Continuing a series of images from some of the preserved mills of Northern England. For a black and white photographer the contrast, pattern and symmetry associated with the machines in these mills is a bit of a gold mine. Masson Mill, part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, was built in 1783 by Richard Arkwright on the banks of the River Derwent at Matlock Bath, and reflects the grandeur of its river gorge setting. Compared with other mills visited for this project, there is ample opportunity to photograph the details so that has been my focus for this portfolio.
In the 19th Century, Bradford in Northern England was famous for its worsted cloth. Moorside Mills, now Bradford Industrial museum has preserved some of the old machines that make for a fascinating photographic study. The various combing, drawing, spinning and weaving machines are in superb, and in many cases, working condition while others are being restored. I find there is a beauty in the detail of the Victorian engineering, their repetitive symmetry and the contrast between the pale tones of the wools and threads and the black metal. For many of these images I’ve used selective focus to suggest the depth and scale.
There was a time when undertaking an extensive indoor photographic project without the use of a tripod was well nigh impossible and as many heritage sites do not permit the use of tripods indoors, well, you get the gist. However, lenses like the new Fujinon 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR with quite exceptional image stabilisation makes hand-held photography in low light much more feasible when combined with the high ISO performance of modern cameras. So, these are the first of what I hope will be a portfolio of images looking at the preserved heritage of what was once a major industry and employer.
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.