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.
I once heard it said, I think by Brooks Jensen in his Lenswork podcast, that your best photograph is not a destination but a process. One of the problems of living at the busy end of a small island is that most ‘photogenic’ landscape locations have been photographed more times than Mrs Windsor. Every pier on the south coast of England, every lighthouse in Wales, every loch in Scotland has had its fair share of sunrise/sunset colour images and beautiful deep toned monochromes made of it by very accomplished masters of landscape photography. It would be easy to get rather jaded and think that it’s going to be real hard to create anything particularly original without winning the lottery and relocating to Iceland, the Lofoten Islands or wherever the latest trendy landscape photography destination is. However, I simply have to remind myself that I take photographs first and foremost for fun and my own personal fulfilment. So, does it really matter if the particular lighthouse, pier or in this case ruined castle have been photographed many times before? I don’t think so, but I have learned something important in the process of trying to make a better photograph in a well photographed location: it’s a tremendous learning experience in itself and just occasionally I feel I’ve inched slightly closer to a deeper understanding of that process.
The shingle expanse of Dungeness in Kent, England, is one of the largest in the world and a favourite haunt with photographers due to the surreal nature of the landscape. This abandoned boat has probably been photographed countless times. Got to love this place, it has enough wrecks, weird houses, boardwalks, nuclear power stations and lighthouses to keep a photographer happy for many an hour, and the weather keeps changing too!
Like many photographers, I’ve visited Dungeness countless times over the years. Ironically, during all these visits, I’ve never met anyone who knew much about the old boats so characteristic of the area. However, on one visit I was fortunate to meet the grandson of the guy who built one of the old “wrecks” in 1946. It was interesting to hear his views on the management of the Dungeness Estate and the desire in some quarters to see the old boats and sheds removed. Personally, I think the area would lose something of value were it “tidied up”, though how you tidy up a nuclear power station on the horizon, I’ve no idea.