journal

This morning in Stourport

It was great to be out again in decent weather. The last few weeks have been difficult in many ways and hopefully this morning is the start of being able to get back some momentum. The development land next to Stourport Tesco is a hugely interesting place with many remnants of previous occupation and 3 empty fascinating buildings. They are much too dangerous to enter and have been ravaged by time, fire and vandalism. The old Carpets of Worth site was due for development and announced in the local paper in 2012. The Tesco has been built but this part of the site remains unused. Two of the buildings (in the image below) which are called Gatehouse and Whitehouse will be renovated and come back into use. I’m not sure about the third one and in many ways this is the most interesting. The inside is completely overgrown and looks fascinating with some of the growth anchoring on the exposed beams.

Hand-held exposures today and I like the use of a smaller depth of field in these scenes. I will take the tripod on my next excursion as a few of them were a bit too short. It’s difficult to assess on site with my eyes at the moment and am using knowledge more than sight to control the focus. The trees in the distance are part of Hartlebury Common and I took some photos there on Boxing Day with Rebecca and Ben the dog.

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Martineau Gardens at the end of 2015

It was really good to be back to photograph at Martineau on Sunday. It has been a busy year and and too many things have been left far too long on the shelf. The peace that the gardens generate and experiencing it as a place for meditation and reflection has been sorely missed. Much work has been done here in the past few months and the place is looking better than ever.

Having the time to reflect for a short while I realise I need to complete this project. I also would like to showcase how valuable a resource Martineau Gardens is to the community and encourage more people to go and also contribute. Martineau Gardens does not receive a fund from external sources and runs on charitable donations, plant sales and hire of the venue. I hope a photographic exhibition will help to achieve some of these goals and pay the organisation back for some of the most peaceful and creative moments of the last year or so.

I normally shy of making New Year resolutions but my major task in 2016 will be to pull the project together and find a place to exhibit the work.

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Back to my roots

I have been reflecting recently on my current work and how I got there. A recent exploration of the area around Dudley brought these into sharp focus.

The work I am starting to do explores the way that things change both on a personal level but also in the wider world around us. I’m also very interested in memory and the way that what is important or has a strong and vivid presence at the moment will disappear in time. The further back in time the less presence or importance, until it is a distant memory or gone forever.

The working title for the project is ‘Echoes’ as this for me expresses the nature of the experiences I am attempting to capture. The volume and clarity of a sound becomes less and less as it bounces around a space. So too with our world, both outside and inside.

I was exploring a country park in Pensnett near Dudley in the West Midlands a few days ago and found an old railway wheel embedded in some tarmac. The small size of it made me think that it was quite old and dated back to around the beginning of the last century (I would love to find out for sure). I knew that there were a lot of industry around the area was based on the location of the raw materials to feed foundries for instance.

On doing some further investigation I found out that Buckpool and Fens Pools Local Nature Reserve is the site of old collieries and claypits and there were also some brickworks in the area. The path where I found the old wheel was the line of the old Pensnett railway. This was owned by the Earl of Dudley and took coal to the Round Oak Iron and Steel Works. The steel works closed in 1982 and towards the end of that decade was redeveloped and is currently the site of the well-known Merry Hill Shopping Centre.

In the mid ‘80s I spent a lot of time photographing the devastated industry around the West Midlands and this culminated in the exhibition ‘Relics’ last shown at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in 1990. Round Oak Steel Works was a place I visited quite a few times and took many photographs. The abandoned site and buildings offered many stories. These were amazing places to explore and experience and I have a great fondness for those years. This type of work has since become known as Urbex (Urban Exploration) and is a popular genre worldwide.

The image below is of one of the lids to a crucible (I think) taken on the site with a couple of friends (Paul and Barty) to give it scale. At the time we thought it looked very much like a flying saucer which had crashed.

I never thought then that I would be coming back 30 years later to pick up the thread…

Paul and Barty with crucible cover small

Hay bales

I was working on some photos from Scotland and threw this one into Photomatix. Although way too saturated and very acidic it reminded me of some of the Monet paintings of haystacks, so I left it pretty much as it came into the software. I produced a quieter version using another image from the same scene but keep on coming back to this one.

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Prestonpans Power Station (disused)

Who can resist the sun sinking over the water. As we stopped on the beach near Prestonpans in Mid Lothian to watch and pick shells I took many pictures of the setting sun. You would think that after doing the first couple of dozen sunsets that it would be enough, but I still reach for the camera. A phenomenon so beautiful deserves an image. Looking away from the sun for a moment (desirable even with the low sun) I saw the blue near silhouette of the power station I’d photographed at the other end of the day.

prestonpans power station (disused)

Burlish Top July 31st

Went on an ‘off topic’ visit to Burlish Top today. Enjoyed myself chasing the sunlight and getting out, felt a bit stuck indoors recently. Saw a juvenile woodpecker when I first arrived and then spooked as usual by the sound of lions roaring from the Safari Park nearby. I still can’t get used to the experience. I think my most haunting experience was being up here in deep snow a few years ago in complete isolation and hearing the sound of wolves. I had trouble convincing myself they were not dogs (Burlish Top is a very popular dog walking area) and a very poignant moment when I realised they were indeed wolves.

Burlish Top – A conversation, 19th May 2015

I met an interesting man today while at Burlish Top. He was walking his dog and stopped to ask me if I’d lost mine as I must have looked confused. The purpose of my visit today was to try and map the Nature Reserve against the locations of the American Army Camp from WWII. I told him about my purpose and he gave me some fascinating information about the history of the place. The place I was standing in marked where the mess buildings were. The concrete pathways around the reserve were contemporary to the Army Base. He pointed out some holes on either side of the pathway and told me they were posts which held up the roof of a covered pathway. He had been invited for a meal to the base and remembered it well, it was fascinating to meet someone who had personal experience of the place.

I have gained an insight into the location which I did not have before and a mission to look for the location of the church which was used by Polish immigrants after the war, apparently just a concrete square is all that is left.

I took the photograph straight after the conversation as he walked into the distance to mark the moment and the location.

Although the history of Burlish Camp is fascinating my project does not depend on such. Finding out about the background to a location flavours the response and therefore the images produced. I am going to spend some looking a bit further into the history but also to place a limitation on the project.

Carwash Images

A marvelous evening spent working on Carwash photos listening to Portico Quartet!

Some were taken today and some have been lurking on my phone for a while. Will finish tomorrow and upload them.

Burlish Top

I am enjoying my visits to Burlish Top. Every visit is a different experience and throws up new images. The focus today was on the light coming through the trees. Although I had hoped to combine this with the recent concentration on the historical artefacts it was not possible because of the lay of the land at this time of day. I’ll have to wait until a sunny weekend day to see how the light spreads across the area. Knowledge of an area and getting a view of what is possible is an exciting prospect.