In 1975 an exhibition named New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape was held in the International Museum of Photography in New York City. It featured works by a number of photographers – the Americans Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel, Jr., and the German couple Bernd and Hilla Becher. Each photographer exhibited 10 photographs.
New Topographics presented a different way of photographing landscapes, eschewing the traditional natural environments and instead presenting images of scenes with a clear human footprint, such as industry, suburbia, gas stations, parking lots and the like.
While I only came across the term in recent years, and at no point set out to be a “new topographer”, it’s clear that many of my photographs fall into the style. I’ve no doubt found influence in the works of photographers who were in turn influenced by the works of the artists presented in the original exhibition, although of the ten, I only have photobooks by Stephen Shore (though there are undoubtedly works by the others collected in other books in my collection).
It’s a style that doesn’t appeal to all. For many, the subjects of such photographs are ruinous blots on the landscape, detracting and imposing on the traditional bucolic scenes more often considered as landscape photography. But I have a place in my heart for both.
Grass fields and blue lakes Overlooked by new homes It was once a mine
Owler Tor stands a mere stone’s throw from Surprise View carpark. Unlike its namesake Over Owler Tor which sits up on the hillside in the opposite direction, Owler Tor is accessed by simply crossing the road, passing through a wooden gate, and then walking to the nearby boulders.
On nice days and, especially, weekends it’s difficult to get a photograph that doesnt have at least one person in the frame. The main part of the tor is easily climbed and there are generally groups of people taking in the view and grabbing selfies from the summit. There were a few people around when I made the shot featured here today, but patience, timing, and that old standby – the awkward photographer’s stance – allowed me to keep them out of the frame.
Climbing Owler Tor An irresistable draw For its visitors
As I type this it’s after 11pm here. I normally write these blog posts much earlier but today got waylaid trying to successfully scan some Portra 160 negatives. I thought I had a good system in place for getting the colours how I wanted them, but somewhwere along the line that particular train has left the tracks, and my scans looked like crap.
My process has been to scan as a linear tiff file and then invert using the Grain2Pixel plugin in Photoshop but today, for some reason , it’s made the colours look horrible on the frames I’ve scanned so far. So, after messing around for a while, I’ve resorted to EpsonScan of all things. While I use this Epson software very successfully for my B&W medium format scans, I’ve never been too happy with the results for colour photos. Today, however, it seems to have made the best job so far.
I found this blog post by Colton Allen about scanning colour negatives with EpsonScan that has proven extremely useful and given me some pretty decent results. If I can figure out the issue with Grain2Pixel I’ll resume using that (and will use it on a roll of Colorplus I’ve yet to scan – but that’s 135 format and will be scanned with my Plustek, so a whole different ball game anyway), but for now I’ll use EpsonScan for this roll
I’ll post the Portra photos in an upcoming post, but today no colour faffing is required for this black-and-white abstract image of a birch tree reflected in a water.
Wibbly wobbly tree Gelatinous in water Shimmering beneath
Millstone Edge, up above the lower Hope Valley in the Peak District is a location where quarrying for gritstone used to take place, withe the main ourput being the production of millstones. There are numerous signs of this former industry to be found, perhaps most notably in the number of abandoned millstones that litter the hillsides in this whole area of the National Park. Indeed, the emblem of the Peak District National Park is a millstone.
There are other indications of the former industrial activity to be found – there are still holes drilled into rock faces for the placement of never-used explosive charges, and also a number of building remains such as the stone shack featured in today’s blog post.
Quarrying for gritstone at Millstone Edge came to a close in the late 1930s.
Signs of industry Littering the stony crags Above the valley
While out in the Peak District the other week I took a brief wander into the birch trees close to Surprise View to look for potential photos. There are countless pictures to be had, but it’s not always easy to eke them out. I didn’t stay in the arera long and made just three or four photos including the two here today.
The first is of a bird-box affixed to one of the trees. There are a number of these boxes throughout the place, but this one has been damaged somehow – whether by human, animal, or natural forces I do not know. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper now though.
While I was making the photo of the bird-box I could hear the trees creaking in the wind around me, but it was only when I looked up that I noticed the soun was coming from a tree I was stood beneath. It’s trunk was broken partway up and a significant section of the upper part of the tree was swinging in the breeze. I don’t think it was at imminent risk of breaking free and landing on my head but I moved out of the way nontheless.
A broken tree trunk Swinging and creaking above I’m glad it stayed put
Just beside the car-park a wooden signpost points the way to the Surprise View scenic viewpoint at Millstone Edge. The signpost is weathered and host to mossy lichen. The view from the edge is pretty nice, looking down upon the Hope Valley / Derwent Valley area stretching away towards the Great Ridge and the Edale Valley to the north-west, and down towards Grindleford and beyond in the other direction. It can also be extremely windy, with strong gusts being pushed up the valley sides and onto unwitting sightseers (it nearly blew my wooly hat off on the day I made this photo!).
Looking for a view? Well head this way my good man I have a surprise!
The weather was bright and sunny, if somewhat cold, this morning, so I took advantage and headed out for a walk. As I often do, I picked a public footpath on a map and then planned a circular route. Today’s hike started and ended at Aston, a village on the eastern outskirts of Sheffield – a few miles from where I live. It took me through mostly agricultural land with views of Penny Hill wind-farm before heading over to the nearby M1 motorway, crossing the road via a bridge, before heading south and then west back to where I began.
The skies were blue and cloudless, and the light was bright. A few clouds would have been welcomed, but I’m not going to complain – it’s better than a blank slab of grey stratus. I managed to finish off two partially shot rolls of film – some Delta 100 in my OM-2n, and some Colorplus in the Sure Shot Supreme. As per usual, these will land on the blog at some point when I get them developed and scanned, but I have photos from three other rolls currently scanned and unpublished to come before then.
Today’s photo is another from the flyover not far from where I live. I’ve published a few photos of this structure before, including some from underneath like this one. On this occasion I really liked the diagonal shadows cast on the concrete supports.
I’ve mentioned being cornered by a herd of cows close to this location before and yesterday it seems someone was careless and left the gates to the fields open. A video appeared on Facebook showing cows on the road on top of the flyover narrowly avoiding being run over by a police-car last night! Thankfully I don’t think anyone or anycow was injured. I drove over the flyover on my way to Aston this morning and the cows were all down below in the field where they belong.
Adventurous cows Once up on the flyover Caused a commotion