|Forter Castle, Glenisla|
I've found a "new" location that I really love. It's Glenisla, one of the Angus Glens and a 40 minute drive away. I've visited the glen a couple of times in the past but not with any photographic intent. But last week, heading off in the car with my mum and Cath, I decided to drive in that direction to see what the day would bring.
It was my type of weather: absolutely miserable. Heavy cloud, a light mist, constant drizzle. Does it get any better? Why would anyone want to take pictures in bright sunlight? Beats me. So that puts me and Don McCullin in a two-man club, I suppose.
I really don't like Don's war photographs. They're too direct, too accurate, too unsettling. Don once said pretty much the same himself years ago when it gradually became apparent how little impact they'd had on the world of armed conflict. As if the demonic forces which drive such cataclysmic events could be dissuaded from their gory, blood-soaked, money-grabbing quest by mere silver gelatin.
To me, Don is a landscape photographer and a very good one at that. I'd developed my own style of dark, moody landscapes before I'd seen any of his but I at once recognised a kindred spirit. Please don't think I'm comparing myself to Don: that's not the intention, It's more the feeling that the elements he seeks out in the landscape are exactly those that I go in search of whenever summer shakes off its pollen-covered cloak and defers to the muddy wellingtons of autumn. For new readers, here are another few moody shots I've published on the blog in the past to let you know what I'm on about.
When the cloud level drops, bare naked branches stand out starkly against a low sun and the scars and fissures of the hills and glens glisten and run from the drizzle and damp, that's when photographers who love the dark side of the landscape check their cameras, blow the dust from their lenses and pick out their favourite film stock. Take a look at this classic McCullin shot:
|"View From Hadrian's Wall, England" by Don McCullin|
And what he says about Hadrian's Wall:
"I go in winter in blizzards. When you’re standing on the wall, which you’re not strictly allowed to do, it’s incredibly romantic and melodramatic. I feel as if I’m in history, as I do at home in Somerset at the iron-age forts.
"I like to imagine what it must have been like to be a Roman soldier. I was there last year and it was incredibly cold – I was wearing long johns. I walked along the top, around the bend, then took this picture. I’ve just had it made into a platinum print – it’s one of the most beautiful scenes."For overseas readers, Hadrian's Wall was a defensive barrier built by the Roman Empire in the north of England from coast to coast and was, at the time, the furthest north they had ever penetrated. They took a look at the Scots, wet themselves at their appearance and barbarous nature (if you're in certain parts of Glasgow on a Saturday night you'll get the general idea - haha!) and decided to do a Trump.
We're not quite in blizzard country yet but the weather and the landscape are at last starting to turn in my direction. After weeks of driving around and taking a single exposure here one day and another there on a different day, I'm beginning to experience the old appetite being thoroughly whetted.
The photograph at the top of this post is a not too sharp iPhone file. I'd stopped the car to photograph Forter Castle* in the distance and I whipped out the iPhone so I'd have something to illustrate this post with. I liked the way the drystone dyke in the foreground led almost directly to the castle as did a couple of other strong lines and the hills on the left.
You might be relieved to know I also photographed this scene on my Contax 137MA fitted with the 50mm f1.4 Planar. TMax 400 was in the camera. The castle is very small in the frame but I remembered the way Fay Godwin often depicted the subjects of her photographs by placing them almost as secondary features within their environment rather than switching to a longer lens. The negative will probably show slightly tighter composition than the pic here as the iPhone 4 camera is nearer 40mm if I remember correctly. The digital file was converted to black and white in Lightroom, the highlights given a sepia tone and the edges burned - both of which I could do in the darkroom.
I haven't got round to developing the film yet but I've at least looked out all my developing bits and pieces. All I'm lacking is developer. I've still got the Firstcall Superfine brew I'd been using before my hiatus but it's knocking on a bit now so I'm inclined to order something fresh. Not sure what yet. Maybe more of the excellent Firstcall developer (it's the same as Amaloco's AM74 or Rollei RHS) or perhaps some good old ID11/D76 or even Xtol for something new. What's the local knowledge on getting the best out of TMax 400 negs anyway?
* In case anyone fancies a holiday away from it all, you can hire Forter Castle for holidays, weddings, etc. It also has quite a history.