Saltaire. Jan 27th 2017

Salts Mill and the surrounding town of Saltaire are familiar enough to most people living in Leeds, and of course we’ve been here several times.  The Mill itself is always interesting – and they serve a decent cup of coffee – even it it is something of a shrine to David Hockney.  I appreciate his work (he says condescendingly) and I admire his advances with picture making technology, particularly his use of an iPad.  I do confess though to finding it a touch the same, but maybe that says more about my inability to appreciate good art when I see it!  I find the building itself fascinating, as of course is its heritage as an industrial venture on the grand scale.  The noise of production must have been appalling, but Titus Salt seems to have done his level best to “do the right thing” for his employees, as is well documented.

After lunch in the “Victoria Tea Rooms we wandered (on what really was a bleak January day) a mile or so long the canal bank towards Shipley.  Obviously some of these great looming mill buildings have been very creatively restored and are in good and purposive use, often as office buildings I think.  Others have yet to be restored and so are perhaps more evocative of their past.  Boats aren’t on the move much at this time of year, but there were several on moorings, at least a couple of which were worth a picture I felt.

We strolled around the part of the estate that Salt had built for his workers.  Different grades of houses from fine looking detached to rather more snug terraces, presumably appropriate to the station in life of their original occupants.  They have in common though that they look well designed and well built – odd little bits of detailing mark them out as having been put up with care.  I hope that’s right!  There’s certainly scope for individuality now as I guess they are all privately owned, albeit limited by the area’s status as a “World Heritage Site” – we rather enjoyed the very maritime looking collection in one front yard.

The United Reformed Church is a splendid looking building ….. and has in its grounds the mausoleum in which Titus and his family are buried.  Thus its cupola is the last of the images which follow:


Restored Mill Buildings
Gentrified Mill
Restoration Project (1)
Restoration Project (2)
Restoration Project (3)
Reflected Mill
Mill Windows
Saltaire Street (1)
Saltaire Street (2)
Garden Sculpture (1)
Garden Sculpture (2)
Saltaire URC

Hebden Bridge in Sepia 27th March 2015

“Black and White Photography” – a journal that I enjoy regularly – printed an interview with Bruce Perry, a very experienced and well established landscape and travel photographer. He has fairly recently been working in black and white, and makes this comment about what he has found. “I think a lot of beginners push up the contrast and they think it looks really exciting, but you learn as you go along that that kind of image is quite hard to look at for more than a couple of minutes. It becomes quite fatiguing, everything is shouting at you”.

I found that really interesting. We seem to be in a photographic age which has discovered the contrast slider, and has developed an infatuation with “HDR”, and images with “impact”. That of course is quite unfair, although it does seem that it’s images with those “in your face” kind of qualities that win competitions! The half dozen or so of Perry’s images published along with the interview make it clear that he certainly subscribes to a different philosophy. (Can one subscribe to a philosophy? – you know what I mean!). His grasp of composition is clear to see, and the care that has gone into each exposure is easy to guess at. They don’t have impact, but they do exert a subtle pressure to “come in and look around”, to examine, ponder and reflect. That’s a visual process that takes time of course, and maybe that will limit their appeal in the “popular” market.

We decided to go to Hebden Bridge, which is a one time mill town in Calderdale that has become something of a tourist centre based on the tourism industry generated by the Rochdale Canal. As we discovered, there’s a fair amount of new building, but the core of the town is original West Yorkshire, sometimes with the architectural confidence that was built on the success of the woollen industry, fed and nourished by the rail, road and canal links that run up and down Calderdale.

In my mind this was always going to be a “black and white” shoot, and so it turned out, but I had Bruce Percy’s comments very much echoing around as I looked for images, and again when it came to processing the images in Lightroom. So I played with ‘contrast’ and ‘clarity’ and felt increasingly unhappy with the “feisty” images that I was developing of these old stone buildings. I tried various options, finally settling on the “sepia” preset that Lightroom offers, deciding that it was too strong, and toning it down into a preset of my very own, cunningly called “Light Sepia”. In the end I’ve simply applied that preset to the whole collection, and quite like the result. I find the toned b&w to be quite restful and easy on the eye, and it does, to my mind, seem appropriate to the tone and colour of the place, albeit on a cloudy and thus fairly flat lit day. It does have an immediate sense of nostalgia as a “look”, and that also seems to fit with the place, which has a clear sense of its own past, even if sometimes it feels a touch uneasy about its present!

Here’s a selection …….

I’ve kept this last image separate; it’s very much my favourite of the day.

The composition is exactly as came from the camera, it hasn’t been cropped at all. My eye was caught first of all by the canal boats rudder and my initial thought was to zoom in tight on that. I widened the shot though to draw in the drainpipe! This may seem a very curious thing to have done, but I think that the two items introduce a collection of angles that is quite interesting. The pipe is vertical and off it come the horizontals of the wall and the water line. The slope of the rudder head sort of connects with the slope of the stairs in the background, and all that angularity is softened by the oval of the plant growing over the wall.

Basically I like the shape and enjoy wandering around inside the image, wondering where the doors lead and so on. I think the Bruce Perry idea works here in that to wind up contrast etc to make an impact would thrust one away rather than draw one in. Sorry if that reads a touch “arty farty” ….. but it works for me!