Seasons Greetings!!

Snow flurry Xmas Letter

This photograph was taken on a cold winters day in the Howgill Fells below Wild Boar Fell. A sudden snow storm enveloped me and I was just able to capture this shot before everything disappeared in a blur of white. It’s not the greatest picture but it does make one look forward to a warm fire side and a hot cup of tea…or a nice dram of Islay Whisky??

Thanks to everyone who has been following my blog and liked my posts. It’s been a great year and I have thoroughly enjoyed creating this blog and the responses I received have been fantastic and I can’t wait till next year to find some new places to photograph!!

Happy Christmas everyone and I hope you all have a happy new year!!!

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

Lost and Found?

It’s strange sometimes what you pick up and put in your pocket when your out in the hills, almost a year ago while  walking near Cross Fell with my friend Paul Denham I came across this camera, and incredible as it may sound this is what the film contained…..

 

Nahhh…. not really, I’ve just been playing with my Lomokino again filming Paul and me wandering about in the moors!! One day I’ll get round to creating a really short film in the mean time I hoped you liked this clip!

 

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

 

 

Finding the Snow..

I often get asked by people if I carry a camera with me where ever I go. Sadly the truth is sometimes I do, but not often enough!! On numerous occasions over the years I have been in some stunning places only to have forgotten a camera.  One of the reasons why I don’t always carry one is probably because when I do I drive everyone around me nuts, and to be honest I can understand why. For me to really get the best out of a location I really like to take my time, and what seems like a brief period to me, in reality to everyone else in my family it seems like hours!! But to be honest that is just excuse to make up for my usual lack of organisation, quite often I just forget. But for once last Saturday before we left for a family day out I had the for thought to bring a camera. In fact  it was a lovely vintage 6×9 Ensign 820 folder which I had just recently serviced. A drive up into the dales could be a perfect chance to put a film through!

When Helen, Alice and I set off  that morning the light was stunning, and as we drove over the tops along the old Roman road to Stanhope in Weardale the views were incredible, and as we looked over to west, snow could be seen clinging to the tops of Mickle and Cross Fell. After a bit of lunch in cafe at the Durham Dales Centre and good look round the craft shops we head up the dale towards St John’s Chapel. From there we headed over Chapel Fell back over Langdon Beck and Teesdale to find the snow, and find it we did! The views over the high fells where superb and the whole of upper Teesdale was filled with clear spring sunshine,  it was then I realised that I had left my lightmetre!! So I think I will give myself 4 out 5 for organisation on that one.

 

Harthope Head

Snow Quarry, Hartshope Head, Ensign 820, Hp5+, Foma Chamois Paper.

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

A Camera Reborn….well almost

Well in my last post I said I was getting ready for a trip to Ilkley Moor, but it turned out I had once again lost complete track of time and I was a week a head of myself! So with a free day to play with I decided to nip up to the dales and test out a new camera.

A few months ago Richard a good friend of mine, asked me if I wanted to borrow a vintage folding camera which could take 6x11cm negatives.  It turned out to be  a lovely old 1930’s Voigtlander Inos II but the only problem was it was designed to take 116 film which is no longer made. Luckily though Richard has converted a number of similar cameras to take 120 film and assured me it was a pretty straight forward bit of DIY.  So with lots of helpful advice from Rich and a bit of internet research here’s what I did…

Camera Mod 020

My first problem was figuring out the best way to adapt the camera so it would take the smaller 120 film which is used in all modern medium format cameras and is readily available. The easiest way is to make some inserts which fill in the gaps between the camera sprockets and the spool of film so it’s held in place inside the camera. This is great because it means you don’t have to permenantly alter the camera.

2 spools

Inside the camera on one side there are two spring loaded pins which hold the role of unexposed film, on the other side there is a pin on the bottom and spade ended sprocket on the top, this is meant to fit into a slot in the end of the  film spool so you can advance film after every exposure. As you can see the width of the original 116 film spool (the bottom one) is not that much wider than the new 120, so I didn’t have much room to work with. After a little look online I found the easiest method is to take some plastic rawl plugs, cut them to size and push them into the ends of the spool.

Inserts1

This worked great but to make inserts for the wind on sprockets was a little more tricky. I tried a few different ways but none of them really seemed to work for me, so in the end I just did the same thing with the rawl plugs but this time I cut a slot in the rawl plug for the spade ended sprocket to fit into.

Inserts2

 

I then taped some thin strips of black card along the top and bottom of the film gate (the opening inside the camera where the film is exposed) to hold the narrower 120 film in place and stop it from curling up while I’m trying to take a picture.

film mask

 

Once that was done I found an old film I could use as a test role, a couple of runs through and everything seemed to be working ok. This camera like most folding cameras doesn’t have a film counter, instead you look through a small red glass inspection window in the back of the camera to read  the frame numbers which are printed onto the backing paper. But since I was now using a different film the numbers printed on the back of the film no longer matched the camera so the test role helped me get a rough idea how much film to wind on for each frame.  All I needed to do now was to put a new role of film through it, take some pictures and see what turned out!!

The weather was pretty decent  and I had a couple of ideas for some locations in Teesdale were I could try out the camera.

Camera test

Everything seemed to be working fine but when I got home and processed the film I found things hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.

 

 

Beach Trees

 

 

First I got a lot of fog. I checked the camera bellows with a torch (something I really should’ve done before hand) and I found a number of small holes where the material had frayed at the edge, that was a bit of a disappointment, but I didn’t think that was the only cause of the light leak. Being made over 80 years ago the film this camera was designed to take was much slower than the film we use today, it was also quite often Orthochromatic and not red light sensitive. The pictures I took in the woods out of direct sunlight had a lot less fog and the results were pretty good so I think the red film window on the back of the camera may have been allowing too much light in for the faster modern film. The only other little issue was that one side of the neg was uneven, but I have no idea why, it may be something to do with the film lifting at one side. Having said all that the negatives are still almost 6x10cm!!

tractor tyre

Well back to the drawing board! I did a bit of repair work to the bellows and double checked with the torch to make sure I’d sealed the holes, I then simply covered over the film window with some electrical tape. While I was tinkering I had a second look at the inserts for the film advancing spool and decided to make something a bit more substantial.

Film spool mod1

 

I took a couple of spare spools and cut the ends off and sanded them down to the correct size so that when I super glued them to either end of another spool the final width would be exactly the same as the original 116 one. You can also see in this picture my failed attempt to narrow the original 116 film spool using foam so it would take 120, but I was much happier with my final attempt and fingers crossed it should be a lot more stable.

Film spool mod2

 

 

So all there’s left to do now is give it another go!!

Cheers

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn has arrived……

View Rigg

Yad Moss to Cow Green, 6X9 Schnieder Rolflex with HP5+ in Caffenol CL 

Well autumn has finally arrived and the moorlands of the North Pennines are calling me. With an exciting new commission which has recently come in from Gallerina  and some amazing new places to explore over the coming month I can’t wait to lose myself in the bleak fells of the Durham Moors!!

Graham