Here are a selection of some of the photography projects I have undertaken in recent years. I’ve been able to start and complete some of them, especially those with a clear objective, relatively quickly. Others are more experimental and develop over time with a life of their own. In these, for me the interest is as much in seeing how the projects develop as it is in enjoying the pictures I might take at any given stage.
The Crossings Project is an example of one of these longer term projects. It started as a series of pictures of the Tweed from Kelso to the sea, but morphed almost beyond my control into a study of how people have crossed the river over the centuries and how that has impacted on the development of settlements in the region. I daresay it will change again as the photography suggests different directions.
This image was part of a panorama project I undertook for a client in Oldham in the UK. I photographed the panorama from high in the Pennine Hills above his house. You can clearly see, from 40 miles away, the tower at Daresbury, the arch of the Runcorn Bridge and the Fiddler’s Ferry power station on the Manchester Ship Canal. In the background are the Clwyd Hills on the left. In the distance on the right you can make out the mountains of Snowdonia, about 90 miles distant. When the image is enlarged, you can clearly see the ridge of Tryfan soaring into the clouds. This triggered a discussion on the UKClimbing website about distances you could see from hilltops in the UK.
After long discussion, we printed the image about 1 metre across for displaying in my client’s dining room. We wanted to maximise the close-up detail in the panorama while retaining the impact of a large picture. Any larger and the print becomes too blurred when examined closely, and my client was keen to able to enjoy the details. In the full size picture we printed, you can make out jet planes circling Liverpool airport. You can see one in the image above, to the right above the power station in a brighter cloud.
With over 90 miles of sky to go at, there’s bound to be a lot of interest in the clouds. The dark clouds were a storm just passing through leaving clear blue sky behind, followed an area of higher pressure, and with the next sunlit front coming in just behind again.
The weather conditions were quite unusual for that part of the country. Not for nothing did the cotton mill owners build their mills in the damp foothills of the Pennines. Wet grey days are the norm and suit the spinning of cotton. Catching weather fronts like these was quite special.
In 2016 I developed a series of images to create a panoramic view of the Square in Kelso. Because the buildings there are mostly “listed” they make the Square one of the most attractive town centres in the country. The celebrations of the 200th Anniversary of the building of the Town Hall originally inspired the pictures. I felt it would be both interesting and useful to record the current state of the Square
How I created the images
Rather than photograph all the buildings and stitch them together, I chose a different route.
Firstly, I photographed each of the listed buildings in Kelso’s Square, then edited each one to highlight the building details.
Next, using Photoshop, I converted each image into a pencil drawing.
Then I uncovered the building I was interested in.
As a result, this invites the viewer to concentrate on the building and not on the clutter of a busy street. One of the photographic challenges was dealing with the vehicles parked round the Square. Waiting for gaps in the traffic would have led to a very long drawn out project! Reducing cars, street lights and road signs to outlines takes the viewer away from them and back to the building.
As you can see, the finished product can be a very effective technique for bringing out the detail you want to emphasise.
Originally, the intention was for this series of pictures to form an exhibition with pictures from a group of other photographers. For a variety of reasons it became problematic assembling all the required images. Subsequently I offered my set of images to the Scottish Borders Council Archive as a record of the Square in 2016.
Maps identify over 30 river crossings on the Tweed between Kelso and Berwick in the borderland joining England and Scotland. Many, especially the fords and ferries, have now vanished. But each of them has a story to tell in the turbulent history of the region.
The Tweed for many years has been a border line between two nations; crossing it has been seen variously as adventurous, provocative or vengeful. These days things are calmer; tracing the transitions from violence to tranquillity takes us along the river examining old loyalties.
This project aims to identify the important river crossings in the area and discover what makes them important. I’ll then go out and find, document and photograph them as they appear today. The objective is to overlay what I find on the ground with the many threads of history from round about.
The Crossings Project has realigned itself over time. As I have been out and about taking photographs, the pictures themselves have suggested different ways of approaching them. To start with, the pictures simply illustrated the undeniably pretty nature of the country near the river. Currently I am finding myself more drawn to the ways across the river. I am making more monochrome images than previously to escape the “prettiness”. This continual reappraisal is for me part of the attraction of undertaking a long term personal photographic project. The nature of the river is of course changeable, as is the way I see it, and the project will reflect that dynamic over time.