Red Grooves House sits high upon the windswept fell side of Newbiggin Common just west of the vast man made scar of Coldberry Gutter. The history of this house seems vague, and it is unclear wether it was built as a mineshop (bascially over night accomadation for the miners) or a farm, but it looks like it was occupied until the late 1950s early 60s. For its day the house was well-appointed with a barn, a stables, a large farmhouse kitchen with a coal-fired range and living room with an open fire. But for all this it sits in complete isolation surrounded by sheep cropped meadows and the remains of the lead mine which shares its name. For decades the building must have been battered from all sides by whatever the weather wished to throw at it, and with no road or track way to connect its inhabitants to the outside world it’s not surprising that living here proved too much to sustain. Now the ceilings have fallen and its windows are just empty sockets looking out across the dale to the distant brooding hights of Mickle fell.
Both photographs were taken with an old Ensign 820 folding camera that I’ve customised by fitting a 65mm Schneider Angulon f6,8 lens to create a very useful wide-angle 6x9cm camera. The film was Fomapan 400 which I developed in Pyrocat HD, mixed at a ratio of 1+1+100 for 16 minutes semi-stand with 60 seconds continuous agitation at the beginning, and then once every 3 minutes after that. This was the first time I’d used this method with a Pyro developer and I was really impressed with the tonal range and sharpness of the negatives it produced. With the print I decided to use some of my newly acquired expired Agfa Portriga Rapid Grade 3 paper. This paper was famed for the way it could be Lith printed and I couldn’t wait to experiment with some Fotospeed LD20 Lith developer, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
So there the boulder sits, left by a glacier thousands of years ago, he has withstood the wind and rain while all round the soft limestone has slowly dissolved away leaving him standing on his rocky pedestal. I first stumbled across this stone while wandering across the moor only to rediscover him once again this summer fifteen years later. But in the life span of this rock fifteen years is just a blink of his gritstone eye, he sees the world in terms of geomorphology, the literal evolution of the landscape over millennia, not by the ticking of a clock. What is a mere decade and a half compared to the passing of an ice age? My first photograph failed to deliver due to a light leak in my camera, this time things went much better but I’m sure I will return again for a third attempt maybe in another fifteen years, and he will still be there waiting for me.
The photograph was taken with my DIY Ensign 820 Wide Angle camera with Fomapan 100 film developed in 510 Pyro, I then contact printed it on expired vintage Agfa Brovira grade 5 paper.
An ancient tractor sits crab like, slowly sinking into the gravel, surrounded by the flotsam of last winter’s storms, with nothing to protect it from the elements other then a battered old tarp lashed down with frayed blue nylon rope. Along the coastline of Britain there are dozens of these aging machines which for decades have been used to haul small fishing boats from the surging tides. To the passer by it must seem dead, redundant, a relic from a long done industry, but beneath scraps of faded paint and flaking rust, black treacle like grease and gear oil has kept the salt and grit at bay, protecting it’s bright metal innards. Maybe one day soon it will cough and bark back into life, it’s cracked sun bleached tyres breaking free of the sands grip , to rumble down the beach once again to were surf meets the shore.
Rolleicord TLR, Expired Agfa APX 100 film developed in Tanol for 13 minutes and split grade printed on Ilford Warmtone paper.
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.
Untoned Test strip.
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!!