Monday, 30 October 2017


For what seems like the first time in months that bright thing in the sky has made an appearance recently. But afternoons are short, especially since the clocks went back. On Friday I only had three hours of light left by the time I was free to set out so I headed for the marsh. There were now sheep on both sides of the fence meaning I could walk round and get an angle where they were either side or front lit instead of the backlighting I'm usually faced with. The results were uninspiring but one frame illustrates the nature of the landscape.

It's not just sheep that I'm trying to photograph but their traces. So any remains of expired sheep are added to the archive in case they might add up to something eventually.

On my way home I noticed some sheep in a field of what looked like shallow water. With all teh rain there's been lately a flooded field was a possibility, but I'd have expected sheep to have been moved out of it. I wasn't going to stop to take any photographs because the lane is pretty much a single tracked but there was a pull-in by the field gate. The back lighting was making the field glisten and the sheep where silhouetted against this with that rimlight their fleeces give in such situations. All very picturesque. I pulled over and got the camera out. It wasn't water at all creating the effect. It was spider silk. Not only was it cloaking the grass it was in the hedges too.

With the sun setting fast the effect was soon lost but I managed two or three frames which are okay. Sheep never graze where you want them to for the composition you have in mind. Often the bleaters will be heading in the right direction and then turn round!

Sunday was predicted to be sunny all day, but I still didn't manage to get out until eleven intending to have another poke around in the area I have in mind for a project.

Quite what the project will be about if it happens I am trying to find out by taking photographs. Something sheep related, maybe a series of sheepscapes, is a possibility. Finding cooperative sheep being the biggest hurdle to overcome.

It would be an easier option to make a series of pictures of trees. All you have to concern yourself with there is the weather and the light. But looking through a book of photographs about a year in this area I realised there were next to no pictures of people in it. The great fall-back of photography is to photograph landscape and 'stuff'. Which was what I ended up doing.

One thing that a low winter sun does is make me look at light and colour more than I usually do. Good in some ways, but it all too easily becomes the subject. Which I find less than satisfying. There's no message intended in these sorts of pictures. The picture below is just a semi-abstract of a tree against a moorland backdrop. It's decorative.

This isn't as nicely lit, but as well as being a semi-abstract picture of a wall, fence and saplings, it is also about enclosure and land use. The land, originally walled to retain sheep, has fencing topping it off to keep deer out of an area now planted with trees for environmental reasons. To me that is a more satisfying picture to make.

But ideas don't have to be what might thought of as politically motivated, or 'heavy'. They can make a comment on an aspect of life in a more light-hearted way. As when I started taking pictures of abandoned balls I have lately started taking pictures of the farmer's friend - baler twine. The places I see it and the uses it gets put to.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Must try harder

I had a brainwave today. I thought I'd cracked it to find a way to kick start a new project. So off I went armed with the 'right' gear. Then it all fell apart. The fitful sunshine buggered off and the I got distracted. Ho hum. Back to square one again.

Sheep might be domesticated but they retain the strong flight response of wild prey animals. They're good at spotting people (or predators) from far off. Their initial reaction is usually to stare at you while they have a wee. Then they either walk away pretending to be disinterested in you or carry on grazing. But if you step inside their circle of approachability they're off like a shot. I wonder if carrying a bucket of ewe nuts might make a difference?

Anyway I tried to take some sheepscape pictures but neither sheep nor light would play ball and I lost interest as I had driven past something I wanted to get some shots of on my way to the fell.

I knew the Moorcock Inn had closed a few years ago and was under threat of demolition for redevelopment as housing. I wasn't aware of how far gone it was. Despite the overcast sky I had to take the opportunity for some documentary pictures, even though others would have done so already. With it being in a semi-demolished state and having suffered a fair bit of vandalism and fire damage I didn't venture inside. I'm not an Urbex kinda guy anyway.

That done I went off to do some research. Which didn't take long. Mainly because I decided it was a waste of time as the project idea was rubbish. I found some more sheep but couldn't get too enthused by them. For some reason I converted this picture into black and white as a vague homage to Fay Godwin. I don't really like digital black and white. I can never get it to look the way I want, but this works better as monochrome than it does in colour. Too much green grass in colour and the sheep don't contrast enough. Not a fantastic picture, but a useful 'sketch' to remind me of a direction to take in the future. I like the way the receding sheep give a sense of depth to the picture.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A grand day out

Wallace and Gromit have a lot to answer for when it comes to cheese. I heard that Wensleydale was in the doldrums until that pair started singing its praises. I think it's treacherous on the part of Prestonian Nick Park to promote such a Yorkshire cheese. The inferior dairy product even has its own visitor centre.

There are 'professional Yorkhiremen' and the whole county takes it's (supposed) reputation too seriously if you ask me. Still, it's better than going darn sarf. At least you can get a decent mug of tea over t'border.

The reason for my afternoon out was to pay a visit to the (expensive) Dales Countryside Museum to see an exhibition of photos of sheep farming folk. It being the culmination of a year long project documenting sheep people in the Dales. The problem with the internet and exhibitions can be that you have seen nearly all the pictures on-line before you get to the show. And this was the case today.

While I am among those who think that photographs should be printed I'm not usually in the camp that sets a high store on 'fine prints'. In this instance I was a little surprised to see the prints from film looked much like the images do on a screen, but the colour pictures (which I am assuming were made digitally) looked worse as prints.  Perhaps this was the result of different printing methods. The two formats were certainly presented differently. With more gravitas given to the pictures made on film.

There is more to the exhibition than the photographs. There are texts to accompany them and audio of interviews with the farmers, plus artwork of variable quality and some other stuff from earlier documentary work on the dales.  Overall, worth a visit if you're in the area.

After leaving the museum I went for a wander round the town and out. As is always the case when I go anywhere 'scenic' the skies are grey. When there's a waterfall in town you have to slow the shutter down...

And you can't visit the dales without taking at least one photograph of stone walls and buildings

Not to mention an 'iconic' barn. Hmm. Road markings and litter. I must have started to get bored of the scenery.

After the ventures into postcardland I regained my senses and found some more interesting things to photograph.

I can't resist a bin on wheels.

 Or a pile of furniture. Undoubtedly my favourite landscape picture of the day.

None of which has got me any further forward with finding a new direction. Hey ho.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The old standbys

It's October and time to start thinking about the beach project again. Although overcast it was warm and the beach populated by inevitable walkers, with and without dogs. Apart from three metal detectorists there wasn't much going on. As usual there always seems to be unusual things taking place when there aren't as many people around. I spent most of my time taking rather pointless photographs of junk on the beach before making the place look deserted by hiding a dog walker, and their dog, behind the boat angling club's mobile cabin.

I'd photographed a couple of balls as I walked down to the shore and passed by a few on the sands. It was literally as I got back to my car that I spotted another ball hiding by the side of the footpath. It's number 418.

On my way south I'd noticed a bigger than usual pile of sand at the sandplant so called in on my way home to have a poke around. there has been a lot of ground cleared since my last visit. So much so that it's difficult to remember  what it looked like where it meets the saltmarsh. The well trodden path around the old perimeter being the best clue.

Something I like doing at the sandplant is making pictures which mimic the tropes of what is called landscape photography. One favourite is the mountain reflected in a reedy lochan or tarn. A boulder or tree stump for foreground interest is often included for effect. I made do with a heap of sand instead of a mountain and some rubble in place of the boulders.

I think I prefer my detail of the lower slopes of the 'scree'.

It is almost a crime to include people in landscape photography but I can never understand why. I had taken a few shots of the plants growing in the puddle when a birdwatcher pushed his bike through the frame. To me that makes a more interesting picture. Not that it is all that interesting, but it's better than the frames without him!

I was glad he'd gone because his bike had been leaning against a sculpture-like pile of debris in the area I wanted to photograph. Piles of junk like this are difficult to make look right in photographs because much of their appeal is their three dimensionality.

As a continuing documentation of a gradually disappearing landscape feature these pictures have some merit, and as a body of work might eventually become more interesting in that context than they are individually. However, they're not as interesting to me as pictures of people doing things. Either to look at or to take. I need to get my finger out and sort out another people project.