2013 is a year of looking forward, new people, new places, new challenges, new life and maybe new moments of magic and beauty, so with that in mind here is the last look over the shoulder at 2012 and the people I met along the way…
A time of looking forward, resolutions and new starts.
12 months ago I was beginning a project to photograph a different portrait every day, and of course ultimately i failed. The project became overarching, and on a laptop that struggled to process even a single edit per photograph was way too time consuming. Come November it had contributed to the break up of my marriage, and with the loss of one beauty, so I lost the ability to find beauty elsewhere. I’ve only used my camera once in the last few weeks, and tellingly that was to take shots in darkness.
My life this year will be very different; moving house, seeing less of my family, and bidding farewell to the delights of Whitburn and the bay that has provided so much inspiration. However, finding a new source could be the inspiration I need to pick up my DSLR once more.
Already I’ve ventured into the new and strange world of online dating which has given me some degree of future focus, though whether that also leads to new places and new images who knows? I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground and balance any sense of optimism against the inevitable losses.
The future of the blog is unpredictable. It might morph into something completely different, or it may remain a photo blog with only occasional updates. Time will tell, but thank you for reading.
Happy New Year.
As I was in Birtley this morning, I followed the road into the adjoining town of Chester-le-Street, probably best known to those outside the North East as the home of Durham County Cricket Club. Their ground has a picturesque location on the banks of the River Wear, so it was here that I headed for some pictures.
The area is dominated by the 14th Century Lumley Castle, reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in the region. No sign of any ghosts today, just intermittent autumn sunshine enjoyed by golfers on the course below the castle, and Aydin, a young Turkish man who was enjoying the riverside park with his son.
I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.
Fulwell, where I grew up, is dominated by the great white limestone guardian that is Fulwell Mill. It stands on a hill looking down the mile or so that runs down to the sea, a position it has held for over 200 years, though it is a long time since it has operated commercially.
In my youth it was already disused, making it and the land around it, which was a former quarry, was a frequent haunt for kids in the area. We would often climb up the outer wall to the first story platform, taking advantage of the well-worn mortar between the limestone blocks.
Nearby a short slope by the equally moribund lime kilns was our venue for sledging in what seemed like the everlasting winters of childhood. With a busy road at the foot and an adjacent car forecourt it isn’t the attraction that it once was. Just as well that we rarely get enough snow now.
There is a third industrial relic here, one that I only recently discovered, although it has been there for nearly a century. It stands dejectedly on a piece of waste ground behind some allotments, looking like nothing more than three concrete walls, yet it is an incredibly ingenious device. It’s a mirror.
Not a looking-glass, but a mirror nonetheless. The clue lies in the fact that the back wall is convex; this is an acoustic mirror, installed to detect approaching Zeppelins during the first world war. It deserves better treatment.
I’d approached Alison near to the mill to be my portrait when a familiar face appeared. I worked with Carolyn about 20 years ago. Serendipitously she now works for the council and was able to add to my knowledge of the mill. Although fully restored to working order in the 1990’s, it was badly damaged in a storm a few years back and closed as it was unsafe. The good news is that repairs are planned which will see it open once more, though perhaps not fully functioning.
Carolyn’s clearly wearing well. It’ll be good to see the mill do the same, and how lucky to find two subjects with great smiles and great light in their eyes..
Fancy a little secluded slice of paradise?
For just £2.4 million you could buy your own Greek island in the Ionian Sea.
Well then only £1.7m will get you 12 acres of beach-front in St Lucia.
Still a little rich for your pocket?
Half an acre of virgin land on Mayreu in the Grenadines will set you back a far more modest £103,000.
Or you could go to Marsden Beach on a cold and grey November lunchtime for free.
Not as appealing? Maybe not if you’re a devout sun-worshipper, but for the crash of waves on a sloping beach, swirling foam, towering cliffs, and sculpted rocks its hard to beat, and for half an hour today it was all mine. Not a soul to be seen and even the prints from the morning’s dogs were being erased by the advancing tide.
Even on the greyest of days there was colour as the russet sands were swirled into the gunmetal waters, yellow limestone shone in its coat of salt water and the sky managed to inject a little glaucous hue into the deeper waters.
Here nature plays out a battle between the sea and the land and there will only be one winner, for though the cliffs stand tall and the rocks hold fast the sea has time on its side. Imperceptibly scouring the surface of the stones that emerge from the sand, sucking at the feet of the great limestone walls above, grinding pebbles back and forth along the shore. The plentiful grains of sand indicate the fate awaiting those seemingly stout defences.
After a while I decided it was time to beat a retreat before my escape route was cut off and as I began my ascent back to the cliff tops met Scott bringing his two dogs for a little exercise. I felt I was handing over custodianship of a piece of treasure. For a little while at least.
From an aerial view, the mouth of the River Tyne looks like the head of an enormous sperm; the river forming the tail behind the pointed bulge created by the two long sweeping piers that stretch out from Tynemouth and South Shields. At the end of each pier stands a lighthouse to guide shipping between these long defensive walls, and then the navigator can line up the high and low lights at North Shields to direct them into the deep water channel to take them upstream.
In the midst of these imposing structures is another, more modest piece of building work, yet photographically it steals the show to the extent that it could probably be classified as a cliché, i.e one of those images that every visitor to the area would create. At the southern tip of that deep water channel there is what can only be described as a short bulge that extends seawards from South Shields. Too short and broad to be properly seen as a pier or a sea wall it is nevertheless an important element in the design of the river mouth, for this bulge helps to divert the flow of the Tyne and prevent erosion of the shoreline that could otherwise result. It is what is known as a groyne.
What makes the groyne at Shields so special however is the light at the end. A beacon rather than a lighthouse, it is housed in what appears to be an octagonal shed atop a series of sloping legs that give it the appearance of something between the Martian tripods in The War of the Worlds and the lunar landing craft used in the Apollo missions to the moon. What gives the light its particular appeal is that it is painted a vivid red colour.
With green bents grasses, blue skies, yellow sands and white clouds to give contrast it cannot help but be eye-catching. That it has as its backdrop the equally dramatic ruins of Tynemouth Priory and the Collingwood monument simply adds to its appeal. Today I was attracted by the opportunity to light the scene with the warm glow of the dying sun. As you can see from the images I was occasionally lucky, and occasionally frustrated by the intermittent interference of clouds. Some of the images are very much of that cliché category, some I hope are not, in particular the portrait of Alan who was fishing from the end of the groyne and enjoying the efforts that his friend was putting into the landing of his catch. A very small crab.
Early in the film Unfaithful, Diane Lane‘s character does battle with gale force winds in New York City. Whilst this fictional storm is as nothing compared to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, it is enough to cause Miss Lane some problems with her dress (shame!) and ultimately blow her quite literally into falling for Olivier Martinez which is where the trouble begins as she’s married to Richard Gere!
High winds hit Sunderland today so I made for the town centre which was once notorious for its wind tunnel effect, to see what drama may ensue This was never going to provide a Diane Lane type wardrobe malfunction, after all “tracky bottoms” are de rigueur for many of the population, but I thought there might be the odd lost hat or two!
In the end I grabbed a few candids of frustration and desperation, including one guy who seemed to feel the need to hold onto his hair, though he didn’t look much like Wayne Rooney.
Eventually I met John who had the perfect solution to the conditions. His head covering was neither hair nor fabric, yet it was completely weatherproof. It was ink!