About Two and Six

Just up the road from were I live is the village of Cockfield, it sits on Cockfield Fell which is a broad piece of rising heathland bounded on it’s northern side by the fast flowing river Gaunless. The fell at almost 350 hectares is England’s largest scheduled ancient monument and within you will find numerous places which show remains of people living here from Iron Age, the Roman period and the Middle Ages. This was also a place of industry, coal mining began here as early as 1303 when a licence was granted by the Bishop of Durham. The mining steadily grew in its importance and by the 19th century the South West Durham coalfield was opened and the population of the area grew significantly, in fact some of my partner’s ancestors were among many who came here for work. The last Coal Mine closed in 1962 when the last of the coal had been finally worked out of the hills. But this place is not just a land resevered for the past, it’s also a living landscape. This is common land shared between the land owners of the parish which is managed by a group called the Fell Reeves. This means that local residents can pay a yearly rent for a “Stint” which gives them the right to graze their animals on the rough pasture of the fell side.

The stockholders are also allowed to build sheds on their stints, so not only will you seen live stock roaming across the land you will also see all kinds of sheds, stables and shacks dotted across the fell. A few years ago I came across a very weathered little pigeon cree standing beside the road, I drove past it time and time again until one morning a thick fog covered the hill the setting seemed perfect.

Come In Number 6 Bromide

Come In Number 6. Fomapan 100, 90mm Schneider Angulon f6,8 lens.

But as I said this is a working landscape and one morning I drove down the lane only to see a work team clearing the ground were Number 6 once stood, and for a few years all that remained was a small patch of bare earth. But this shouldn’t been seen as a negative, it’s a sign that there are people who still use the fell for it’s true purpose maintaining it for future generations.

The other day while driving back from a fishing trip in Teesdale I spotted another timber shed standing on the hill above the river, a number 2 painted on it’s side. Learning from past expirences this time I acted a bit quicker and returned a few weeks later to take some pictures.

Number 2 Shed

Wind Torn. Fomapan 200, Schneider 90mm Angulon f6,8 lens.

There was a stiff north westerly breeze blowing while I was there and the whole structure seemed to rock and sway with it. The elements had certainly took there toll and looking at it I wasn’t sure if another stormy night would beat any work parties and reduce it to a pile of rotten timber and ash-felt. But maybe when it does collapsed or is pulled down somebody will decided it’s a good spot to build something new and the circle will begin again.

While doing a bit of research for this post I came across a number of interesting articles on Cockfield Fell, there is a lot of information on the Keys to the Past website (which is always very useful) and the Northern Echo has a couple of interesting pieces from past publication. Here is a link to one which includes an incredible local poem which dates from March 12th 1878 when the fell must have seen it’s most intense period of heavy industry..

Bleak and Charmless…the fell is a hard place for all.

Cheers

Graham

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last of Autumn’s Bounty

 

It was a cold misty morning and me, my friend Mark and Monty (Mark’s lovely gun dog) were walking beside the Bedburn river in Weardale, trying to find some of the river’s seasonal visiting salmon and sea-trout which have made their way upstream from the sea to their spawning redds were they were born. Both Mark and I are keen fly fisherman, sometimes too keen, and every year when the fishing season draws to a close we talk about heading out and trying to find some spawning fish, and atlast we managed to get out by a river. We parked up near Hamsterley Forest and started slowly making our way upstream peering into every likely nook and cranny of the stream. It didn’t take too long and after about 20 minutes of walking we saw our first dark salmon hanging in the current. Though the river was  pretty low it was still stained from peat from the surrounding moors it wasn’t until the fish was aware of us and started to move that we got a good look at him. He quickly got spooked and swam off upstream creating a bow wave as he went and in the process disturbing another larger salmon further up the pool. As we carried on we saw evidence that the fish we had just seen were probably just a few stragglers as we soon started to see the occasional dead kelt (a fish that has spawned) washed up on the banks of the stream, a sure sign that the main run of fish had already completed their task. Contrary to common belief not all Atlantic salmon and sea-trout die after they lay their eggs unlike their Pacific cousins quite a few survie and swim back to sea maybe to return again, but for many the ordeal of the journey is just too much. There was one I had to photograph, it was the remains of a large male sea-trout swept by the current onto a gravel island in the middle of the river surrounded by the rest of the spoils of autumn.

Sea trout Kelt

Shen-Hao with Schneider 90mm Angulon lens and Ilford HP5 film.

It’s great to think that these fish return every season, not that long ago the River Wear which the Bedburn flows into was like so many of the rivers in the Northeast of England and suffered from pollution from heavy industry, and it’s runs of migratory fish had almost completely vanished, but now they have returned in there thousands back to the streams and becks where they hatched. A true miracule of mother nature!

Cheers

 

Graham

 

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.

Shaklesbrough

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!

Graham

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Off to the Great Outdoors!!!

Well things have moved on with the DIY 10×8 camera, Ihave  glued a large piece of wood to the bottom to create a stable base for mounting the camera on a tripod, and in an attempt to give the camera body a little more weather protection I covered it in a rather attractive black ash sticky black plastic (handily left over from when I built some speakers for my old vintage Land Rover )

Fishing on the Lune+ 012

The camera back was also pretty fragile and had a habit of falling apart, but a little remodeling seems to have solved the problem.

Fishing on the Lune+ 014

The next step was to find some photographic paper  to create my negs. After a search through my darkroom I discovered a box of old Ilford Multigrade paper I bought secondhand years ago. One of the reasons I never  used it because even though it is a FB paper it only had a 135G base which is pretty thin, but luckily for me this will make it perfect to make printerable negs.

Fishing on the Lune+ 008

First I decided to try it out close to home in the back garden to find out how user friendly it was. First impressions were pretty good, the ground glass works well and I was really impressed by the focal length, it was even able to focus on objects only a few feet away.  The camera seemed really stable and solid considering it was only made from foam core board and hot glue!!

Sheep skull

The 215mm lens is pretty wide on the 10×8 format, this was taken about 3ft away from the subject. I exposed it for 10secs at f16 with a speed rating of ISO 6.

Sheep creep1

The next shot I took a little further from home out on Cockfield Fell. I was drawn to all the sheep wool caught on the barbed wire fences. The exposure was 10th sec at f8 and again the speed rating was ISO 6. I think this one could really do with a bit more work. With paper negatives you have to avoid bright contrasty days and full sun light. Even with a graduated filtre the sky of the second photograph was really over exposed, but I still like the waving fleece moving in the breeze, makes me think of summer in the hills!!