Wye aye, and all that

Rewind to September 2013 and I was stood in Newcastle (for about an hour)  with a Nikon F and a roll of Kodak T-max 100.

These images have been on Flickr for a while but I hadn’t got round to putting them up here and writing any wordy bits, and right now i’m typing to keep warm because it properly cold and this house was certainly not built to keep the people inside warm!

So, bridges. I take a lot of pictures of bridges it seems. Not really sure why, it’s not ‘a thing’ they just seem to be there a lot. I was on a road trip down the east coast of Britain and had made a list of places I would stop off at and shoot some film with a few cameras I had with me (from memory I had a DSLR, a film SLR and a medium format TLR – one can simply never take too many cameras!). Newcastle and my recently purchased Nikon F were one of the stops so I headed for the middle where I knew there would be some interesting post-industrial architecture to shoot.

This first image is my favourite of the set as it basically ticks every box that I look for in an image. This, to me, is the raison d’etre for black and white film – strong geometric forms, punchy high contrast lighting, deep velvety textures. Colour would only distract and detract from the purity of the image. I carefully framed the image in-camera (no zooming with a 24mm prime lens) to give a vertical symmetry to the arch of the bridge and to clip just past the right hand side of the bridge deck. The reflection in the water makes the image, I don’t remember it being so clear at the time, but when looked over the negative as it came out of the spiral tank for the first time I was very happy with it.


The next shot is along the same lines. I like how you follow the arch through the image and it transition from light on dark to dark on light and then back again. This is also typical of the way that I tend towards the part rather than the whole when photographing anything. I’m not one for establishing shots, I dive right in for the uncluttered and isolated subject.


A case in point… the most iconic bridge in the north of England and where am I? underneath photographing the thrust bearing at the base of the arch. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me,  I think I just find interest in the overlooked. Every day we walk by these kind of details on which someone agonised long and hard over the design of. Iron and stone assembled with a purpose both functionally and aesthetically – the product of care, consideration and thought. It’s something I find a kind of honest beauty in.


Looking at the full set in Lightroom I did shoot a few more wide views, but I not really happy with them. The shot below is about as close as I came to a wider view. I liked the sense of dereliction in the scene, this patch of waste ground is only yards from some very modern buildings and the busy waterfront area but there it sits. Although to me it’s more oasis than eyesore.


Back to the car park and a final shot of the Baltic Flour Mill that has been redeveloped, very successfully, into an arts centre. it’s surrounded by some pretty uninspired residential developments so I went for a straight up isolation shot. It’s one heck of a lot of bricks.

So that was my hour in Newcastle. I’d just bought the Nikon F so I was very happy when I saw a full strip of well exposed images as I hug the negative up to dry. Mine has the Photomic metering head on but the battery voltages are off with modern cells so I was cranked the ISO down two stops to 25 with the T-max 100 film and that seemed to be about the right level of compensation (I checked initially against my handheld meter to calibrate that).  As a machine the F is still wonderful to shoot with, and if you put a decent lens on the front there results are just as good as a more modern alternative.


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