I’ve been taking photographs since I was a teenager – and taking them in black and white for more than 35 years. I 'graduated' to large format 5x4 photography in 1994 and since then that's where my photographic energies have been concentrated. My main subject matter is the landscape and its 'micro-landscapes' though I've recently developed a strong interest in photographing in churches and cathedrals. The first entry in this blog (May 2009 - "Tomorrow ...") will tell you what my blog is all about. You'll find much more of my work on my website at: www.virtuallygrey.co.uk The B&W images from my blog are linked here. Prints of the black & white images are available for purchase. If you are interested, please follow the 'Print Sales' link on my website. The colour images are from my little digital camera and are not for sale. If you'd like to contact me by email then please do so via the 'Contact' link on my website at: www.virtuallygrey.co.uk/contact.html
All photographs and all other content in this blog are Copyright © 2012 Stephen J Gledhill

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Was it worth it ... ?

The walking is over, as is the photography. And it’s taken less elapsed time than I imagined when I set out. I had no target by when I wanted to have completed the walk but was sure it would take me a year. So, just less than 6 months later I feel a real sense of achievement. In fact of several achievements. Firstly, I didn’t give up the project part way through. I had wondered whether I’d have the determination to see it through to the end. Secondly, I managed to find at least one black and white photograph for every day I spent walking. It was touch and go, particularly as I neared the end, but I managed a full house even though some made it by a very narrow margin. Thirdly, I walked 204 miles carrying my 35lb camera backpack – who is it who said that the way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time?  This was done a few miles at a time.

A few statistics for the record:
  • 204 miles over 23 days of walking – 8.8 miles per day – ranging from 4 to 14.
  • 23 days of walking over 24 weeks – averaged 1 walk per week.
  • Average of 7 hours per day walking – averaged 1.25 mph (including all stops).
  • Exposed 113 B&W negatives – 4.9 per day.
  • 53 B&W images published in the blog – 2.3 per day.
  • Exposed 1133 colour digi-snaps – 49 per day.
  • 60 colour digi-snaps published in the blog – 2.6 per day.
  • 1500 miles driving – an average of about 65 miles per day.
Apart from the physical achievement I’ve concluded a couple things photography related:
  • It’s not easy to have the need to walk and cover distance allied with the aim of finding good things to photograph. Too many times I found myself concentrating on the act of walking and paying little or no attention at all to what might be good subject matter to photograph. Over the years I’ve concluded that I do my best photography when there is no rush and no other distraction. I like time to contemplate a scene and allow potential images to develop as I spend time at a place. This is precisely not what happens when walking with a self imposed need to cover some miles.
  • My photo backpack is far too heavy for my poor knees to carry for more than relatively short distances. After every day’s walk I suffered discomfort and stiffness for 24 hours. Without the weight I can walk without problems or aftereffects for twice the distance I can with my back pack. I speculated earlier that I might do this walk all over again, starting immediately, so that I had the chance of walking and photographing in the winter and spring. I’ve abandoned that idea.
So how do I reconcile these two most enjoyable things – the walking and the photography? In future I’ll continue to walk regularly but without my large format camera. When I’m walking I’ll concentrate on the pleasures of walking and carry a lightweight day pack and a small digital camera for when the need arises. My B&W photography with my large format camera will be restricted to specific projects and visits where I can drive with my camera to the vicinity of my intended subject. I don’t expect this in any way to diminish my B&W photography; indeed I already have a couple of projects in mind that may even increase my output whilst saving my knees.

Given my caveats and reservations above I must say that overall I’m very pleased with my B&W work though these three images really stand out for me.

Tyndale Monument from Stinchcombe Hill

Chandelier - St Peter's Church - Winchcombe

Bath Abbey - The Organ & North Transept

And as for the colour digi-snaps – I thought I’d only take a few for the record and show even less. But I was wrong there - I ended up taking 10 times as many as B&W pictures and publishing to my blog a similar number as in B&W. But there’s no chance of my making a change away from large format B&W. B&W is what I do and what I enjoy.

As for the blog, well that's been my device to ensure that I kept going.  I set myself the target of always writing my blog and publishing my colour pictures on the same day as the walk and bar a couple of days I always achieved that.  After a few entries it became a matter of not breaching my commitment and failing publicly to complete what I set out to do.  My B&W pictures have always had to follow days or even a week or two behind as they first require me to develop the film sheets and then scan them then work on them in PhotoShop to achieve my intended rendering.  I've no idea how many or how few people have seen this blog though I do know I have some followers.  Whether or not I've written anything of interest is of no real consequence, except that I've thoroughly enjoyed the discipline of having to assemble my thoughts and commit them to 'paper'.  I've started to understand why people keep a diary - it helps remember!

And yes, it was worth every minute.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

#23: B&W Images: Outskirts of Bath - Bath Abbey (The End)

Pulteney Bridge

The Royal Crescent

Fence & Trees

Bath Abbey - The Organ & North Transept

Bath Abbey - The Choir & Nave

Bath Abbey - Memorial Tablets

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

#23: Outskirts of Bath - Bath Abbey (The End)

Bath Abbey - The End

Pulteney Bridge & Weir

The Royal Crescent

The Way Passes by a Church

Autumn Leaves

The Circus Windows & Leaves

Today marked the end of the walk and the end of a most enjoyable period of 6 months since I set out from Chipping Campden on 28th May.  I left myself just a short walk for my final day as I wanted  to spent time in Bath Abbey with my large format camera and black and white film.  I spent over 3 hours there and took maybe a dozen pictures.  It's a beautiful old building full of light.  It was built on the site of the earlier Norman Cathedral and before that an Anglo-Saxon Abbey Church.  The day was a gloriously sunny late autumn day with strong winds whipping away the last of this year's leaves from the trees.  Bath itself is a wonderful old city - I think I agree with its claim to being the most beautiful in England.  The harmonious mellow stone buildings are all built on a scale that is more human than in many other cities.

Once the final B&W images are done I'll round off my blog with a look back over the last six months.  I did something similar at the half way stage but I now want to take stock of the whole project.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

#22: B&W Images: Site of the Battle of Landsdown (1643) - Outskirts of Bath

Racehorse Catcher - Bath Race Course

#21: B&W Images: Dyrham - Site of the Battle of Lansdown Hill (1643)

Cold Aston Church

Soon After Sunrise

Cold Aston Pulpit

Misty Stubble Field Path

Thursday, 29 October 2009

#22: Site of the Battle of Landsdown (1643) - Outskirts of Bath

What to say about my worst day on the Cotswold Way? It was dull grey overcast sky for all of the walk. Whilst the southern third of the Cotswold Way is attractive and pleasant countryside, it is no match for the northern two thirds. I took no colour snaps and managed to find just one b&w photograph located on the edge of Bath Racecourse. I'll reserve judgement on that until I see the negative. If that turns out to be a dud then it will be the first stretch of the walk without a b&w to show for it.

However, my gloom was most likely to have been a reflection of the fact that I felt increasingly ill as I walked. It became a real struggle to make the last couple of miles back to my car. I completed what I set out to do but really I shouldn't have set out in the first place. One day later as I write this I feel fine - I attribute my ill feeling to what was probably a dodgey bowl of mussels eaten the evening before.

Notwithstanding the tribulations, I am now just two miles from the centre of Bath. So, one more day and I'll have completed my walk. I'm planning my last day to be a very short walk allowing most of the day to photograph in Bath. I've visited several times without my large format camera and I know there's a wealth material to consider photographing. Hopefully I'll end up with being able to post several b&w images from that day.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

#21: Dyrham - Site of the Battle of Lansdown Hill (1643)

Eastern Sky


Not such a Pleasant Stretch

Yesterday I wrote that it would be next week before I got my next chance to walk. Most of that was down to commitments, but I was potentially free on the next day. I had looked at the weather forecast and seen almost unrelenting rain but yesterday evening I took another look and Wednesday's forecast had suddenly ameliorated and there was to be a dry interlude between 7am-ish and mid-evening. So I walked, and for walking the weather was perfect. The rain held off until 5 minutes before I got back to my car at 3:30 - but I won't sound off here about what I think of the accuracy of our forecasts.

There was a lot of rain yesterday and overnight and, just my luck, one stretch near Pennsylvania had been ploughed the day before. At least the farmer had marked the path across the field by flattening the route with his tractor wheels. By the time I'd made it the 1/4 mile across the field my boots were so heavy with the thick heavy clay mud I was really struggling to walk. I muttered to myself for a bit - then I got over it, forgetting for a while that I had to do the same again on my return later in the day. But I'm left wondering whether the hamlet of Pennsylvania in Gloucestershire is an unusual example of a place in the UK being named after a place in the USA?