After spending the best part of £50 on an English Heritage membership earlier in the year, I’ve been trying to ensure that I get value for money on it by visiting various English Heritage sites – although, to date, I’ve only managed to visit three, and the one I’m writing about today was free to enter in any case.
Sutton Scarsdale Hall is in Derbyshire between Chesterfield and Bolsover (one of the other EH sites I’ve visited, Bolsover Castle, can be easily seen from Sutton Scarsdale Hall on the opposite side of the wide valley in which both are situated). It can be observed from the M1 motorway, and this is how the place first came to my attention many years ago.
The current house dates back to the 18th Century, although it is now just a shell – after falling into disrepair it was asset stripped early in the 20th century and the interior up to, and including, the roof were all removed and sold on. It is freely accessible to visitors, although on this occasion, my first, the interior was off-limits due to maintenance work and the main structure is bordered by some somewhat ugly metal fences that prevent access.
I shot a full roll of Fomapan 200 with my Yashica Mat 124 G during the visit, and I’ll include most of the photos here (three of the shots I took were quite similar, so I’ll just use the best of those, and one was out of focus, so that is omitted too).
#1. Not the first shot of the roll, but I’ll place it first here as it’s the view from the car park and the first thing you see upon arrival.
#2 & #3. The ornately columned east wall of the structure.
#4. To the east, the valley slopes down into the wide valley and this shot was taken looking back towards the hall.
#5. Looking down into the valley, I spotted a couple of trees that made for a nice picture.
#6. I decided that I’d like another shot of the trees from a different angle. This involved climbing over a walled ditch (although someone had thoughtfully left a small wooden stepladder against the wall by which to climb up and down) and then walking down a track towards the trees. I actually took three variations of this shot (you can find the other two on my Flickr feed if you click one of the images in this post), but this is the one I really like.
#7. A shot of some poppies growing in the field adjacent to the track.
#8 & 9. The final two shots were taken in the churchyard of All Saints church in the nearby village of Heath. I’ve noticed the dollar-like symbols on gravestones before and wondered what they represented, so after taking this shot decided to look up the meaning. I discovered that, despite appearances, it’s not a $ symbol, but the letters I, H & S overlaid on one another and represent the first three letters of Jesus in Greek.
Following on from my last post, this documents the next section of the outing (and presents the remaining seven shots taken with the Yashica Mat 124 G).
After walking around the wharf buildings, I ventured to the area surrounding the canal basin. This is the terminus of the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal and a mooring point for a number of narrow-boats and other small vessels, including a few used for commercial use (canal trips and the like). The canal was opened in 1819 and links the centre of Sheffield to the point at which the River Don (which also runs through the city) becomes navigable at Tinsley. It’s a relatively short canal, being approximately four miles in length. The canal’s route takes it through the heart of the city’s industrialised east-end which was formerly the site for a large number of steel foundries and associated works. While Sheffield still retains a notable steel industry, it’s vastly diminished from its heyday, and where once large steel-mills stood, there are now retail parks, shopping malls, sports facilities and modern industrial parks. I didn’t venture more than a couple of hundred yards from the canal basin on the day though.
The fist shot of this batch was taken next to the Straddle Wharf building (seen in the last blog post), and was of a small cabin-cruiser type vessel (I know very little about boats, so please forgive my ignorance, and excuse any errors I might make in my descriptions). The boat had some nice reflections on its hull from the sunlit ripple on the water that were being stirred by an occasional breeze, and stood overshadowed by the new Hilton hotel building to the rear. A little cruelly, I thought to myself that it looked like Sheffield’s cut-rate answer to Monaco, and took the shot.
There were narrow-boats moored along the water’s edge where I walked and so I took a couple of shots of those, one taken head on (I like this shot, but the floating carrier bag in the water maybe isn’t the best thing to have included int he shot, eh?), the other with faded but attractive Chinese characters on its side.
Further along the canal is a hand-operated swing-bridge which has some wooden “buffers” set into the water to prevent collisions from any approaching vessels. Atop one of these wooden structures were a couple of ducks having an afternoon nap.
There were a couple of similarly sleepy ducks sat on the edge of the towpath close-by too. I tried to take their picture, but one of them woke up with a quiet, but slightly alarmed quack as I got in close to focus. I would still have gotten the shot, but then a couple walked past talking loudly and scuffing their feet on the floor and the awakened duck made a bolt for the safety of the water. Despite the other duck remaining, the moment was lost.
The next shot looks up the towpath. The iron bridge to the rear of the shot (behind the chimney stack) formerly carried the railway lines into and through Victoria Station. The station and line were closed in 1970 following the Beeching Axe.
Just visible in the shot above is the subject of the next shot, the Sheaf Quay or Sheaf Works building, a former cutlery works built in 1823 but now home to telemarketing firms.
The final shot of the roll was taken back near the swing-bridge and is of one of a number of bicycles used to advertise a local second-hand store. The shot has been cropped due to a mark on the negative (akin to a staple hole – this is the second time this has occurred with a roll of Fomapan 200. It has never happened with other film stocks, so I’m wondering what the cause might be?). The 6×4.5 crop still works ok I think, but the “No Fishing” sign on the wall in the upper left of the frame has been lost as a result.
So, there’s the last of this particular roll of 120 film. Fomapan is pretty cheap in comparison with Ilford and Kodak stocks, but I’m not unhappy with the way it looks. I have found that it tends to have scratches on some frames though and a number of small black speckle marks, plus the issue I’ve had with the strange holes in the last frames of both rolls I’ve shot so far. I’ll certainly be likely to use it again in future (I have a roll left still, so there will definitely be at least one more outing for it).
I still have a lot of shots taken on the same trip but using my Minolta Hi-Matic G2, so those will appear on here before too long. They’re in colour too, so that will make a change for the blog!
Saturday was tied up this weekend with various jobs to be done, so I had little time for any photography, but Sunday dawned with bright weather that looked like it might have promise, should I decide to take advantage. However, despite a desire to make use of the available time to take photos, I was also feeling lazy, with a conflicting need to just sit on my backside watching TV and reading books. And, for a while, this secondary need prevailed as, after my dad’s usual Sunday morning visit, the cloud cover had thickened considerably, draining much of the contrast from the world outside. Now, I don’t mind dull or inclement weather where photography is concerned – in fact it can be a positive boon in some cases – but I wasn’t really feeling it at the time and so the pull of the settee won out.
After dinner (I’m from Yorkshire, so “dinner” is actually the midday meal around these parts, and what others would call “dinner” is actually “tea” – not the drink, the evening meal) the weather had perked up again, the clouds had thinned back to large puffs of cumulus, and the light was bright. Not exactly golden-hour stuff, but suitable enough to jump in the car and head out for an hour of two. I’d already planned on a destination in the event of going out, and so off I went to Sheffield’s canal basin and wharf, now known as Victoria Quays (presumably because they lie just below the site of the former Victoria Station and adjacent Royal Victoria Hotel.
I took a couple of cameras with me – the Yashica Mat 124 G, and a Minolta Hi-Matic G2 that I’ve been chucking in my pocket when I go out, and I’ll split the results over a few blog posts as I get round to uploading the photos (12 frames from the Yashica, and 24 from the Minolta – although not all the Minolta shots were from Sunday).
I parked the car in the multi-storey adjacent to the canal basin. The last time I parked here I made the mistake of trying to use the lift / stairwell to get to ground level, only to discover the lifts to be out of service, all other doors locked, and the entire area stinking like something from hell that had been slowly baking in the heat radiating through the glass windows. This time, for the sake of my nose, I parked on a lower floor and just walked down the ramps..
The exit near where I was parked opened onto the north quay, a pleasant, cobbled area with benches looking out onto the canal basin and backed onto shops built into stone arches. Most of the shops appear to be disused at present, although there is a cafe that was making the most of the passing trade, and a number of people were sat outside with coffees and ice-creams. It’s a shame that more of the shops are not in use, but I think that the conversion of a lot of the surrounding buildings to residential units has perhaps not taken off as much as the developers hoped, and so there is not enough passing footfall at present. It’s a shame as it’s a nice enough place, but it’s a little off the beaten track from the town centre.
I decided to look around the wharf area first, and it’s the shots that I took there that will be shown in this post. The canal basin shots will come in another post, and then maybe a couple more containing the Hi-Matic shots.
The first shot I took was of the Straddle Wharf building itself. I’d have liked to have gotten more of the building in shot, but the fixed focal length of the lens, and lack of other vantage points meant this was the best I could get. I’ve cropped the shot slightly to remove a bit of sky at top-right, and I like the skewed symmetry that now results between the light and dark sections of the shot.
The next shot was taken a few metres from the first, this time looking in the opposite direction towards Merchant’s Crescent, a terrace of houses originally inhabited ny coal merchants, but not re-developed into residential units. Again, this is cropped (to 6:4.5 ratio this time), partly to remove a small wedge of a building that encroached from the left of the image, and also because I didn’t feel the large expanse of mostly clear sky added anything to the top of the frame. I don’t mind negative space, but it wasn’t doing anything for me here. Sadly, I think the crop is now a little too tight at the left of the frame, but there was nothing much I could do with it apart from removing large chunks of stuff with Photoshop. Lesson for self – pay better attention to the viewfinder next time, eh?!
Walking past Merchant’s Crescent brings you to the front of the Grain Warehouse, where the next two shots were taken. The first is of a ninety-year-old weighbridge. I liked the way that the sun was casting the manufacturer’s mark into relief. I’d have preferred a shallower depth of field for this shot but the brightness of the sun meant I could only open up to f/8 before the combination of the Yashica’s 1/500sec maximum shutter speed and the Fomapan 200 film would have resulted in overexposure (what was I saying about dull weather before..?). The second, is the front of the Grain Warehouse itself. This is another building that is currently in the process of some renovation, but it thankfully retains signs of its former purpose. Again, the sunlight provided plenty of contrast in this shot, and a smaller aperture was no disadvantage here.
The final shot of this post was taken just around the corner from the last two and is a door and window in the Grain Warehouse. I don’t think I would have considered the shot had it not been for the shovel and length of rebar resting against the wall beside the door, which adds interest. The door has a plate beside it reading “The White House”, but I have no idea why – the building is neither white, nor a house. This is definitely my favourite shot of this batch though.
And that’s it. I’ll post about the remaining seven shots from this roll in a day or three’s time. Bye for now!
I shot a couple of rolls of film over the past weekend and I’m writing about them in reverse order. On Saturday I shot (most of) a roll of Bergger Pancro 400 with my Pentax P30T – I’ll post something about that in the coming days – and on Sunday a roll of Fomapan 200 with the Yashica Mat 124 G. It’s that roll that I’ll talk about here.
I didn’t have any specific photography plans in mind for Sunday – my wife had gone out, and I was dependent on my eldest being around to look after his younger brothers if I was to venture anywhere. I was also in two minds as to whether to just laze around the house and watch TV – I’d recorded the documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, and was planning on watching that at some point.
In the end I watched the film in the morning after my dad left following his usual Sunday visit, did a few chores, and then decided to go out upon seeing that the cloud cover had broken up and there was some decent light.
My destination was Roche Abbey, the ruins of a 12th century Cistercian monastery that lies in a pleasantly landscaped valley just to the east of Maltby. It’s about half-an-hour’s drive and I’ve visited the place once before in 2003 back when I had my first ever digital camera – a Fujifilm Finepix A204 compact, capable of a whopping 2 megapixel resolution! I mock it, but I still have the camera in a cupboard, and it still works ok, and I was very happy with the shots it took at the time. In fact, here’s one of the shots of the abbey I took with it back then:
The weather on that day in 2003 was very pleasant, and I visited in the morning with the sun rising up behind the remaining standing structures of the abbey. This time, the weather was against me to some extent, and despite the location not being too far from home, the cloud cover had thickened by the time I arrived, covering the sky with a largely featureless grey blanket. Oh well, not what I’d have chosen, but not the end of the world.
The abbey is down a small, cobbled lane that descends into the valley, and which didn’t seem to do the car’s suspension a great deal of good, but at least there was parking space at the bottom. There also seemed to be some sort of organised foot-race / marathon taking place as there were numbered runners passing by frequently and, in the old, vaulted gatehouse to the abbey, there was a table set up for them to take drinks.
The entrance to the abbey grounds themselves are via the Abbey House. The abbey is managed by English Heritage and a fee is chargeable upon entrance through the house (which also doubles as a gift shop and small museum). I became a member of English Heritage a couple of months ago when I discovered upon arrival that my impromptu visit to Bolsover castle would cost me over £10 to get in, and so I decided to instead pay the £50 one-year membership fee and try my utmost to visit other EH sites and get my money’s worth throughout the next 12-months. This visit to Roche Abbey was the first trip to recoup some of the investment.
For visitors not willing to pay the entrance fee, the Abbey structure can be seen easily from a public footpath running alongside the property, albeit behind a metal fence. This doesn’t allow you to get in amongst the ruins though, and probably doesn’t give you the nicest vantage points.
Anyway, I shot the full roll of Fomapan 200 (bar the last frame) during my visit, including a shot of the Abbey House, three shots of the main towers, one of the sluice that runs through the grounds, and a number of shots of memorial benches and signposts. The last shot was of one of the runners approaching along a curved track as I was returning to the car, and then I finished the roll with a photo of a potted Rhododendron plant in our back garden. It wasn’t the most productive of rolls I’ve shot, with seven of the pictures being keepers (again, your definition of a keeper may differ from mine!), and the others being a little humdrum – the shot of the sluice doesn’t really work, as does one with three benches in the frame, and the shot of the runner isn’t great either. The Rhododendron is, well, a shot of a potted rhododendron, so make of that what you will, but I’ve not included any of these pictures here (although it’s possible that some of them will go on my Flickr stream at some point).
This was my first roll of Fomapan 200 (though I’ve shot the 100 variety in 135 format before) and I’m happy with the results. The negatives are very curly though, and I did notice a large number of scratches that I’ve had to try to remove in post-processing. I’ve not really encountered this sort of scratching on other rolls I’ve shot, so think it may be the film, rather than the camera or lab (Peak Imaging, who always produce great results). A search online revealed that I’m not the only person to suffer from this. None of the scratches were sufficient to detract too much from my amateur shots though.
So, without further ado, here are the ones I like the best…
#1. This is the Abbey House as seen after you’ve entered the grounds. You come out through the lovely old studded door you can see in the picture.
#2. The two remaining major abbey structures.
#3. The southern tower. I’d not intended to get the OOF foreground in shot, but it was a result of the parallax difference between the viewing and taking lens of the camera. I don’t mind the effect though as I think it gives the shot a nice sense of depth.
#4. Another shot of the southern tower, but this time with the focus on foreground stonework. I like how the sprinkling of daisies stand out in the black and white of these shots.
#5 & #6. A couple of the memorial benches under the trees to the west of the abbey ruins. I really like the second of these two, again because of the daisies giving interest to the foreground.
#7. A warning sign stood amongst a morass of nettles highlighting the sluice that flows just behind them.