Wind and Rain

It’s been a harsh winter so far with days and days of high winds and rain battering the North of Engalnd and Scotland. Rivers have been bursting their banks and destroying bridges roads and worst of all people’s homes. Like usual I have fallen behind with my blog posts but back in November before the worst of the weather hit I visited the Low Barns Nature Reserve which is run by the Durham Wildlife Trust with the aim of testing out some more expired Polaroid Type 665 a photographer friend had sent me from Sweden. The reserve is nestled in a broad bend of the River Wear and it’s made up of a fantastic landscape of deciduous woodland and reed fringed lakes and ponds, perfect environment for wildlife of all kinds. A brief gap in the weather meant I had chance to explore. By all the flotsam spread in amongst the trees along the river bank it was obvious it had only just started to fall back but it was still very high and was running the colour of strong tea. I slowly worked my way upstream finally reaching the remains of an old ford which had become a torrent of churning water. It provided the perfect subject matter to sum up the weeks weather.

RiverWear

The pack of Polariod worked perfectly producing a lovely fine grain negative full of beauiful tones, starting to really get rehooked on this expired Polariod malarky sadly some stocks are becoming harder and harder to find!

It was a great afternoon spent in a wonderful place but this was only the beginning of the wet weather and soon Cumbria, Yorkshire and now Galloway in the South West of Scoltand were being hit with massive floods, very sadly causing wide spread destruction to some of our most beautiful towns and villages forcing people from their homes.

 

Graham

 

 

The Long Haul

If you have ever driven across the A66 motorway as it crosses over the wide expanse of fell and moorland between Bowes and Brough called Stainmore you may have noticed a black metal sign standing a short distance below the road. The sign is a replica of one which stood beside a train line that once past by here and simply reads “Stainmore Summit. Height 1370 Feet”  this is the highest summit of any railway track in England and was an engineering feat of it’s age. But like so many of these rural lines “The South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway” didn’t survie the Beeching cuts of the 1960’s and the last train to pass this point was on the 5th of April 1965.

The Stainmore line has interested me for a while and few years ago I visited it not far from the summit sign and the photographs I took became one of my first posts on this blog called  “Return to Bleath Gill” . On that morning in March 2013 a late fall of snow had covered the hills and the old railway embankments were covered by deep drifts. However this day couldn’t have been more different as I stepped out of the car to meet my friend and fellow photographer Gary Liggett on a bright crisp Autumn morning. So under a clear blue sky we started to follow the course of the line towards Bowes, soon reaching a shallow cutting lined on both sides by crumbling stone walls and the occasional gnarled alder tree. The rains the night before had turned the old bed of the railway into a quick flowing stream, almost transforming it from it’s heavy indusrtial past back into a moorland beck. It was then that I realised that in my rush to get ready I hadn’t brought all of my film. All I had was my 6 sheets of 5×4 in my grafmatic back and one role of 120 I found at the bottom of my camera bag, but luckily for me I still had what was left of my pack of Type 665 polaroid. So I was going to have to be careful with what I chose to shoot especially as the light was becoming more and more promising. Clouds had started to sweep in from the west casting long shadows over the landscape, it was becoming a perfect day to be on the moors with a camera.

All became water

All Became Water, Stainmore. Polaroid Type 665.

We continued on and soon the cutting opened out onto an embankment with a river, in fact River Greta running below us and infront wide views across the Forest of Stainmore. In the far distance a small plate layers hut came into view, it still had it’s chimney but it windows had been blocked up long ago. As we got closer we could see it’s door had been left off it’s hinges but inside it still had it’s small open fire hearth. These little shelters must have been a real life saver in cold days, which are common up here even during the summer. How many times during the life of this hut had it provided a respite for the railwaymen caught out in the snows and driving winds of deep winter?

The Long Haul

The Long Haul, Stainmore.

As we passed by the hut and carried on it became obvious it was going to become increasingly difficult to get much further so we decided to turn round and start walking back towards the cars. Throughout the morning we hardly noticed our slow descent, but now Gary and I could really start to feel it as we headed back up towards the summit. It was turning out to be a long and steady haul and things were being made harder by the fact the ground which seemed solid at the begining still frozen from the previous night, had now thawed turning everything into oozing marsh. By time we reached our starting point we were both covered up to our knees in mud. Well at least it was at the end of the walk and not the begining.

Cheers

Graham

Into the Woods

In my last post I was reminiscing about the loss of Polaroid pos/neg film, especially my favourite the Type 665 pack. Well the devil makes use for idle hands and it wasn’t long before I couldn’t just sit and dream about past triumphs and I was searching through a popular online shopping site in search of a pack of Type 665. At first I didn’t have much luck, mainly because, as stocks of this film become ever more rare the price goes up but I kept on looking and eventually found a pack which sounded promising. It was pretty old film and had technically expired in August 1990! But in the description it stated the pack was unopened and had been stored in a fridge, so I decided to take a chance and buy it.

There are a few risks in buying any old expired film particularly when it comes to instant type films such as polaroid, if the pack of film hasn’t been stored correctly the liquid chemicals which do the developing and fixing can dry out and make the material completely useless. All these thoughts went through my mind as I set off to the edge of Hamsterley Forest a few miles up the road from my home in County Durham. Last Autumn I had driven past the top edge of the forest and I was struck by the stark forlorn looking birch trees left behind by the felling of the pine trees, it seemed to be the perfect spot close to home to try out my new film.

IMG_20150914_175636

The Shen-Hao loaded and ready to go.

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IMG_20150914_180935

It was with a great deal of trepidation I pulled the tab of the first sheet of polaroid from the camera back (kindly loaned to me from my old college tutor John Quinn) and I had no idea it would work as well as it did!! I only took a few exposures wanting to save the rest of the film for another day, storing the neg part of the sheets in water to wash off the masses of black gloop that covers them after you have peeled them apart.

Broken Birch

Once washed and dried I contact printed my favourite of the two negs on my usual Fomapan Chamois fiber based paper. I think this a negative I will definitely return to!

 

Exciting Things Are Afoot!!

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!!

GrahamVasey_DwarfieStane,Hoy

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!!

http://www.alternativephotographyscotland.org/

Oh and if your interested here is the original blog post!

https://grahamvasey.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/fifty-nine-degrees-north/

Cheers

Graham

Land Of Lead Revisited!

A few weeks ago me and my girlfriend Helen was chatting with my mate Gareth over a nice pint when me and Gaz started to reminisce about our recent trip to the Old Gang Smelt Mill in Swaledale, the conversation soon moved onto new topics but it got me thinking about whether I really got the most from all the pictures I had taken that day? There was one in particular I’d been really disappointed that it hadn’t turned out as I hoped. So inspired by my friend today I made a bit of spare time in my darkroom session to take a second look at the one that nearly got away.

 

Smelt Mill

Smelt Mill Door, Swaledale. 90mm Schneider Angulon lens, Fomapan 200.

The final photograph was made by contact printing the negative onto Fomatone Chamois paper at grade two and half for 6 seconds with a bit of extra burning in. I think in the future I should follow in my friend and photographic hero Bill Schwab’s advice and not be scared of thin negatives but love them for their beautiful delicate tones, the devil is in the detail after all!!

And of cause thank you Gareth for putting me back on track!!

Cheers

Graham

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land Of Lead

 

These days I usually head out to the hills by myself and I don’t often get chance to go walking with my friends. So when I got a call from one of my best and oldest friends asking me if I wanted to head out for a walk I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity! We made plans to meet after the new year. By then more snow had arrived and as we drove through Richmond and started to head up Swaledale the landscape quickly became a winter wonderland of snow and ice.

We where heading for Surrender Bridge which sits high in the fells above the small town of Reeth. From there we wanted to explore the ruins of the Old Gang Smelt Mill one of the best preserved relics of lead mining industry that’s once dominated this landscape.

It’s a steep drive up to Surrender Bridge and the higher we climbed the worse the roads became. I couldn’t help feeling grateful that I had just replaced my front tyres, and for once I had someone with me who could get out and push. Very soon the road had completely vanished beneath the snow, but luckily it stated to level out a bit so we decided it would be safer to park up and travel the rest of the way on foot.

It seemed like an age since me and Gareth had last been out walking together, and it didn’t take long for us to fall back into our usual banter of music, films, and on this particular trip the Viking Saga’s! Crossing the mysteriously named Surrender Bridge, talk turned to the possible origins of it’s name, which as far I’m as I am aware know one alive today knows? On the OS map higher up the fell they have marked a Surrender Ground and a Surrender Moss which I think all took their names from the local Surrender Mine, but where that name comes from who knows?  We followed the Old Gang Beck up its little dale and quickly we started stopping to take pictures. The landscape was breath taking, the thin dusting of snow gave a dramatic contrast to the dark heather and the dry stone walls, while all the time clouds constantly rolled over the fells.

North Gate To Brownsey Moor

North Gate to Browney Moor, 90mm Schneider Angulon and Fomapan 200.

Soon we reached the dramatic ruins of the Old Gang Smelt Mill. I often come across the remains of lead mining on my walks and I still find it hard to believe that these places where once the centres of a major heavy industry which boomed throughout the 18th and 19th century, at it’s hight employing 1,260 people in Swaledale alone. The days freezing weather brought into sharp foucus what the men, woman and quite often children had to endure to earn their daily wage. But by the 20th century cheap importants forced all the mines to close, and in the end the Old Gang Lead Mining Company which was once one of the largest employers in the dale was sold for £25 in 1933. We climbed above the old smelt mill to explore the ruins of the massive peat store. The huge structure was said to hold up 3 years supply of dried peat to feed the fires of the mills in the valley below. The game keepers had been hard at work burning back the heather for the red grouse, and the charred remains seemed to suit the subject matter somehow.

Peat House

Peat Store, 90mm Schneider Angulon and Fomapan 200

Soon the weather started to close in around us as heavy snow laiden clouds started to move across the hills, so we decided to leave the higher summit for another day and beat a retreat back to the car before it became buried in fresh snow.

Throughout the day we talked a lot about the Norse settlers who came to these dales in the 10th century and left there mark in many of the place names and dialect of their descendants. Many of which I’ve used in this post such as dale, fell, beck many of which can be seen in the place names of Norway and Iceland. But a poem kept returning to me which I first read as student which though not really Nordic seemed apt for days weather….

“Where has gone the steed? Where has gone the man? Where has gone the giver of treasure? Where has gone the place of banquets? Where has gone the pleasure of the hall? Alas, the gleaming chalice; alas, the armoured warrior; alas, the majesty of the prince! Truly, that time has passed away, grown dark under the helm of night as though it had never been. Now there remains among the traces of those dear people a wall, remarkably high, painted with serpentine patterns. The might of ash spears has snatched away the men, the weapon greedy for carnage, notorious fate; and storms beat upon those heaps of stones. A falling snow storms fetters the earth, winter’s howling. The darkness comes; the shadow of night spreads gloom and send from the north fierce hailstorms to the terror of men. The whole kingdom of earth is full of hardship. Here wealth is ephemeral; here a friend is ephemeral; here man is ephemeral; here kinsman is ephemeral; all this this foundation of earth will become desolate.”

Wanderer [Book Of Exeter]

See the Anglo-Saxons could write a pretty good tale as well Gaz!!

If you want to see more photographs from our trip to the fells please have look of my friends blog post:

https://numberofthegaz.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/old-gang-smelt-mill-swaledale-north-yorkshire/

Thanks once again for reading!

Graham