Strolling around the Beamish Museum in the north of England, I’m always curious to see some of the less visited corners. Upstairs above the newspaper office, is a recreation of an old print shop. Much of the machinery was sourced from the print works of Jack Ascough’s in Barnard Castle, one can only imagine the leaflets, posters and stories these letters and presses printed over the years.
I first tried to photograph the interior of this wonderful old water mill 10 years ago. At that time, a 50mm f/1.4 lens at maximum aperture just about let enough light in to enable a few handheld shots without excessive noise. Now, low noise sensors and image stabilisation mean so much more is feasible, including wide angle.
The project was shot with a Fujifilm X-T3 and Acros film simulation using ambient light and minimal post processing. My aim being to make use of my time exploring the light inside the old mill with my camera, rather than sat at a computer with Lightroom.
The present mill dates from the 18th century and is now in the care of the National Trust and has been restored to full working order.
Nigella orientalis seed heads make for a fascinating subject, reflecting light off their flat surfaces and with exquisite patterns. This is a follow-on study from an earlier project on a variety of seed heads, this time the focus is purely on this single species. Given the common name ‘transformer’ to reflect the transformation that takes place from flower to seed head.
This is a study inspired by the work of Karl Blossfeldt who included natural ageing, wilting and drying out as part of his isolated plant universe. Blossfeldt apparently would trim and tweak his specimens until they seemed, to him, to look their best. He often made extensive use of repetition to lead the viewer into a more perceptive appreciation of the image presenting his specimens in a way that emphasised their rhythmic forms to the extreme and the enabling the plants to take on new and exotic characteristics.
Part of the fun of making these images has been shooting them as JPEGs in-camera, making full use of FujiFilm’s Acros film simulation. Aside from the obvious difference of not having to do any post-processing, I’ve found it incredibly rewarding to create the final image at the time the shutter is pressed, much more akin to film.
Like many photographers, I have long been fascinated by early cameras and have acquired a few over the years. My favourites are a handful of 1920 and 1930 Zeiss cameras that document the change from plates to 120 roll film and the advent of twin lens reflex cameras. For this project, I’ve attempted to study in detail the iconic features of each, using shallow focus to isolate them from the rest of the camera. The first in the series is a twin-lens reflex, the Ikoflex series, which first appeared in the mid-1930s. Early Zeiss Ikoflex IIs had a focus lever, the subject of the image in this post.
It’s an interesting and challenging photographic project and not unlike looking for that unusual angle or pool of light that I find shapes much of my heritage photography. Most of these images have been shot with the excellent Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 macro using available light, essentially on my desk with the camera tethered to my computer. The images have all been captured as jpegs using FujiFilm’s outstanding Acros film simulation.