As I child one of my early memories was of our dad taking photographs on what I later learned was a 1940s vintage Zeiss Ikon folding camera – I have it to this day. He’d been in the airforce and I recall there were a few board-mounted black and white prints of places as diverse as Paris and the Shetland Islands that he’d made himself in his own darkroom. Years later, as a graduate student, I’d set up my own darkroom in a cupboard of a flat I rented using his enlarger.
It clearly sparked an interest and as a teenager I was given a Russian Zenit-EM 35mm with it’s 58mm f/2 Helios lens. I probably had that camera for longer than just about any other since and it served me well as a student geologist. Later, I splurged on a second camera a Soviet Lubitel 2 120 roll film twin lens reflex. While there were undoubtedly better cameras around in the 1980s, they were well beyond my budget and I can’t help but feel that the shear fun I had using these manual cameras instilled my long term interest in photography.
So, no surprise that I recently spent a thoroughly enjoyable few hours wandering around the iconic location of Bodiam Castle in Sussex on the south coast of England. Wind direction and light conspired to make this view the one that worked best rather than the more usual image that shows the castle completely isolated by it’s moat but it was the pure fun of making it that will be my lasting memory of the day.
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Much Meddling in the Marsh may be a rather corny pun on the Kenneth Horne radio comedy show Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh broadcast over half a century ago on the BBC. However, it rather aptly describes the various attempts I’ve made over the years to capture an image of St. Thomas à Becket church on Romney Marsh. Seems a wet and rainy October Monday finally gave me a chance to photograph this iconic location and capture some of its characteristic isolation, minus the usual summer weekend tourists.
Auchindrain (Gaelic: Achadh an Droighinn) was founded in the late 15th century and plans were drawn up for its ‘improvement’ in 1789. However, the plan was never carried out and the township survived. The nearby township of Achnagoul was abandoned in the 1940s, leaving Auchindrain as the Last Township, though by the 1950 only two houses were still occupied. Fortunately, its historical significance was understood by the time the last tenant retired in 1963 though most of the township’s land was sold for forestry in 1967.
Photographing Auchindrain on a typically dull and wet day during a visit to the West Highlands of Scotland in June 2019 no doubt helped engender a sense of place more than a visit on a bright and sunny day. Since 1968 Auchindrain has been a working museum, it is the only township to have survived substantially intact from the many hundreds that once existed across Scotland.
My aim in photographing Auchindrain’s buildings and their interiors is to convey a sense of the history of the place and to enable people to make up their own stories, not so much about Auchindrain itself, but about the countless other townships that were once so common across the Scottish Highlands and the impact of the Scottish Clearances that changed the social order, culture, and economy and that created the Scottish landscape as we know it today.
FujiFilm’s marketing slogan rings particularly true on hot summer’s days when the mercury tops 30°C as it did this past weekend. As it was, I found myself carrying (lugging more like) both a Nikon D850 with 16-35mm Nikkor and the diminutive Fujifilm X-E3 with 23mm Fujinon on a hot afternoon at Dungeness. Still, it was an opportunity to try out a small ultra-light setup and I have to admit I’m pretty impressed by the results. Sure, the wider angle of the Nikkor lens was useful in shooting the old boats at Dungeness, but the little Fuji more than held its own and looking at nice contrasty Acros film simulations in the EVF was a pleasure.