A day by the River

A day off work and for once the weather looked like it was going to turn my way, a perfect excuse to head out up the dale to take some pictures. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent most of my time either working in the darkroom creating prints for my gallery Gallerina or sad to say desperately trying to catch a salmon before the fishing season ended, thankfully I was pretty successful with the first one but not so much with the fish. Anyway it was a great feeling to be heading out again with my camera and though there were a few days in which I could flog the river into a foam in the pursuit of a silver tourist I think I made the right choice. Although pretty soon it was obvious that the weather was not going to be as kind as I’d hoped when gusts of wind started to rock the car as I drove along the moor road. With the higher tops pretty much out of the question I needed a plan B, somewhere a little more sheltered from the elements. A quick change in direction saw me heading South towards the village of Bowes.  Beneath the village and it’s dramatic ruined castle sat in the corner of the Roman Fort of  Lavatris. It’s pretty hard to find a place with more history than Bowes and and in a more dramatic position stood beside the old Roman roads that crossed Stainmore something that wasn’t lost on artists and writers over the centuries such as Sir Walter Scott who in 1832 created his poem Bowes Tower which was illustrated in watercolour by William Turner. It has to be said that it’s very hard to find a better place to spend an autumn morning than on the banks of a wooded moorland stream and the Greta must be one of the best. A short walk along it’s banks and I could hear the wind whistling through the upper branches of the trees but around me was still and quiet apart from the sound of the stream which was rattling around it’s boulders, I soon came to my destination the picturesque waterfall of Mill Force, which takes it’s name from a mill that once  stood beside it.  There are still some substantial remains left to explore, one of the most dramatic is the two concrete pillars that must have carried a walkway or sluice gates to control the flow, they now stand like standing stones, scarred from the battles with years of savage winter spates, slowly being eaten away by the river.

 

Mill Force Piers

Mill Force Piers, HP5+ taken with Shen-Hao 5×4 and 90mm Schneider Angulon with MPP 6×9 120 back.

I had one last treat as I was taking down my camera gear, suddenly a few salmon and sea trout started to leap up the falls, one after the other making their way upstream towards their spawning grounds. The Greta is a tributary of the River Tees, a river who’s estuary was so polluted by heavy instustry that it’s once prolific runs of salmon were reduced to nill and it’s only in recent years that they have started to return, so to see them running is always a privilege, and I didn’t miss my fishing rod once….honest!!

On the way to Sparty Lea

There are times when my partner Helen hates driving in the car with me. Basically because I have a habit of constantly staring out the window at what we’re passing by rather than the road in front of us!! I just can’t help it, every so often you see something which just makes you want to slam your brakes on and get out and take a photograph, there are so many fantastic places which if you’re not careful can just pass you by!! Though I’ve got a feeling that Helen would much prefer me to keep an eye on the road?

Anyway a few weeks ago such a thing happened, after a lovely bit of lunch in the small market town of Corbridge in Northumberland Helen and I decided to drive the extra scenic route home (extra because the normal drive up the A68 is pretty dam scenic to be honest) and as we headed up East Allendale towards Sparty Lea I saw something out the corner of my eye that I just had to stop for, and I think it was worth it.

Corrugated

Corrugated, Sipton Cleugh, East Allendale.

This also gave me another chance to try out my new Adox CHS II 100 film and Tanol developer. So far I’ve had great results, this was developed in a Combi-plan tank for 10 mins at 20c with constant agitation for the first minute and then 2 inversions every 30 secs after that. It was taken with a Rankin & Pullin 6 1/2inch lens on my Shen-Hao TFC45.

I have to point out that the road was very quiet and no one was following behind us (I did check before I stopped and pulled in off the road) I’m not really that dangerous honest……though if you do see a car occasionally wandering across the lines in the middle of the road don’t worry it’s probably just an unfortunate landscape photographer being distracted by the view, just give them a wide berth!!

Cheers

Graham

Brave New World

Well I’m all for adventure and searching out the new, but sometimes it’s good to go with what you know, and not to overlook what is really just on your own doorstep. I must admit though most people aren’t so fortunate as to live on the edge of Teesdale, an area of outstanding natural beauty and England’s last wilderness so I guess I’m a bit spoilt when it comes to places to go out and take photographs. Same goes for my photography equipment, at times it’s better to go with the devil you know and stick to proven materials, that way if you’re out in the hills and lucky enough to stumble upon the perfect vista you can have some confidence that you may have a decent image at the end of it. Having said that, sometimes you just can’t help yourself and a new black and white film (a very rare thing these days in the digital age) comes on the market you just had to give it a try. So with a with a day of stormy weather forcasted a 20 minute drive to the other side of the dale and I was parking up on the slopes below the rocky gritstone outcrop of Goldsborough, with a couple of darkslides loaded with the new Adox  CHS 100 II film.

 

Goldbrough

Hanging Crag, Goldsborough, 90mm Schneider Angulon, Adox CHS 100 II.

The views from the top of the crag were stunning and made even more dramatic by encroaching heavy showers and storm clouds. I managed a few exposures until the wind started to pick up bringing with it a sweeping curtain of rain. Back home with a good brew in hand I started developing the films, and just incase anyone is interested here is what I did… I decided to use Tanol, a fine grain staining developer made by Moersch Photochemie. Because this is a new film I got in touch with Wolfgang Moersch and he recommended I develop the film for 10 mins at  20 degrees agitating constantly first full minute and then 4 times every 30 secs thereafter, this was all after a 3 min pre-soak in water.  For a stop bath I simply used plain water and then fixed with a non aggressive alkali fixer. The results were great, sharp smooth grain with a good balance between highlights and shadows, I couldn’t ask for better!! Well that’s about it, a bit of a dry and techy post but I hope someone may find it some help.

Cheers

Graham

 

 

A trip to Inkerman

Inkerman isn’t the kind of name you would normally associate with the small town of Tow Law high up above Weardale in County Durham, but the connections are there. In 1854 the Durham Light Infantry, known then as 68th Regiment of Foot nicknamed The Faithful Durhams, fought in one of the most important battles of the Crimean War. It took place on a freezing cold foggy day in November, and it was said that the Durhams where the only regiment to have fought in their red jackets, since they alone took off their greatcoats during this winter battle. Since that day the anniversary of 5th of November was celebrated by the regiment as Inkerman Day, so it makes sense to find the name of this distant battle here on the edge of the Durham coal fields.  

It wasn’t until Charles Atwood built his Iron works in 1840’s that Tow Law started to grow from  a tiny farmstead to town with a population of 5000 people. Six blast furnaces were built and they were fuelled by coal from the nearby collieries, such as Black Prince, Royal George and West Edward. The coal was not burned in its raw farm. Instead it was first turned into coke, by baking it in an oven to drive off the impurities. At the beginning of the industrial revolution this was done in beehive shaped brick ovens. Thousands of these were built across County Durham but very few of them survive today, and some of the last few stand beside the Inkerman Road.  

The morning I chose to visit the remains of the Inkerman Coke Ovens was cold and foggy which felt like the right kind of weather to visit this place. Now standing beside a coal yard, these strange conical structures look more like something that belongs to a Scottish Broch or ancient burial tomb than heavy industry. But as you peer inside one of collapsed ovens it’s clear to see the charred bricks, fused together by the extreme heat used during the oven’s firing. Maybe the coke made in these ovens produced the iron and steel rifles and bayonets used by the 68th on that day? The 1840’s also saw the birth of photography with Fox Tolbot announcing his discovery of the Calotype process, and it was during the Crimean War the new art form was used to document the conflict. So it seemed fitting to use some of Tolbot’s techniques to create my prints.

Inkerman Oven

Inkerman Oven.

90mm Schneider Angulon lens, F8. Fomapan 100 developed in Prescysol. Salt Print.

Inside Coke Oven

Charred Bricks.

90mm Schneider Angulon lens, F8. Fomapan 100 developed in Prescysol. Salt Print.

I used Randall Webb’s formula to create my salt prints taken from his book Spirit of Salt, if you see a copy get it, it’s a superb book!! As I was leaving the site I noticed an inscription carved into a wooden post

“For many hearts with cool ore chorred and few remember”

W. Owen

The words of the war poet Wilfred Owen seemed appropriate for this place.

Thanks

Graham

Twins Across the Moor..

A few weeks ago I was given a job to do……I had to travel deep into the Pennines to find some relics of the area’s lead mining history that once covered this regoin and take a picture…I know it’s hard a life, but a lovely couple visited the gallery and having viewed my work asked me to photograph two ancient, lonely chimneys that stand on top of a moor near Blanchland, and capture the bleakness of the surrounding landscape. The client showed me the location on his Ordinance Survey map, but other than that I was given free rein to explore and photograph as I wished, so as you may guess I was really excited to get this project started!!

So with my good friend Joe Kelley (the very talented poet who wrote the fantastic poems for my book Fell) we set off to the moors which sit high above Rookhope in the south and Blanchland in the north, on the borders of County Durham and Northumberland. As we drove across the summit of Dead Friar’s Stones on the road to the remote village  of Hunstanworth, the vast moorland plateau of Allenshields and Buckshott Moor could be seen with the two chimneys standing beneath the summit of Bolt’s Law. So we parked up at the next layby, put on our boots and started walking.

 

Geofforys Chimney

Jeffrey’s Chimney,  Shen-Hao TFC 45 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon with Fomapan 100 film.

We headed towards the first chimney built sometime in the 19th century. It job was to draw the poisonous arsenic and sulfur dioxide gases which where created by the smelting of the lead ore. We followed the remains of the stone lined flue that ran up from the valley far below.  As we got closer his twin brother started to rise into view.

Sikehead

Sikehead, Shen-Hao TFC 45 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon with Fomapan 100 film.

The second chimney had a markedly different character, while the first stood out bravely against the elements this one was tucked down in it’s own little valley on the edge of the fell. This was the site of the Sikehead Lead Mine and the chimney is all that remains of the engine house that housed a Cornish Beam Engine  which drew water from the mine shafts.

Twins Across The Moor

Twins Across the Moor, Shen-Hao TFC 45 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon with Fomapan 100 film.

It’s hard to visualise this being a place of industry and imagine these stacks pouring out black smoke and poisonous gases into the air, now all remains silent apart from the wind in the grasses and the mocking calls of grouse. Both stand as a testament to the people who worked in and built these mines and smelt mills.

When I got home I quickly developed my negs in Prescysol for 10mins and then contact printed them on Foma Chamois fibre based paper and got them to the gallery. The clients chose their favourite….but you will have to wait and see which one they like best and how the final print has turned out.

Cheers

Graham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the scenes.

Recently I’ve been asked for more details about how I create my photographs in the darkroom, and struck me that lately my blog has mostly been concentrating on my trips out and about taking pictures. But this is only really a small portion of the work that goes into making my final prints for sale in the gallery. In fact when I first started this blog this was one of the elements I really wanted to include, so in the future I’m going to try to show a little more behind the scenes, and try to explain some of the techniques and processes I use.

Photo for Gallerina 009

Setting up my 6×6 enlarger for a print destined for the gallery.

I am really lucky to be represented by Gallerina, a contemporary fine art gallery in Darlington so to get the ball rolling I thought I would post the trailer from the fantastic documentary they filmed about my work called Infinity!!

 

What I really love about this film is it gives a great snap shot of all the different steps I make to get to the completed photograph. Ok this bit may sound a bit of  a blatant plug but if  you are interested in seeing the full length film they may still have some copies of the DVD left at the gallery, please get in touch at www.gallerina.com

Cheers

Graham

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty Nine Degrees North!

Sorry for the lack of recent activity on my blog. I’m pleased to say I haven’t just been setting here idly waiting for the autumn leaves to change before I took any new photographs, I have in fact been on a trip to distant lands.  At the beginning of August I was lucky to take my family all the way across the sea to the Isles of Orkney. This dramatic group of islands lie off the northern most point of Scotland and are steeped in history, so much so the islanders say “if you cut the surface of the land, it will bleed archaeology!”  Everywhere you look you can see the remnants of its past, from standing stones and ancient burial tombs all the way through time to the ship wrecks and coastal defences of the Second World War. Its incredible to be in such a landscape with so many layers of history, some hidden just beneath the surface while others like the Ring Of Brodgar which even after 4000 years still dominate the landscape! It was a magical trip and even better because I was able to share it with my family.

Dwarfie Stone

Dwarfie Stane, Isle of Hoy.

 

ship wreck

Block Ship, Scapa Flow.

 

The Birsay Whale

The Birsay Whale, Orkney Mainland.

 

Waiting

Waiting for the return, Birsay.

 

Lonelest Grave

The lonely Grave of Betty Corrigall, Hoy.

 

Cotton Grass, Ring of Brogar

Cotton Grass, Ring Of Brodgar, Orkney Mainland.

Because this was a family holiday when it came to my camera gear I needed to travel as light as possible. I wanted to keep in simple so packed my Shen-Hoa TFC45 IIB Field Camera, a couple of lenses including my much-loved 90mm Schneider Angulon (which to be honest was the only lens I used the whole trip) and a good old reliable Schneider Solida II 6×6 folder. The 5×4 darkslides were loaded with Fomapan 100,  and for role film I took Kodak TriX 400. When we got home and it came to developing the films I decided to try something a bit different. Over the last few months I’ve been researching about the incredible potential of instant coffee and black and white film i.e Caffenol, more about that to come!!

Cheers

Graham

Northumberland Bound

Once again I have been fortunate to be given another commission from the gallery, this time to take a photograph of Bamburgh Castle on the Northumbrian coast, and of course it would have been rude not to have a little look at a few other places while I was up there.

Bamborgh Castle Wide

Shen- Hoa 5×4 with Schneider 90mm Angulon f6,8 lens, at f32 for 5th sec with red+ND+Grey Grad filters.

The client wanted me to capture the atmosphere of Bamburgh Castle and its beach. On the day this was to be a bit tricky, because for once the north of England was blessed with blue skies and glorious sunshine. I had to work quickly before all the cloud was burnt away by the sun.

Bamborgh Stag

The White Stag, Shen- Hoa 5×4 with Schneider 90mm Angulon f6,8 lens

Bamborgh Castle2

I wanted to see how my new Shen-Hoa 5×4 camera would work with some of my antique lenses. This was taken with my brass Bausch And Lomb Rapid Rectilinear, and I was really pleased with the results. By the late afternoon the clouds had pretty much gone but the tide had dropped enough for me to cross the causeway to the beautiful island of Lindisfarne also know as Holy Island because of it’s ancient Priory and connections to St Cuthbert. The lack of clouds ruled out long and distant views but I did manage to capture a great picture of one of the incredible fisherman’s hut, built from ancient upturned boats pulled up onto the shore.

Lindisfarne Boat

Shen- Hoa 5×4 with Schneider 90mm Angulon f6,8 lens, at f16 for 5sec with red+ND+Grey Grad filters.

All and all a pretty successful trip and I think the gallery will be really pleased with what I managed to get for the client! All these photographs where taken with Fomapan 100 film and then contact printed at grade 3 on Foma Chamois paper.

Cheers

Graham

Experimentation

Well it’s been a long time since my last post so I thought I would show you what I’ve been working on.  I was hoping to have a few new photographs from a recent trip to Swaledale, but I had to divert my attention at the last minute when a large commission came in from Gallerina. The client wanted photographs to reflect the period features of their new boutique hotel, they also wanted the images to have a warmth. I needed to create a few test prints and after a search through my darkroom cupboards I managed to find what I was looking for. A two bath Fotospeed Sepia kit and a very ancient bottle of Agfa Viradon Brown toner, here is what I came up with.

I selected a  5×4 neg I taken on a trip to Belsay Castle in Northumberland a few years a go and coated some paper with SE1 liquid emulsion diluted 50/50 with water.

 

belsay test strip

Untoned Test strip.

 

belsay sepia

Sepia toner.

 

belsay brown

Agfa Viradon Brown Toner.

Se1 is great to split tone and each of the prints turned out really well, but both had their draw backs. The sepia being two baths, one a bleach the other the toner means getting consistent even results on large prints is tricky, the Viradon is made with polysulfide and stinks to high heaven!! Also Viradon is no longer in production and I probably have about 40ml left at most, which is enough to make 1 to 1.5 ltrs of working solution. Out of the two I prefered the Vardon. I love its depth and warmth, and thankfully so did the client. Fingers crossed I’ll have enough.

This looks like this is going to be a huge comission and I can’t wait to get out and start taking pictures!!

 

Cheers

Graham.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roseberry Topping

Hi

Just completed this comission and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out! I’ve never taken a picture of Roseberry Topping before and was worried what I could bring to such a popular and well photographed part of the Cleveland landscape, hopefully I have successfully managed to put my mark on it and create something fresh.

Roseberry Topping

For this one I wanted to use my old 5×4 M.P.P Mark II Technical camera. The lens was a 270mm Schneider Tele-Xenar I picked up for £65 last year (thrift is a important part of my photography haha) . I developed the Fomapan 100 film with Prescysol and then printed it on watercolour paper coated with liquid silver emulsion.

Thanks

Graham