Monday 17 March 2014

"Home is..." Ribblehead; third time's the charm...

Once more with feeling...
Well, third attempt at a "Home is..." shoot at Ribblehead.  After attempt 1's white-out sky, and attempt 2's thick fog, we decided to settle for dramatic clouds and intermittent sunshine.
Annoyingly, we missed getting a train in shot by a matter of minutes.

The set-up was pretty much what we had intended in the earliest planning stages of the project, albeit with the difficulty that the lamp kept blowing over (this valley is such a wind tunnel), and in fact broke.  A good reason for keeping a roll of gaffer tape in the kit bag...
A relocation up to the hills above Langwathby gave us another shot we wanted, in amongst the limestone paving.  Again bleak, and again, bad weather.
Nice a setting as it looked, it took a while to find a big enough patch of flat ground to set up the furniture on...

The wind was an even bigger problem here, and in fact the gales picked up noticeably as the shoot went on, resulting in the destruction of a couple of the props (note the angle of the lamp, and the action-pose of the rug blowing away).  Still, the resulting picture looks nice and eye-catching, and today took care of a couple of shots we'd been planning since the earliest days of the project. 

Friday 14 March 2014

Home is... not in Ribblehead, at least today.


Well. back to the "Home is..." project.  One shot we really, really want is Ribblehead Viaduct as a backdrop.  We went up in Jan to try and get a shot, and it was rather cloudy, you couldn't see the majestic mountain backdrop, and so we reluctantly thought we'd come back later in the spring, hopefully when there was some snow.  And naturally it hasn't snowed, so we thought now, in March, on a week where it has been gloriously hot and sunny, we thought we'd have another go. 
The above was Ribblehead in early Jan, and then below, the same location today...
Yep.  Clear blue skies until we got within three miles of the viaduct.  Not only was it foggy, but it was also very windy and blowing a fine, misting drizzle which covered the camera lens.

We bailed for the backup location at Dent, in the hope that the other side of the hill would be less foggy.  As the above shot illustrates, that was sort-of right...
Either three dead sheep, or the remains of a terrifying mutant spider-sheep counting the amount of leg bones...
We set up and got a quick shot mainly for the sake of shooting something, anything.  Maybe not an exhibition image (certainly not the pre-editing version above), but it might do for the planned accompanying book...


Back on the road, heading south, in the hope of finding a better location.  However, to our annoyance (if not our surprise) the fog had settled all the way from the viaduct to our house back in Keighley by the time we got back in the car; a weird fog that managed to combine with strong winds, so that the props were at risk of being knocked over. 
So a bit of annoyance there then; one reasonable shot/location, but we really want the viaduct.  Next go will be on Monday, with a bit of luck...




Thursday 13 March 2014

Post-Apocalyptic-ish Worth Valley

Somewhat related to the last post on railway photography, I thought I'd put some pics of an interesting and surreal location discovered whilst on my (Bens) various photography travels near to the house.
We live in the Worth Valley, just outside Keighley, and literally at the end of the main road through our estate is somewhere optimistically called the "Worth Valley Country Park".  The area has something of a fascination for me, with my love of post-apocalypse science fiction, because it looks a bit like a set from a "ten years after the bomb dropped/zombies rose from the grave/plague hit" scene.  Still, post apocalypse is better than actual apocalypse, though infinitely worse than pre-apocalypse, and I thought I'd snap some pictures of it all whilst it was still (just about) accessible.
The Country Park itself is in the grounds of the mill they demolished to build our estate; lots of mud-filled mill ponds, rusting sluice gates, overgrown rubble, and the ever-present Worth Valley dog mess.  Most of the ill-maintained paths are closed and heavily fenced-off at the moment whilst contactors dig a giant hole in the middle of it, for purposes unknown (again, insert science fiction conspiracy theory here). 
The closed paths force you onto this road; believe it or not, this is still listed on the maps as a public right of way to Damems Station on the Worth Valley Railway; I've followed it before from the main road, where tarmac turns to rubble, then to mud and half-buried litter.  I'm told the flooding is caused by a non-maintained culvert up on the abandoned Great Northern Railway embankment that's about 30ft above the road.  The mud is knee-deep in places, as I've accidentaly found out in the past.
Vehicles must still use the road though because there are heavy tyre tracks, but in the last 18 months the condition of the road has deteriorated enough to stop even the casual fly-tipping.

The road comes out at a junction near Damems Station, a slightly bizarre, very pretty little level crossing and halt on the railway, which looks somewhat out of place sat near a scrapyard full of dead bulldozers, lorries, and other industrial junk.  Theres a few houses, but the inhabitants seem (perhaps logically) wary of strangers walking around, and such dogs as I've encountered round there are distinctly unfriendly.  A nice path through this natural tunnel of trees (above), leads from the side of the station down to...

...a picnic area.  When I first came up here a couple of years ago whilst exploring on a day off, there were still benches and things here; they've been progressively destroyed, I'd guess (from the graffiti) by the kids from our estate.  Oddly though, given the general air of neglect, the sign has been replaced apparently, or at least had the worst of the graffiti cleaned off it since that visit.

At the end of the picnic area the path drops literally into the river, emerging the other side; logically it looks like there should have been a bridge here, to avoid the annoying long walk round via the muddy road.
One positive is the nice low-angle shot of the railway from the picnic area; indeed, something that looks like a guard tower from "The Great Escape" sits in the corner, giving a nice view of the trains.  Despite being wooden, it has so far withstood the attention of the arsonists who wrecked the benches.

Finally, the road back to civilisation, just as post-apocalyptic (seriously, how has nobody come here to film something?).  This is the second, and non-flooded route to the Country Park from Halifax Road, and is rutted, pot-holed, the remains of the tarmac broken.  No idea if the street light works either.  The abutments are on the trackbed of the old Great Northern Railway to Queensbury, now mainly used for fly-tipping and druggies, judging by the debris scattered along it (and shifty characters who seem to inhabit it when you walk past).
Its a bit of a shame really; the area looks as if about a decade ago somebody started to fund work on the Country Park, then either the money, time, or interest ran out.  The paths don't look maintained, a bridge which would make it a logical circular walk is missing, never built (but apparently planned), anything that can be broken has been, nobody seems to be looking after it, and its full of dog muck and rubbish.  I've only ever seen a few dog walkers there, occasionaly railway photographers, bored teenagers drinking, and two of the fore-mentioned junkies who chased me away one morning last year.  With the one road heavily flooded, and the other looking like it would seriously wreck any non-4x4's suspension, its not exactly going to be a prime destination.  Its a shame because it would be nice to have a proper bit of a park near our estate, and it would make sense to link the footpaths up so you could walk through the whole of the Worth Valley without having to climb back up to the main roads to get around this bit.
Still, for all that, its a fascinatingly weird place, and if I felt safe being there with a camera, it might be a good location for a proper photography shoot rather than just hasty snapshots taken at nine in the morning...

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Worth Valley Spring Steam Gala

A bumper update, to make up somewhat for the lack of posts recently, the usual mix of real life and the day jobs pushing art and photography to the back burner.  Still, we had some print sales over the winter with our friends at Cupola Gallery, and we now have internet at home so hopefully more on the blog, more frequently, from now on.

A morning on Friday unusually free of distractions had me (Ben) out visiting the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway for their Spring Steam Gala; not a great hardship, as I like photographing trains, and the railway runs past the house.

The first shot of the day, taken whilst exploring a hitherto undiscovered path from near my house, which runs into Keighley.  The local area isn't exactly rough, but at the same time, I didn't feel comfortable wandering around it in a barbour jacket carrying a nice camera, so I didn't stay long.  Enough evidence scattered around the muddy path that some of our local ne'er do wells frequent the path.  Still, not a bad opener to the day.

My first social faux-pas of the day, I ended up stood next to another photographer who seemed to slightly resent having company stealing 'his' angle (though perhaps I'm reading too much into his expression).  Ah well.

A quick move up to the worrying Worth Valley Country Park (more in an upcoming post, in detail about the location), which was fairly peaceful at ten in the morning.  A few other photographers about, who seemed to have found the wrong path and got to the wrong side of the river (to be fair, it does logically look like there's meant to have been a bridge at the point between where they and I were standing);  I reckon I got the better spot than them in terms of available angle for the shot...

...Mindyou, having got the spot with the apparently best angle (knowing which side of the river to go along), I seemed to perplex another nearby photographer by choosing to ignore the train until the last minute to photograph this beauty flying over; none of the other photographers seemed interested in it.

The heron having flown past, I managed to get one of my favourite train shots of the last twelve months; I was ridiculously happy with this picture, especially having failed to get a decent shot of this loco a few weeks ago.

So with the intended shot of the day out of the way, I thought I'd have a bit of fun taking more experimental shots, so lots of long exposure, focus tricks, panning shots (also a response to the high number of other photographers staking out the best spots up the valley in the prettier countryside bits; couldn't get near the tunnel at Mytholmes for most of the morning)

A particularly creepy sight on one path; it may be prettier between Haworth and Oxenhope, but it has its strange moments, and I damn well wouldn't wander around there alone from 5pm onwards, given what is apparently a serious poaching problem in these woods.

A decent mornings photography and fresh air, and a nice break from routine.

The next day was a work day, but a chance before breakfast to snap a freight train; this is very lazy photography.  Not as lazy as the shot in the last post taken from the end of the drive, but still lazy, as I only walked down to the bottom of the road.  Not the prettiest surroundings though, but still nice to get a shot of an unusual train before work. 

And finally, sunday evening, one of the last trains of the gala, snapped whilst passing through Haworth on other business.

Overall, very happy with getting these pics, and a nice break from routine.

Coming up, a proper photo feature on the oddness that is the Worth Valley Country Park, and with a bit of luck, another shoot with the living room set for the "Home is..." project at the end of the week.