Lytham is one half of a a charming pair of Fylde resort towns, the other is St. Annes, on the Lancashire coast a little to the south of Blackpool . It’s about an hour’s drive away from where I live so it’s an easy destination to make for with my camera. It’s a bustling place with plenty of life and a busy centre, which means there are many opportunities for the candid image. Sunday is a favourite day, when people ease back a little and take time over the small pleasures, like reading your newspaper in the sun.
A few weeks ago a friend invited me along to his graduation ceremony for his Masters degree which was being held in Manchester. I think it now makes him some sort of Jedi.
The event was being held in the starkly elegant Bridgewater Hall across from the Victorian splendour of the Midland hotel, the hotel was acting as the dressing room for the students cap and gownery. So needless to say there was a certain amount of hustle and bustle between the two but in amongst all the celebrations and mortar board throwing etc. there was a small oasis of calm.
Carefully, diligently a gentleman was sketching away at recreating the Manchester skyline in a panorama of watercolours and pen strokes. From time to time small knots of the celebrating crowds would break off to admire his craftsmanship but never once did he break his concentration or step out of his zone.
I wonder what the finished image looks like and where it’s now hanging?
A few days ago I took a train journey up to one of my favourite destinations, Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. Scotland’s a place I have been travelling to for many years, my connection being my late father who was a Scot from the Lanarkshire area. The reason, or excuse for this latest trip was that fact that the Edinburgh Festival which always adds an extra dimension to the attractions of the city.
It was to be a day trip, something which is easily managed from where I live in Lancashire, the journey time is about two and a half hours also on this trip I travelled by first class which made it even more of a pleasure than usual. So after an excellent breakfast on the train and a lot of window gazing I landed up at Edinburgh’s Waverley station, nestling in it’s narrow valley between the castle on it’s rock and the well tended greenery of Princes Street Gardens. The station is always a busy, bustling place and some aspects of it’s layout can confuse the traveller unused to it’s ways.
I left the station by the Waverley Steps, a brisk way to leave the station and get myself onto Princes Street. The festival had started the previous week so it was now into it’s stride. I took a walk up to St. Andrew’s Square to get a flavour of the atmosphere, Festival time the square is a popular venue site with pop up arenas and bars.
After an hour or so of people watching I was making my way back towards Princes Street and I decide to stop off at Jenner’s, an Edinburgh department store of some repute. There is a cafe on the top floor which gives and excellent view over the gardens and across to the castle. So I took in this marvellous view while I enjoyed my sandwich and coffee.
I like exploring places on foot and Edinburgh is a great city to do this in. I made my way along Princes Street and then up Lothian Road to the district of Morningside, Passing by one of Edinburgh’s great open spaces, Bruntsfield Links. This area is a hive of independent shops and cafes and is one I like to visit with my camera and people watch.
It was now time to make my way back to the city centre and the Royal Mile to take in the atmosphere of the Fringe performers on the preview stages. The route I chose took me across The Meadows and along the George IV Bridge. Built in the late 1820’s to span one of the many valleys that cut into the city centre this doesn’t look very bridge like as you walk along it, as over the years Edinburgh has crept up on it and absorbed it. It leads you past Greyfriars Kirkyard, the cafe where Harry Potter came into being and onto the Royal Mile by St. Giles Cathedral.
This is the hub of the previews for the shows and is always a must see destination as the performers do their best to drum up and cajole and audience for their own particular show.
So that is a flavour of my Edinburgh trip, it’s a brilliant city to visit in it’s own right and when the festival is on even more so.
Sadly the time has come for me to say goodbye to an old and faithful friend, my Mamiya C220 Professional TLR.
The 6×6 format was my entry into the world of medium format from 35mm. It also represented a step change in my photo thinking. Working in 36 mm it was all a bit of a buzz, a tendency to dart about a bit too much, a little too over eager to get on to the next shot.
With the move up to roll film, the situation became a little more considered, perhaps even thoughtful, A few things brought this about, the size and weight of the equipment added a certain stateliness to the proceedings and then there was the limit of twelve images to a roll of 120 film. I now had to start thinking about what I wanted to do, what was the story I wanted to put across, how economical and pared back could I make my narrative?
The rewards were soon to be appreciated as I developed my first roll of film , B&W naturally, and examined what seemed to be the marvellously large and detailed negatives. This was followed up by seeing the same negatives projected down from the enlarger onto the focussing screen.
It was the same story with slide film. My first results were a little rough as Fuji Velvia can be a little more demanding than Ilford’s HP5+ . Though I soon began to gain an understanding of the techniques needed and this payed off with a slow but steady increase in my image sales to magazines and photo libraries.
Alas though our beautiful romance was heading towards the rocks of technology as digital began to take over and edge film into the margins. I took the plunge into digital but kept using the Mamiya but as is the way of these things, demands on my time left less time for my twin lensed friend.
So the crunch time has come, the camera has sat unused just a little too long in it’s case in my office and it’s time for me to stop being selfish and let someone else have the fun of the big rolls of film. My mind is made up and deed has been done and somewhere on an internet auction site my Mamiya 220 waits patiently for it’s next owner.
That’s not to say that sometime in the future I may be passing a camera shop, look in and suddenly feel the need to hold a large, heavy camera in my hands again.
I’m half Scots, my late father came from a small ironworks town in the middle of industrial Lanarkshire and through him I have a great affection for Scotland and try to get there as often as I can. Up until a couple of years ago I would go up and stay on the outskirts of Dunkeld on the fringe of the Highlands, so I could soak up the peace and quiet of a slower pace of life for a couple of weeks. Circumstances have put a temporary halt to the long Scottish stay but I am working on getting back into that routine again asap.
On one of my last stays a friend asked to come up and spend a weekend walking in the area and that was fine by me, it would be a chance to show off my northern hideaway. Niall would be travelling up by train so we arranged to meet on the station, his train would be arriving in Perth at about 9.15 in the evening.
To be on the safe side I made sure I arrived a little early as it would also be a chance to take some evening photographs around Perth and chase down a coffee and cake. After adding to my waistline I made my way over to the station and checked which platform Niall’s train would be arriving at.
Like the majority of UK railway stations, Perth’s grew up in a slightly piecemeal way through the great Victorian railway boom. It had it’s origins in the late 1840’s with a line up from Glasgow which terminated in the town. Over the succeeding years lines came in from Dundee along the Firth Of Tay while others headed northwards through the Highlands to Inverness and beyond.
I always feel that there’s a particular atmosphere about railway station at night, a mixture of the sinister and the romantic. This is particularly so at Perth, the buildings being designed by the eminent Victorian architect Sir William Tite, the adjacent station hotel has the bulk and presence of a Scottish Baronial castle. Always having a camera with me I spent the 20 minutes or so before arrival time taking a walk around the large open platform spaces.
The station’s shape is a large main group of platforms that serve the route to Inverness and in years past branch lines that were closed down in the unfortunate clearing out of the Beeching years. These are joined by two platforms which are served by the line coming in from Dundee, this passes over the south of the city centre after crossing the River Tay. There’s a more regular service on these platforms. The trains through here go on to serve Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Here and there people waited for their train, some on the northbound platform and some waiting for a train out to Dundee or Aberdeen. There was a general quietness about the place, only disturbed by the distant, steady rumble of the idling diesel engines of a train waiting for it’s next journey. Before long Niall’s train rumbled in, we said hello and made our way back to Dunkeld after a shortish visit to a local bar for me to warm up a little and for Niall to unwind a little.
Standing with a mute indifference over the bustle and clutter of a housing estate and the busy A1 road to Scotland is Anthony Gormley’s ‘Angel of The North’. The sculpture was erected in 1998 and it’s rusted orange presence has now become part of the psyche of the North East. The varied palette of orange and browns that make up the surface of the Angel are a feature of the Cor-Ten steel which is used in it’s construction. This steel has naturally weathering properties which protect it and remove the need for any additional painting.
On the day I took this image I had been visiting Newcastle upon Tyne, just across the River Tyne from Gateshead and the Angel. It was late-ish summer and the evening was beginning to settle in as the sun bid goodbye to the day. I decided to silhouette the Angel against the cloud fluffed sky and while I liked the resulting image, I felt a B&W version would work too.
A detail I only noticed when editing the shot, I had always assumed that the wings of the Angel where flat but in fact they fold inward by a very few degrees in a shallow embrace.
A favourite place of mine for taking my camera for a walk is Astley Hall on the outskirts of the Lancashire market town of Chorley. The Hall has it’s origins in the 15th century, with succeeding families of owners each putting their own stamp on the building. To the rear of the hall is the walled garden, the kitchen garden, providing produce to feed the household. The garden has been under a program of restoration and replanting with the emphasis shifting to the decorative as opposed to the edible.
It’s a spot that holds year round attractions as the season ebb and flo, the bare sticks of trees and frozen hummocks of soil slowly warm and ease themselves into a new cycle of life for the year. Shoots forcing themselves through onto the stage of a new growing year and fresh leaves begin to garland the trees as the days lengthen.
The walled garden is also a stage for an ever shifting range of features and exhibits. Two that have caught my eye are these wicker figures, not quite a Wicker Man, they don’t quite have those sinister overtones, they are more peaceful and reflective.
My original shots were colour but something in the poise of the figures made me try out B&W versions of the images which I felt conveyed more the timelessness of a peaceful walled garden.