I had probably been sat there for too long. The weather report had given me a brief window between the two weather fronts which were moving across the country from the north, but in my defense it had been a long haul up the steep fell side, and the giant gritstone boulder I had found provided the perfect shelter from the bitter wind which was sweeping across the moorland behind me. The day had started off fine and cold with a bright glishy sun which reflected off the tumbling waters of the Flushiemere Beck. With the stream gently chuckling between it’s frozen banks I walked along the icy track towards the old mine shop of Flushiemere House high above the small hamlet of Newbiggin, and from there I left the main path and started the climb to reach the weathered stones of Carr Crags. From my perch amongst these stones I looked out across the vast panorama of fells that make up the skyline of upper Teesdale, each peak carried its own snowy mantle which glowed in the low afternoon sun. But while I soaked up the mountainous vista, around me the clouds were quickly turning darker by the minute, bringing with them fresh gusts of snow. It was starting to look like I didn’t have much time left to explore before the weather would completely close in around me.
What had drawn me here was the hope of finding some relics of a long gone industry which existed here high up on the bleak shoulder of Jame’s Hill. For centuries the hard rough sedimentary rock these crags are made of had been used to make millstones. From what I had been told these stones were strewn throughout these outcrops like loose change, each one carved by hand but then abandoned before they could be completed. It seems strange to think that after all that hard work they should be left to weather and erode. It turns out the carvers where the victims of a changing market driven by a desire for softer flour that could be milled with fine-grained millstones imported cheaply from the continent. In the end it literally was just not worth the effort to get these stones down the hill.
The first millstone I came across was probably only 20 feet from where I had been seated. It lay on a broken stack of stones half buried in snow-covered turf, but as I started to compose my shot the snow which had been till then only falling as small flurries was quickly becoming a blizzard. Despite the worsening conditions I tried my best to capture the scene taking as many exposures as I could before deciding to move on.
Millstone on Carr Crags, Liquid silver emulsion on watercolour paper.
With my back to the now increasingly savage wind and snow I picked my way along the crag. Here and there I could make out more evidence of the people who spent their days working here. Tucked into a mass of rubble I saw a small circular cell, like a cist made of rough hewn stone it seemed most likely to have been built in an attempt to provide some protection asgainst the prevailing winds, a simple testament to the working conditions.
It was an incredible feeling to be enveloped in the squalling snow, watching it smudge out the landscape, there was an intense feeling of isolation, of being removed from the day-to-day world far below. Soon it became obvious that the weather was not going to break and I had run out of time to take more pictures. So I decided to head for the safety and comfort of home and by using the compass bearing which I had originally followed to reach the crag I descended through the swirling snow. Along the way down my mind kept drifting back to the millstone carvers and what they must have endured to hew these millstone from the hard unforgiving gritstone, only for all their endeavours to come to nought due to our love of soft white bread. Now the sound of pick and chisel has been replaced with the croaking call of the red grouse, and the stones have become home to the mountain hares.
Happy Christmas everyone. There have been plenty of ups and downs this year, and though I would have liked to spend a lot more time in my darkroom (once again I have too many yet unprinted negatives) there have been few highlights for me.
Many of you may have seen that back in April I had my first ever article published in the brilliant Fallon’s Angler publication, well would you believe it, they liked it enough to publish another of my articles in issue 8!
Another highlight of my year has been Gallerina, the wonderful gallery that have represented and supported me for so many years, relocating to their brand new home at No 1 Victoria Road Darlington. Richard Gwen and Helen worked tirelessly to transform a tired and neglected old building into a warm and welcoming contemporary art space. So for this new setting I decided to try something a little different, push myself outside of my comfort zone and began work on a series of new pieces using multiple exposure techniques to combine traditional still life photography with my liquid emulsion landscapes and using this new process to explore more deeply the folklore and mythology connected to our landscape. More to follow…
So finally I would just like to say thank you to everyone for continuing to support my blog it really makes it all feel worth while. Merry Christmas to you all and a happy New Year!
Last week I had some fantastic news that one of my liquid silver emulsion pictures “Dwarfie Stane, Hoy” had been accepted to be part of the ACTINIC Festival show in Edinburgh this summer!!
Dwarfie Stane, Hoy. 100x75cm liquid emulsion on water colour paper.
I originally took the picture back in August 2013 when Helen, Alice and me travelled to the far north for a holiday on the isles of Orkney, and when I heard about this competition out of the four photographs I submitted it was this one I hoped they would pick! The exhibition will take place in July and has been organised by a fantastic group called Alt-Photo Scotland who dedicated to connecting and promoting alternative photography in Scotland and beyond so it really is a great honor to be chosen to display my work amongst some of the best in the world! More information about dates etc to follow!!
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!!
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.
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.