Tag Archives: planning

Smoky mountains – the art of forgetting

I made a number of images last year that I’ve only just had developed (mostly by Dan at The Photo Parlour – highly recommended).  One of the advantages of this delay is that I have been discovering the images afresh.  This is something I learnt from Bruce Percy, though I’ve never had such a long wait – there were even images from November 2014 in this batch!

I’m pretty pleased with most of them, and forgetting exactly what was intended makes me see them in a different way to more rapidly processed images.  I have distance to them, and interpret and see them in new ways.  For example, here’s one that I had not remembered until I came to looking at it much more closely once it had been scanned and imported to Lightroom:

July 2015, looking east across Loch Ewe (click to see a slightly larger version)

July 2015, looking east across Loch Ewe (click to see a slightly larger version)

I think these are Glas Mheal Mor – Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill – Sgurr Creag an Eich – Sail Liath, but in the meantime am not completely sure, and my extant notes simply say ‘smoky mountains’!  Any note I may have had of how I identified them at the time is lost.

What is now more interesting to me than the exact location is that sometime before going north to Loch Ewe I had been reading about distressing negatives – see, for example, this short description – and I have a vague recollection that I deliberately scratched and damaged one of my negatives. In a careless (carefree?) sort of way, I didn’t write down which one that was, but it must be this one – and I love it. At the time I clearly thought through what the image would be, choosing Ilford FP4+ film to emphasise the subtle cloud tones (even though I can’t exactly remember doing that) and the damaging of the negative (that I also only partially remember) accentuates the sense of foreboding and darkness that the weather was creating. In fact, it almost looks as if it was raining heavily – but I know that it was a dry evening.

The art of forgetting takes on a new meaning…!

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Cashel Forest and Strathcashell Point, Loch Lomond

On Saturday we went for a walk by Loch Lomond.  This was intended to be a woodland walk, but it was so wet, it became more of a bogland walk – but was still very enjoyable.  We went to Cashel Forest and up Cashel hill, which would normally be a relatively easy walk, with occasional steep parts.  Water gushing down the hillside, at times washing away what path there was or turning the path into a slippery morass, made for a slower ascent and descent.  Nonetheless, being high over Loch Lomond did reward us with some beautiful views.

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

I had taken a digital camera with me.  This was my first ‘proper’ excursion for some time, what with moving house and work demands stopping me from getting out with a camera since the summer, and whilst these were little more than snapshots of new views for me, I was wanting to engage fully with the context I was in.

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

In the periods when it stopped raining (or rained less), this was, of course, easier to do, not least for simply enabling greater visibility.  However, the great thing about wetness is that it emphasises some of the fantastic colours in the trees and bushes, with purples and reds dominating.  In the spring and summer this will all be covered in foliage and so will mostly be green (which is a different kind of beautiful), but I do prefer autumn and winter for the richness and variety of the colours on display.

When it rained, it rained heavily, testing the waterproofing of our raincoats pretty thoroughly!  It also became much more difficult to make photographs – this image was taken on my iphone and the rain was so heavy I could barely see the screen:

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

I tweeted this from the hillside, but later deleted it when I saw it in detail.  I should not have done that – it does actually convey a very real sense of the hillside views in the rain!  Shortly afterwards, in a brief drier moment, I made the first image above of a similar view.  At one stage, when I wanted to photograph the path and the colours we were on, I took out the camera to find the lens almost completely misted over.  So I breathed on it to mist it over completely, and made this:

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Of course, we buy cameras with millions of pixels and expensive lenses so we can breathe on them and create blurry images…! 🙂  I jest, of course – but this actually represents our view for much of the walk, so it’s an accurate image – you can just about make out a path leading from the bottom left, and see the outline of the hills.

Strathcashell, 4.1.14

Strathcashell, 4.1.14

Before we went up the hill on Saturday morning, we walked briefly towards Strathcashell because I wanted to see the way to Strathcashell Point, a place that I wanted to visit on my own on Sunday morning.

The track to the Point goes past a patch of woodland that I intend to go back to – widely spaced trees in various states of growth and decay, offering some interesting explorations.

The Point itself is reached by following the track almost to the end, and crossing a field with livestock in it.  The Point has ruins of an old fortification, presumably an ancient watch post to monitor traffic up Loch Lomond, but the ruins consist primarily of the remains of some exterior walls, none higher than about 50cm.  The point is itself shielded by a small cluster of trees that do not really suggest a promontory at all when viewed from the land:

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

The trees would offer shelter in wilder weather, but in contrast to Saturday’s strong winds and torrential rain, early on Sunday morning the air was completely still: with birds singing, and the sun gently rising, it felt as if spring was on the way!  Because nothing was moving I was able to use some longer exposures and still keep detail in the branches of the trees.  I made a few images overlooking the Loch, in part towards the snow-covered peak of Beinn Eich on the western side of the Loch (at least, I think that’s what it was), but mostly I just paid attention to the partially submerged trees – the high rainfall in recent weeks have clearly filled the loch.

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point/Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point/Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

I quite like these images, and it was reassuring to know that being out with a camera again felt so natural.  After all these months when it has not been possible, I’ve really missed not making anything more than occasional snapshots, and whilst the images above are mostly simply to be ‘enjoyed’ rather than being particularly thought-provoking, they give me great satisfaction.  Not photographing for any length of time always results in my mind developing doubts about my ability to ever make images again: I am very good at self-doubt!  So this weekend was carefully thought-through and planned to counter this gnawing insecurity: apart from identifying locations on a map and on PhotoTransit and then scouting the Point on Saturday, using a digital camera rather than film meant I could do something with the images as soon as I came home.  Whilst out with the camera, everything felt completely natural – this is hardly a surprise, but it is still very reassuring (telling myself this would be the case in advance doesn’t work: I need to see that it would be so).  That is why digital made sense this weekend, even if most of my landscapes are now on film.

I have no idea what kind of half-used film is in my sadly-neglected 35mm and Mamiya 645 cameras that are still in the cupboard, but I’ll be getting them out and finishing the rolls shortly.  Now that everything has settled down a little after the move, my mind is clearer and I can start to think about creating imagery again.  It is also helping me with thinking through the next stages of the windfarm essays (ha! I bet you thought I’d forgotten about that!).

Also: this week, my new darkroom equipment should be arriving… more excitement!

Location location location

The title of this post is taken from a really terrible – on all sorts of levels! – TV programme in the UK that I have watched bits of once or twice…

This last week I met two potential models, with whom I plan to do some interesting and in part slightly crazy photoshoots in the near future (not necessarily with the two of them together, though that is also a possibility at some time in the future). One of the very nice things to come out of these discussions is that I am thinking a lot about about locations for shoots – we have a number of ideas, and so I can link plans for landscape excursions with planning photoshoots with these two lovely models. This has to be a good thing!

An idea developed with one of the models involves a particular setup on a hillside.  I know which hillside I want to use, so I planned an exploratory return trip this weekend.  The photographs I have from my last visit are quite uninspiring, for example:

Castlelaw Hill Fort, Pentland Hills

Castlelaw Hill Fort, Pentland Hills

But today I had snow to contend with!  The car wouldn’t even get up the little road to the car park when I was out before dawn this morning, so I gave up on the idea of exploring the hill altogether – and explored some fields and woods instead!  There are some images (just the digital ones – the film ones will take a little longer) in a gallery tracing some of the changes from autumn-winter.

Castlelaw Hill, Pentland Hills

Castlelaw Hill, Pentland Hills

The beauty of autumn

The beauty of autumn

The beauty of autumn

I love the autumn – the clouds that fill the skies, and the soft gentle light that allows for a different kind of photograph to be taken from the harshness of summer light.  So whereas other members of the family, and colleagues at work are sorry to see the summer days going and resent the autumnal weather and nights drawing in, like a little child I’m getting rather excited at the opportunities that lie before me with the soft diffused light that is the hallmark of this season.  Of course, all the seasons offer something different, but autumn and spring are perhaps the two I prefer, at least in terms of light.

I’m planning a few short trips over the winter into the Scottish hills so that I can benefit from this light in a variety of landscapes, and am also intending to try a variety of film types (b/w print film in particular) as well as the usual digital images.  So interesting times ahead…

An invitation and a warning

Airthrey Loch

Airthrey Loch

I have been tidying up photographs on my computer, clearing out some that I’m not going to use, and finding others that I’ll still want to work on.  I liked this one, from Airthrey Loch early one morning in July: the path seems to be an invitation to get into the water… with the life saving equipment acting as a bit of a warning to not stray too far out!

Speaking of getting into the water: I’m excited by plans for tomorrow: very early in the morning I’m collecting a friend who has agreed to model for me, and we’re off to create a series of photographs at a nearby beach; I envisage this being a little narrative.  She is doing all this in the knowledge that I’m expecting her to end up lying in the water… the North Sea in Scotland, even in August, is not where most of us would want to lie down, especially not just as dawn is breaking and the air temperature is still relatively low!  So I’m excited but also a bit nervous, hoping that everything is going to go as planned and that my ideas will lead to at least passable results – I don’t want her to get wet and cold for nothing!!

Using my photographs for my writing

One of the things I have been involved in for almost 20 years is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It’s not my conflict, and it’s not my land, but I have been active in this area for a long time.  My academic work is also closely related – more details here.  I don’t want to discuss my involvement in these issues in any great detail here, but one of the things that I have found very satisfying is the linkage I have been able to make between my commentating on the reality of the conflict and my photography, in this Ekklesia essay, for example.  Awareness that I was planning this article also made me seek out particular themes for my photography with a sense of responsibility to the subject, as well as to the putative reader – a kind of very real photojournalism, if you like.

The galleries that are referred to in the article are at present incomplete.  I have not yet had time to develop these sufficiently, but more images will come soon.  I will also post here when they do, since I also have a series of images that form a study on the Apartheid Wall in Bethlehem.