A Field In Baldersdale

It was a bleak, cold day in January when my dad and I decided to venture out in the hope of finding some fragments of Teesdale’s ancient past. Guided by the information in the fantastic book Prehistoric Rock Art of County Durham, Swaledale and Wensleydale written by Stan Beckensall and Tim Laurie we soon arrived at a small farm-house high above Hury Reservoir in Baldersdale. With the farmers kind permission and some friendly directions we made our way across the iron-hard frozen ground towards a small intake field where we were told our quarry would be. But it wasn’t until we where practically standing on top of it that we could see the earth fast stone we were looking for. It was probably around 5,000 years ago when someone decided to carve upon this piece of rough gritstone, and the weight of those centuries seemed to have pushed the boulder deeper into the marshy ground, so that now it’s broad flat surface barely showed above the sheep cropped turf. Gently we lifted off some of the frozen grass and sheep dung which had accumulated on the surface to reveal the beautiful design of cups and rings linked by deep grooves which decorated its coarse surface.

cup and ring baldersdale

After spending some time admiring and photographing the boulder we explored a bit more of the field to discover the other two cup marked stones which it was said to contain. But as is often the case when out in the hills at this time of year what little light quality there was quickly started to drop and with it the temperature. A few snow flakes had begun to fall as we got back into the car, and with the heater on full to try and thaw out our frozen limbs we drove home pondering the mystery of the carvings and where next to explore.

The photograph was taken with my Rolleicord TLR with hand held fill in flash. The film was Fomapan 100 which I developed in Pyrocat HD 1+1+100 for 12 minutes and the Lith printed on expired Agfa Brovia Grade 5 paper.

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In a World of Rust

World of Rust

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.  

As I Look To The West

There are some places that stay with you, and though the precise details may fade over time the sense of the place, the emotional connection to the landscape and the weather remain with you for years. These memories haunt your imagination waiting for the chance to return. A telephone conversation with a friend and fellow photographer Alex Boyd about his move to a small village on the west coast of the Isle Of Lewis, one of the most incredible windswept pieces of land in the United Kingdom, brought memories flooding back of my visit, one bleak and blusterly April, way back in 2005.

Lewis Loch

It was a fishing trip with my friend Gary who is a farrier on the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Gary had a few jobs booked in on Lewis so the plan was to mix business with pleasure and between shoeing horses we would have a cast on some of the hundreds of wild lochs that dot the island.  We where probably lost when I took this picture, I can remember driving down the small moorland track trying to find another loch to fish, and the sting of the wind and the rain as we climbed out of Gary’s van into the teeth of an Atlantic westerly. In the distance huddled into a fold in a ridge sat a small pool of water shining out in contrast to the dark brooding backdrop of the rugged mountains and billowing gun metal clouds.

After I put down the phone I went to find the negatives because I suddenly realised it was just the picture to give as a thank you to another friend William Marshall for another trip into the hills in search of trout!

Cheers

 

Graham

 

Beneath The Broad Beech Tree.

Beach Tree Pool

On the bank of one of my favourite pools stands a grand patriarch of a beech tree casting it’s branches across the river like some ancient Entish guardian from Tolkien’s Middle Earth. During the cold stirring of spring these gnarled boughs are bare and skeletal but come the warm days summer trout will lazily rise to sip insects off the waters surface beneath it’s shady verdant canopy. Years of harsh winter spates have undercut the bank revealing it’s giant roots and there I often see the marks and foot prints of otters in the soft sandy silt, these often elusive creatures seem to have gained a liking for the invasive Canadian Signal Crayfish which has done so much damage to our own native species. The remains of their brightly coloured claws and crunched up carapaces are littered everywhere. Spring has been particularly late in the dale this year with snow and frost lasting to the end of April but those warm and heady evenings beneath the tree will be back soon.

Reel and Tree

The Spirit of a Mountain Climber

Today is the birthday of Frank Smythe probably one of the greatest mountain climbers of the early 20th Century. He was born on the 6th of July 1900 and from an early age he had a deep passion for the hills. During his climbing career he pioneered two new routes on the Brenva Face of Mont Blanc, the first ascent of Kamet (India) which in 1931 was the highest mountain yet climbed, and made attempts on Kangchenjunga (the second highest mountain in Nepal) and Mount Everest. His most successful expedition to Everest saw him reaching 28,120ft only a 1,000ft beneath the summit setting an altitude record for climbing without supplemental oxygen that was not broken until 1978! But what is rarely written about Frank Smythe was that not only was he a great alpine climber but also a passionate and gifted photographer. He didn’t just simply record his expeditions, he created stunning photographs of breath taking quality of the mountain landscapes he explored which he published in his numerous books such as “Camera In the Hills” “Over the Welsh Hills”, “Alpine Ways” and many more.

So in my own way I decided to celebrate the birthday of this great man by posting a few pictures from one of my own adventures in the hills. They where taken on a friend’s stag weekend in the southern Lake District. On the morning of the walk a heavy mist had rolled in off the Irish Sea, it lay thickly in the valleys and it wasn’t until we started to gain some height that the landscape around us really came into view.

Fox Haw

Fox Haw and Long Mire. Ilford HP5, Yellow Filter.

The objective of the days climb was the steep rocky peak of the Caw which rises sharply from the craggy mass of the remote Dunnerdale Fells. As we began to near the summit more and more distant fells came into view, Ulpha, Harter, Grey Friar, and the lofty summit of White Maiden. After a quick break on the summit which was just about big enough for us all to sit and have a our lunch we started our descent back.

Caw in the Mist

Caw and Cloud. Ilford HP5, Yellow filter.

We were picking our way down through the crags and mosses back towards where we started earlier that day at Stephens Ground when I stumbled across a small pool of water. It was crystal clear and through its base ran a thick seam of quartz which carried on up through the rock face beside it. I love finding hidden places like this, often overlooked they can be a microcosm of the greater landscape.

Roots of the mountain

Roots of the Hill. Ilford HP5, Yellow filter.

It was a memorable day spent in the hills with great friends and I hope Frank would have approved of the pictures. Though only 1,600ft the Caw is a small hill compared to is more famous neighbours, but what it lacks in height it certainly makes up for in its grandeur, it is a true mountain in every sense, and as Frank put it himself;

“Comparisons between low hills and high hills are invidious. There is no denying the grandeur of the Himalayas; there is also no denying the grandeur of the British hills. I have seen Snowdon on a misty September morning as far removed from earth as Kangchenjunga. Altitude in terms of figures counts for little. It is the instant vision that matters”

                                                                                Frank S. Smythe, “Spirit of the Hills”

 

Thanks for reading!

Graham

 

 

Looking Back to a trip to the far North.

The other day while looking through an old paper box full of prints trying to find something Helen could use for Christmas cards I came across a load of prints from my journey around Iceland. All the photographs where printed for my book The Bones of the Sea which was published on blurb.  The pictures where taken in 2007 when I was lucky to be able to join one of my photographic hero’s Bill Schwab on one of his workshops to the far north. There where five other guys joining me for this journey Jerry Conway, David Bram, Dan Henderson, Tim Rudman, David (Ike) EisenLord and Clay Harmon all of them very skilled photographers and great people to be stuck in a van with for week!

These prints are just a few of the many I took but I’ve been wanting to post some on my blog for a long time but a little while ago the hard drive failed on my old PC so all of the files on it where lost (that’s digital technology for you!) so it was really great to find these prints.

Hall of Mountains

Hall Of Mountains, Stokksnes, Hofn

Sand Dune

Sand Dune, Stokkenes.

Lake

Myvatn, Northeast Icleand.

Clearing Clouds

Clearing Clouds, near Skagafjörður, Northern Iceland.

BlackSand

Black Sand and the Skagi Peninsula, North Iceland.

Wind blown grass

Waving Grass, Hunafjörður, Northern Icleand.

BlackKirk

Black Kirk of Búðir, Snæfellsnes.

Prow and Knott

High and Dry and Grundarfjörður, Snæfellsnes.

Because of hand luggage restrictions at the time I could take a small camera bag (I didn’t want to risk anything thing too valuable in the hold) on the plane with me, that meant restricting myself to only a couple of cameras,  my old Rollicord TLR and a much more modern Mamiya 7 which had the benefit of  being very light and having interchangeable lenses. By the end of the 10 I had unbelievably shot 60 roles of Ilford HP5 film, my cameras where almost glowing, but it was hard not to take photographs when every day brought new places to explore. It was a great trip and a really great experience to meet Bill and all the other guys Iceland was an adventure I will never forget.

Cheers

Graham

In the Forests of Dunnerdale

Back at the beginning of March with the sense of spring in the air and warm days to come me and my friends Dave Branigan and Tom Sheard hatch a plan to meet in the Lake District for a walking and camping expedition. We picked a date and because none of us had ever been there before we chose Dunnerdale (also known as the Duddon Valley) as our destination,  but as it always happens at this time of year mother nature had different ideas and very quickly the weather began to return to winter. Not to be dismayed we carried on planning while constantly keeping an eye on the ever changing weather reports.

Basically the plan was for Dave and Tom to head up on the Friday afternoon and set up camp, I would then meet them there the next day. By Thursday it looked like the weather was on the turn for the better, and according to the mountain forecasts the high winds and poor visibility was going to clear by the afternoon and Saturday was going to be breezy but clear. So first thing on Saturday morning with my car loaded with cameras and walking gear (in fact a lot more cameras than walking gear) I set off to the Lakes.  When I arrived once again mother nature hadn’t been listening to our plans or the weather reports. Throughout the night Dave and Tom had been hammered by high winds. So much so that the only thing that had stopped the tent from being blown away was them tying it to the roof rack of Toms car,  if they had any phone signal it sounded like I would have got a message telling me not to bother!! But with a little drop in the wind, a brightening sky and a new more sheltered location found to set the tent their enthusiasm started to return.

Dunnerdale lies in the Southwest of the Lakes District and begins west of the Three Shires stone on Wrynose pass where the river Duddon heads south from Pike O’Blisco. In the west are Harter fell and the Ulpha fells; eastward are Dow crag and Coniston Old Man but without  tourist hotspots like Ambleside or Keswick or the famous peaks like ScarFell and Helvellyn draw the crowds it remains quiet and isolated, which in my mind just adds to its appeal. With the guys lack of sleep from the previous nights storms and the chance of more gale force gusts we decided to put off the high summits for another day and explore the tangle of woods and crags of the lower slopes.  Travelling light with only my Rolleicord, a few roles of film and my tripod we set off!

 

 

Beach Trees

Beach Trees. Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Creeping Oak

Creeping Oak. Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Clearing

Clearing. Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Woden Tree

Woden Tree.  Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

 

Farmstead

Farmstead.  Hp5+ developed in Prescysol and printed on Foma Chamois.

It’s was a great walk and without being distracted by distant views I felt I was able to really delve into the atmosphere of  ancient woodland. We finished the day with a few pints of Corby Ale at the Newfield Inn in Seathwaite and then head back to the campsite for dinner. Now this is where Tom and Dave excel, these guys don’t mess around with gas stoves and Trangias, instead out came two fire pits and two cast iron dutch ovens, that night we dined on grouse roasted in hay and smoked breast of duck with new potatoes, now that’s cooking alfresco!!!

The han over and the washing up the next morning was not so pleasant though….

Cheers

 

Graham