Photosketch. Part one, the day.

May 6 2019 – near Settle, North Yorkshire.

Photosketch Part One.

This will be a two part post, primarily due to a large number of photos to show. This first post will be all about the day and the images taken on my camera. The next post will be all about the Polaroid and Instax images I took as the day progressed.

The reason for this trip to the North Yorkshire Dales was to attend today’s Photosketch walk. It was the excuse I needed to come north, get out of my comfort zone and share a day with some very talented, exciting and experienced photographers.

The event was advertised on the Twitter feed of Al Brydon, a photographer I follow and whose work I greatly admire, I have made a number of images that Al has directly influenced. Al and fellow photographer Fleur Olby organised Photosketch, a photography based walk by Fleur’s home near Rathmell, a village even smaller than the nearby Settle. The village had a car park, and that was about it, no shops, no pub.

The concept behind Photosketch was for a diverse group  to get together to create photographic art while walking, taking to time to think about and reconnect with nature and the outdoors. It sounded like just the sort of thing I needed to drag me out of a long photographic slump. I liked that this was about making art.  I needed to be reminded that photography is art, and I do it to be creative, not for Instagram followers.

I was a bit pensive going into this event, Al and Fleur are great photographers and I knew there were others coming, they were probably good as well.  I felt a bit of fraud coming along. What if I sucked? We were supposed to show some photos as part of the introduction, my images, my style, my lack of a ‘body of work’, would those be held against me? Would there be sneery looks at my ineptness? Breaking my main camera on Saturday didn’t help much either, cannot even look after my equipment!

As you would expect these were ridiculous thoughts.

Fleur picked me and a couple of others up from the train station in Settle, and we set off in her Land Rover (so much more appropriate here than in London) to Rathmell, where we met Al and the rest of the participants in the towns only highlight, the car park. There were five participants in all. Most of them seemed to know each other, either by reputation or through working together previously. I was not intimidated by this at all, oh no, not at all.

The day started with an introduction session in Fleur’s office/studio/barn. She lives a long way from nowhere, it is very remote and very beautiful. Pretty much all of my event mates were professional photographers or ex degree/masters students; all had exhibited before. In galleries, not in cafes like me. I felt inadequate to start with, however they are all lovely people and once we got talking things all balanced out. We are all human, and all love what we do. We are all equal, just different.

The day was split into two, a short walk to a small ancient swamp forest near the end of Fleur’s property, followed by lunch and then a longer walk into the moorland above. For the first session we took our own cameras, the afternoon was all about playing with instant cameras; both Polaroid and Instax.

The forest was beautiful, very small, very quiet, verging on eerie. It would have been magical to spend some time here alone, absorbing.  There is an interesting mix of light marsh grass and twisted beech amongst rock and fern. There was a very brief moment as we arrived were the light was stunning, though it did not last long enough to get cameras into action.

I was trying to think about my photography in different ways, take things slowly, looking at the details, watching the others; trying to get the feel of the place and get that onto the sensor in the back of my camera.

I wanted to think a bit like Al in the short period of time we had., time when I was largely on my own and able to think and focus.  A lot of Al’s work is underexposed, dark and very moody, allowing the viewer to interpret more from the things that cannot quite be seen than what can be seen.

I had to take a couple of my more usual impressionist photos though 🙂

After a very big lunch and a long discussion covering art, photography, books, nature, place and a wide range of other vaguely related subjects we all donned boots, coats, woolly hats and headed off up the hill and onto the moorland above Fleur’s house.

We were all given an instant camera, with a pack of film. I started with an old Polaroid, others had a range of different Polaroids and Instax cameras. The idea behind this longer walk was to play with this different technology, look and think about what we were going to take images of, not just snap away taking dozens of frames of the same thing with the hope of getting one good image. The instant cameras meant we could review the results today. I have never used an instant camera before, I was the only one who hadn’t, all the others regularly shot film, or used old plate cameras and were ued to thinking about taking images over a longer period of time.  This sort of low tech was what they were used to. I will talk about the instant camera experience in the next post. It was fun.

We passed an old farm house on the way and I got told off for taking photos. The locals do not like the ruin porn thing, displaying the slow decline of the rural way of life. Fair enough I guess.

The moorland was amazing, I really liked it up on the hills, we had a few zones to take pictures, with 20 or so minutes in each as we covered the six or so mile walk. It was moody and cold up in the hills and at once point it rained heavily, though fortunately briefly. The clouds were amazing and I was gutted I did not have the big camera as the wide angle was perfect for this environment. The little G16 did OK though.

We dropped down into a small section of pine forest, passing a really cool mountain bike loop on the way. The pine forest was an interesting change from the open and mostly treeless moors, and Iiked the closeness and darkness of the trees. We didn’t have long there unfortunately, I think I could have gotten quite ‘lost’ in the depths of this large grove.

Walking back down from the top we were again exposed to some massive views, with big clouds, big horizons and wonderful contrasts between the yellowy grasses and the grey sky. I took way too many photos. This is my sort of place, though I was supposed to be not taking cliché Phil photos today. I couldn’t help it, and I know I was not the only one…

Watching sweeping rain showers batter the horizon from our position of relative dryness was dramatic and inspiring and I wanted to stay longer, however those clouds were not all ‘over there’ and we could see them coming our way, with growing rapidity.

Apart from the pine forest, we saw very few trees, coming across two trees together we stopped to take a few photos, they were almost unique in that environment.

I had a lot of fun with the instant cameras, I had a go with both types and took about 24 photos. All the cameras were old, some hadn’t been used for a while so results were unpredictable, there was a lot of roller noise, but for me this just added to the joy of the images. This was my favourite, a landscape Instax. I will show some of the rest in the nex post, maybe tomorrow.

It was cold out, so the instant photos took a while to develop, even stuffed into pockets close to body warmth.  Back at Fleur’s we spent some time looking at all photos we had taken, comparing images and effects from the different cameras and discussing experiences. It was really nice, quite education, and interesting to see the varierty of styles. I very much enjoyed it. adly and all too soon it was time to be dropped back in Settle, the day was done 😦

It was a good day, I learnt some things, met some brilliant people and came away feeling validated that I can make good images. I just need to find my thing, as I don’t have a thing at the moment. It will come !

Big thanks to Fleur and Al for organising, and to Steve, Rachel, Kristell and Phoebe for being great company and good teachers.

The next Photosketch is in the Peak District on the 8th September. Check it out here.