There are of course many standard aspect ratios which photographers use on a regular basis to crop an image. The obvious ones that immediately spring to mind are 3 x 2, 5 x 4, 1 x 1 and 16 x 9. There are very good reasons why these are widely used but there are also images which require a ‘non standard’ approach. This picture is a perfect example.
Regular readers will know that I am starting a new long term project this year. I wrote about it here.
In a sentence I have defined an area of countryside to photograph which covers about 30 sq miles to the north of where I live; it’s a mix of chalk downs, farmland and woodland and includes a section of the South Downs Way.
At the beginning of anything new there is a sense of excitement and anticipation. A desire to make the first image not knowing what the coming weeks and months ahead will produce. What direction will the project take as it evolves over time? Who knows, but I am aware the project will require a title at some point in the future once a clear sense of direction has been esyablished. Whilst I already have a number of ideas as to what this might be it’s far too early to commit, as conceptually it may well change as I become influenced and inspired by the varied scenery I discover. I want to immerse myself in the landscape, capture what I see, not necessarily for its beauty but because that’s how it is – an element of documenting the countryside will form part of the project.
Earlier this week I made a point of going out to take some more images for my Churches Project. I was moderately pleased with my afternoon’s work, had packed away all my gear and was making my way back to the car. I had parked in front of an open barn and as I walked from the church towards my car I noticed the afternoon light glinting on the rear of the barn and in particular the long corrugated roof which nearly reached the ground. The rivets all pointed towards a small group of ivy clad trees with countryside beyond, all of which I rather liked.
I couldn’t resist reaching for my camera just one last time. Whether I have a camera with me or not, my eyes are constantly observing what is around me, looking for the light, interesting shapes and compositions. Even when on first impression the subject itself may not be that appealing, (in this case the corrugated roof of an old farm building), the direction of the light and other elements which make up the picture may be enough to warrant getting my camera out of it’s bag. So I took one last shot before heading home and I am glad I did.
Cwmorthin Quarry – a bleak and now lonely place – previously a place of great activity, endeavour and danger, as miners went about their difficult and very physical work in many miles of dark, wet tunnels below the surface. As I sit at my desk in a warm, well lit room, with a hot cup of tea for sustenance, typing these words on a Mac keyboard, I find it very hard to imagine what life would have really been like for the people who lived and toiled here many decades ago.
Cwmorthin is a substantial Victorian-era slate mine above the village of Tanygrisau, close to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales. Having left my car in a small car park, I together with a few other photographers walked up a fairly steep incline until we reached Llyn Cwmorthin, a lake overlooked by some derelict buildings which at one time were the barracks for the mine workers. Work on the mine first began in the early 1800’s, with heavy underground development starting around 1860. Some access to the mines is still possible but I for one was very happy to stay above ground, take in the atmosphere, and try and reflect my feelings for this harsh environment through my photography.
Although mine workings largely came to an end in 1970, some small scale mining still took place in the 80’s and 90’s eventually ceasing altogether in 1997. Flooding in mines was always a problem, so large pumps were used to remove water from the many miles of tunnels on a number of floors. Wall and roof failures were a constant hazard for the mineworkers and it’s of no surprise that numerous chambers have collapsed preventing access to large parts of the mine.
The photographs in this entry were taken either by the lake or along a wet and stoney footpath, lined by a slate fence, which took us past a chapel with only a pair of conifers for company. Sadly the roof had been removed from the chapel in fear I guess that it might collapse and be a danger to visitors. Later we climbed a long and fairly steep path to the upper section of Cwmorthin Quarry and this will feature in a future entry.
The road from the western end of Llyn Ogwen to Bethesda in Snowdonia passes though the deeply glaciated valley of Nant Ffrancon. Now a typical ‘A’ road the original road featured in this post is a single track road with just a few passing places. It is rarely used so parking is not really a problem. You just stop in the middle of the road and hope that no vehicles come along while you jump out of the car and take a few photographs.
The road twists and turns with a variety of fences defining field boundaries. Wire and post fencing, stone walls, but perhaps most interesting of all are the slate fences, nestling in the grasses which lean from left to right and undulate in harmony with the lie of the land.
It’s a fascinating area to explore and really does feel like you are stepping back in time. There are very few buildings along this stretch of road. The ones that are here are isolated and when I visited this part of Snowdonia at the end of October the weather was favourable. I tried to imagine what it might be like in the depths of winter, with rain or snow being swept through the valley by a cold and strong wind. Pretty bleak I thought to myself.
The first two images below are taken from the existing A5, looking down into the valley. The line of the old road can be seen in the top right of the frame of the first shot.
Do click on any of the images to view a larger version which will open in a new window.