscape and try to capture it’s sense of isolation. With my camera bag packed and my boots on I set off along the footpath to Crawlaw Stone Rigg, well I say path there wasn’t much evidence of any path on the ground just miles of rustling moorland grass…  so even better!!  As soon as I made the ridge of high ground above Hunder Beck the pork pie like summit of Shacklesborough appeared on the horizon, and as I climbed higher, far off in the distance Lunehead and the brooding shape of Mickle Fell could be seen. The whole scene filled me with a humbling sense of space, no wonder the Northern Pennines are home to some of England’s last true wild places.


Shacklesborough, Shen-Hao 5×4, 90mm Schneider Angulon with Fompan 200.

From this direction it’s easy to see where maybe (well at least part of) the name Shacklesborough may have come from. The word borough comes from the Anglo-Saxon burg or the Norse Berg meaning fort, and from where I stood it certainly looked like some ancient fortification, with it’s steep craggy sides perched on top of a high spit of land, but where could the word shackles come from I’m not so sure. The noun comes from the old English to fetter or restrain, sober terms indeed to name a distant hill, it could also come from the other old English word scacol meaning tongue of land, Fort on the ridge perhaps?? In many of the Anglo-Saxon poems the ruins left by the Romans and early Britons where often accredited to “the work of gaints” as an eplanation of something which has passed out of memory. Maybe when the people started to settle in these upland areas they saw this place and thought it to be some ancient ring work built by a people long since vanished?

After all these Tolkienesque thoughts of fortresses and long lost kingdoms I decided to move on. By this time the sun had begun to climb higher and had started to burn off the morning clouds. Now for most people this would be the highlight of a nice day in the hills however for a black and white photographer searching for the dark isolation of the fells, sunny blue skies don’t really do it for me, so as I came to the deep gully of Crawlaw Gill I had just enough time to take one more shot before all the cloud had completely gone.

Shadow over Hunder Gill

Shadow Over Crawlaw Gill, Shen-Hao 5×4, 6.5inch Rank and Pullin lens, Fomapan 200.

After this I started to make my way back to where I left my car, it had been a productive day but I still feel like there’s more to explore so as soon as some more favourable weather returns I’ll definitely be back!

Here are a few notes on the photography in this post. The film I used for this trip was Fomapan 200 which I wanted to develope in traditional staining developer called PMK Pyro. It’s a great developer and I used to use it lot in my work because I like the contrast of the negatives it gives me which I feel print very well with my condenser enlarger. Sadly a while ago my usual supplier stopped selling it and I’ve struggled to find a new source, but after a bit of search online the other day I discovered you can now buy a dry kit made by Photographers Formulary from the Imaging Wharehouse which is great news.  The usual development time for the film is 12min at 20c but you need to agitate every 15sec which is great for conventional spiral developing tanks, but I find this a bit of a pain with the Combi-plan tank I use for my 5×4 sheet film, so I doubled the development time to 24min and which meant I only needed to agitate every 30secs which is a lot more managable, dead simple! Other than that everything else was pretty straight forward with all the prints being printed on Foma Chamois paper.

Thanks for reading!





4 responses to “Balderhead and Shacklesborough”

  1. Mr. Vasey, I have been admiring your work, and as a black and white art photographer (Alabama, USA), find your work unique and intriguing. In my limited experience, I am interested to see that you coat your own paper. 1. I would like to know how you get that deep sepia tone, and 2. do you create your vignettes under enlarger light. I think wise use of vignettes can help a photograph if not over used and you do a fine job!

  2. Hi Steve thank you very much! So you would like to know a few of my secrets? Haha Well there not really that secret to be honest. In most of my photography I like a warm to neutral tone to my prints, pretty much all my test prints like the ones in this post are made using a multigrade photographic paper called Foma Chamois which has a lovely warm ivory base, which gives them that vintage sepia look. All my liquid emulsion prints are coated onto a neutral cotton rag watercolour paper which I apply with a soft wooden hake brush. The vignette effect is created during the enlarging process by simply burning in the edges with enlarger light, it’s a technique a good friend showed me and it helps draw the viewers eye into the picture. I hope that is some help!!

    1. Steve Hartsfield Avatar
      Steve Hartsfield

      Graham, thank you for your reply. I have purchased the Fomatone chamois paper ($$$) and am doing research for the best developer. I currently use Dektol, but since warm tone is new to me, I have been looking at warm tone developers. Would you share your developer type? I have found Fomatol, and some from Photographers Formulary. I don’t want to use a soft developer.

  3. Hi Steve sorry I’ve taken so long to get back to you, I heard the Ilford Warmtone dev (if you can still get it) is really good and I get really nice results using Ilford PQ Universal which is a more of neutral working developer but produces great tones, I have used the Agfa Neutral Warmtone which will give extremely warm results but you may also get a little softer print. Hope that’s some help!!

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