photography

Tag: photography

Border Blue Sky

By |2019-05-17T13:13:59+01:00May 17th, 2019|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

East Coast railway train crossing the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick Upon Tweed in Northumberland.
East Coast railway train crossing the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick Upon Tweed in Northumberland.

It was a quick hop, skip and a jump over the Scottish border last weekend with blue skies high above. The weather couldn’t have been any better. It was far removed from the mist and rain of Edinburgh a few weeks before.

The last time I’d visited the borders was in 1992. That visit was part of a family holiday that achieved legendary status. In 15 days we visited various locations in Northumberland, moved into the border areas of Scotland and then finished the holiday in the Lake District. None of it had been planned.

Some twenty-seven years later I found myself travelling back along that same road heading north.

St Abbs (twinned with New Asgard)

A last minute booking found a rather nice old coach house near St Abbs, a beautiful Scottish fishing village. Just recently the harbour in St Abbs was seen in the Avengers Endgame movie as New Asgard – Thor’s new home. It looks and feels a lot like visiting a Cornish fishing village, especially if the weather is favourable.

St Abbs is a well-known location to divers. A boat full of divers were heading out as we arrived. Suddenly the alarm went for the lifeboat. Men dashed down to the lifeboat station, the doors opened and the lifeboat was lowered down to the water. Everything became clearer a few minutes later. Another diving boat came into shore at speed and it was only as it got closer that you could see someone on the deck performing CPR. Sadly a diver had got into trouble and had to be taken away by ambulance.

St Abbs may have been in a Hollywood movie but top billing had to go to the weather. Blue skies with occasional clouds floating by made the weekend feel more like August rather than May. The light was just perfect and reminded me of the quality of light you get in Cornwall. I was only away for the weekend but it felt more like five or six days. It’s always good to recharge the old batteries.

Bass Rock

Further up the coast is Bass Rock, a huge domineering piece of rock that was a prison at one point in its history. The photograph of the rock was taken from the impressive Tantallon Castle. It took some time for the ship to get into the frame as it made its way to the port at Leith.

At first, I thought there were small marks were debris on the camera sensor. Only later, when I was viewing the image in Photoshop, did I realise it was hundreds of birds in the air around the rock. The rock is home to over 150,000 gannets as well as shags, guillemots, razorbills and seals.

The lighthouse is built on what remains of a castle but the key role that the rock had during the 16th and 17th century was that of a prison. James I of Scotland sent his political enemies to the rock during the 15th century and later covenanter martyrs were sent there after Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland in the 1650s. These days the only residents are the birds.

Bass Rock - a bird colony, a site for a lighthouse and, in the past, a prison.
Bass Rock – a bird colony, a site for a lighthouse and, in the past, a prison.

By the River Tweed

Berwick Upon Tweed is a town I’ve passed through on the train quite often, but my last actual visit was in 1992. Where do the years go?

The River Tweed runs through the town and the three bridges crossing the river are iconic. The Royal Border Bridge is a very impressive piece of architecture dating from the 1840s. The railway bridge is so well engineered and constructed that very little adjustment has been needed for it to handle the heavier, modern trains. The only repair work required by the bridge took place in the mid-1990s. A nice recent addition (2009) is a lighting system that can illuminate the bridge in a variety of colours.

The photograph at the top of the post was taken along the fantastic riverside path running next to the River Tweed. The viewpoint for photographing the bridge and trains crossing was perfect.

Up and Away

With the weekend over it was back to base. The plan is to have more quick weekend visits to other areas close at hand. Spur of the moment type trips. Lindisfarne, Kielder forest and more Scottish border locations are just a short drive away.

New Edinburgh Photos for Book

By |2019-04-26T18:43:03+01:00April 26th, 2019|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , |

The Piper’s Audience – Lawnmarket, Edinburgh

The final images for the Seven Hills book were shot during a visit to a very wet Edinburgh in early April. I got wet and the camera got very wet too. A worrying moment was had when a bit of water poured out of the front of my 35mm lens. Fortunately, it was water from the front of the filter rather than inside the lens. The rain just added that extra challenge.

The street photography images shot that day fill in a few gaps with regard to geography and subject matter. Overall I’m rather pleased with what I got during my short time there. The level of tourists meant that I could work pretty much without being noticed. Everyone had a camera! The only concern was making sure the camera and lens were dried regularly.

A favourite shot from the day is The Piper’s Audience taken along the Royal Mile at Lawnmarket. I’d taken some shots earlier but found them unusable due to rainwater on the filter. After removing the filter I went back a couple of minutes later to grab the image seen above. The line of people, most of whom seem to be taking or checking a photograph, tell their own story.

The book now goes into the final stages of adding and editing text. I am tempted to slightly delay the release of the book until November. This new date would fit in easier with work plans plus it would also mark four years since the book’s first images were shot in November 2015.

Upcoming Norfolk Photozine

By |2019-03-28T15:49:05+01:00March 28th, 2019|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , |

Book Updates

Last month I mentioned two new books that are currently in the works. Progress has continued regarding the images added to Edinburgh: Seven Hills which now includes several images shot in 2015. A final set of images will be shot on the next visit to Edinburgh in April.

The photographs for The Two Towns are in place and only the text for the introduction is required. After some work put in over the weekend, the image credits have been added for the majority of the images. Cover art has also been completed and I’m very happy with how the book is looking.

Norfolk Photo Zine

As a result of the new book designs, a new photo zine has been added to the current new book design list.

Using the working title of ‘Caught by the Tide’ the photo zine will contain nineteen photographs shot during a quickly arranged week-long trip to the county of Norfolk. The visit was a final holiday for my mother after her terminal cancer diagnosis earlier that summer. The title reflects the feeling at the time of being swept along with no power over events.

The zine images are in place and all that now remains is the text for the introduction and image credits. The photo zine marks the third and final book to contain iPhone photography take over the last four years. I’ll be talking more about the zine in the upcoming March podcast.

Release Dates

The photo zine will be released in the next couple of months. The release dates for the other two books remain mid and late summer 2019.

From the Archive: The Colwyn Bay Print

By |2019-04-19T12:53:10+01:00March 19th, 2019|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

the seawall at Colwyn Bay, North Wales. In the background is the pier that was demolished in early 2019
Colwyn Bay, North Wales, July 1991

Background

North Wales has an important place in my photography history. It was where I purchased my first camera and also where I started taking my first pictures. A few years later, North Wales would also play a role in my quest to get a black and white print I was happy with. The image and subsequent print of the seafront at Colwyn Bay became an important technical milestone moment. I was finally starting to see my improving technical skills as a photographer and darkroom printer.

The image dates back to the summer of 1991. It was a fun and exciting time with plenty of photography experimentation. At the time I was a keen amateur photographer about to head away to art college. Nearly thirty years later it could be argued that, like most photographers, I’m still
trying to perfect my photography skills. The perfect image and print still appear to elude me, although I do think I get pretty close at times.

The image above, a photograph of a print I made in 1992, was the first strong indication that I was heading in the right direction. It was taken along the seafront at Colwyn Bay in North Wales in July 1991, but not printed until the following year. An interesting side note is that the pier seen in the background was demolished in 2018 after years of disuse. Originally built in 1900, the pier had been rebuilt twice due to fire. By the 1980s, however, the condition of the structure had started to seriously deteriorate. A new pier is due to open on the same site in 2020.

Camera and Film

The image was shot using my trusty old Pentax Program A with a 35-70mm Miranda zoom set at the 35mm wide-angle setting. The film used was TMAX 400 rated at ISO800 and developed in either Kodak’s D-76 or Patterson’s FX-26 Universal developer. I suspect it was probably D-76 by that time but cannot be totally sure as my darkroom notes from that period have been lost. At the time I was experimenting with a variety of different film developers trying to find a favourite. In late 1991, I finally came across Kodak’s TMAX developer that I’ve used ever since.

The Print

The technical aspects of the print itself have sadly been lost to the mists of time. It was definitely printed in the darkroom of the art college in 1992 but after that, the details get a little fuzzy. The photographic paper was either Ilford Multigrade resin coated paper OR Jessops’ own brand multigrade paper. I used both types of photographic paper during my college years. The Ilford paper was better quality but the Jessops paper was cheaper and produced good quality prints too.

Since 1992, the print has hung on a wall somewhere in the house as a fond reminder of those exciting early photo making years.

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