A local place of interest I have overlooked for many years is a pigment works located on the banks of the river Derwent, between Matlock and Matlock Bath. As a boy, I often fished in this area as the combination of rapids, weir and deep pools were excellent spots to catch Trout and Grayling. The works was in production back then, the river below the works often tainted a reddish colour due to pigment leaching into the waterway that vented from the site.
Living in the Derbyshire market town of Matlock, there is so much beauty on the doorstep it is easy to take it for granted. Just outside of the Peak District National Park, high moorland and deep dales are readily accessible, often luring me with the promise of an excellent walk through fantastic scenery. Because of this I often overlook the beauty of my home town, tending to use the area mostly as a testing ground for new kit. These tests aside I have built up a large library of hometown images over the years, and have decided to make 2022 a year when I will pay more attention to what lies within five miles of the garden boundaries. This allows me not only to explore the immediate vicinity, but also smaller local communities well within walking distance of Matlock. Enthused by the idea, and to mark the beginning of this project, I have created an initial collection to which I will add further collections as the year progresses. For your enjoyment, here is the first. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner!
“And our atoms shall tumble into Oblivion’s Bed
Dreaming sedimentary dreams on an epochal scale”
Our latest photography project has been to record the decaying monuments found in local churchyards. Behind the shiny new markers of the recently deceased lies a twilight world of the forgotten, their final resting places gradually disintegrating. Centuries of erosion have rendered the inscriptions on some unreadable, while others offer tantalising clues to the occupants…generations of past lives reduced to dust. Gradually headstone foundations slip and they start to lean, times steady hand slowly pushing them earthward. Ivy and lichens secure a footing on once beautifully masoned stone. Birdsong and ancient Yews add to an eternal picture of peace, punctuated by shafts of sunlight in which midges dance to the changing seasons - beauty and sadness combined.
My latest piece of camera equipment arrived a few days ago, in the shape of one of Leica’s finest prime lenses for the L system - the Summicron 35mm f2. Since it’s announcement in the early part of 2019 I have had this on my Wishlist. The first opportunity to use it came yesterday although conditions were dark, foreboding and cold. We decided to play into these properties by heading for Magpie Mine on the windswept limestone plateau near Sheldon, Derbyshire. It was not the task I had envisioned for first use of this lens, and it soon became apparent that the site screamed out to be photographed in monochrome.
As the pandemic moved into its second year, hopes of travelling very far faded. Lockdowns and confusing half measures merged into a confused delirium. The days got longer but the UK temperature remained cool, feeding a mood of depressed desperation to move on and start living again. Travel plans came and went and the bleakness of the year meant that I did not pick up my cameras for almost nine months. Odd really, as a Leica CL that Alison bought me for my 60th birthday did nothing to rekindle my enthusiasm, other than to take a few shots to ensure it functioned correctly. With all travel plans cancelled we took a gamble on a possible two week holiday to Zakynthos and watched nervously as countries shifted in a confused fog of red, amber and green alerts, the colours smeared by any additional layer of tones from the same indecisive government spray gun.
2020 hailed in a new decade, along with a pandemic that few of us could have imagined would disrupt our lives throughout the year, and well beyond. Like many people, we saw our travel plans vanish as the year progressed, and welcomed every government announcement with cautious optimism. Little did we know at the beginning of the year, that our meticulously planned drive around central Greece would not be going ahead. Or a jolly to Zakynthos would be postponed for a year, three days before the intended departure date. And rounding it up, late December saw my 60th birthday plans to a European city cancelled. But in amongst this, we seized the opportunity for a ten day trip to Kos town that seemed to fall through the cracks between lockdowns and working from home. Similar to most tourist destinations, the place was very quiet, beaches were almost empty and many hotels boarded up, their dead gardens reminiscent of scenes from J.G Ballard novels.
On a particularly stormy and turbulent February 1st, Ethan and I decided to go on a photoshoot along Derwent Edge. I must admit, sitting in the pub the night before, it seemed like a marvellous idea, even though the entire area fills me with a deep sense of gloom. I have written before of my dislike of this part of the Dark Peak. Egregiously mournful, but photographically cathartic, I knew if I could get past the feeling of despair I get at the mere suggestion of walking here, I would be rewarded with some interesting landscape opportunities.
Greece is a favourite holiday destination and we have been smitten by Halkidiki for a few years now, often returning for long and short breaks. Like most places in Greece, Halkidiki’s seas are beautifully clear and, where backed by pine forests, incredibly picturesque. A consequence of this is that we end up with many pictures of Greece’s coastline. 2019’s trip was no exception, so here are a few taken in July that demonstrate what a truly gorgeous area of the world this is.
A few days in Budapest during mid December gave us a great opportunity to practice our architectural photography skills. Such a beautiful city required much more than our allotted five days of discovery, meaning we had a packed sightseeing agenda that allowed us little more than a feeble scratch of the city’s surface. Any first trip to a new destination usually means that tourist highlights are high on the agenda, and much of our time was spent seeking them out. Like most other cities though, glimpses of an equally interesting urban landscape shine through manicured facades of government and public buildings, churches etc. To have time to explore these was something we sadly lacked, and is the curse of many of our city breaks. Added to our ‘return to’ destination list, it accompanies several other locations that, one day, we hope to revisit.