Magpie Mine, The Peak District

After grabbing some lunch in Bakewell, myself and the rest of the group made our way on to our second location of the film meet- Magpie Mine. One of the largest lead mines in the Peak District, and the only one left with most of the buildings intact, it is found a few miles outside of Bakewell and is freely accessible for the public to walk around. It's a fantastic location to visit, and one that screams for detailed black and white photos, although there was a hint of colour in the grass and brick work which I thought might suit a desaturated colour look.

I spent some time trying to decide what camera and film to use for the afternoon, and in the end after a lot of consideration, I still couldn't decide. I knew that I wanted to take some black and white close up photos of any detailed industrial parts such as brick work and machinery, but I'd used three of the four sheets of Delta 100 in the Lumsdale Valley earlier in the day. Eventually I came to the solution of adjusting my camera bag arrangement slightly so that I could *just* about fit my Mamiya RB67 in the bag too. This way I'd be able to shoot as much black and white film as I wanted. This did make my bag ridiculously heavy to carry around on my back, but seeing as it was a very short walk it wasn't really a problem.

After parking up in the lay by on the side of the main road, we walked along the track for about a quarter of a mile to the mine. The mine was in a flat area encompassed by fields as far as you could see. The area we were in now felt very barren and desolate, the wind that cut between the buildings was the only sound apart from our footsteps crunching on the gravel track. Everything around us had a worn look and feel, and If it wasn't for the young couple in front taking photos on their smart phones, I would have sworn we'd stepped back to the mid 19th centuary.

Immediately the group scattered and headed off to various areas, I made my way up a small bank and found myself looking down at a building which was in great shape compared to the mine ruin behind me. It was a small stone building with sloped tin roof, with large green wooden doors that took up half of the buildings front face. To the side of the building there was a wooden fence and gate, with all sorts of rubble and debris inside. From the top of the bank I was on, I could see over the building and see for miles into the distance. The area was remarkably flat and I could see endless green fields with deep green trees dotted throughout. The sky was mostly overcast but there was a hint of texture. I opted to shoot the scene with slide film because the overcast sky would not give me the usual problems of blown highlights, which are the bane of slide film users.

I planned to photograph the building in portrait mode and show the loose stone path in front of me as is curved down the bank towards the building. As I looked at the (upside down) image on the ground glass, I noticed that the path lost it's depth and looked flat on the glass. I didn't want it to look as if there was a huge expanse of gravel in front of me, so I changed my mind and went for a landscape image, showing a bit more of the sky. One thing I've come to learn recently about shooting large format, is that you actually use a heck of a lot less movements than you'd expect. For this image below I only used a little bit of front fall, which meant I could keep the camera back vertical and keep the building straight.

Not far from the first building, there was the remains of a smaller building. Three and a half walls of old grey stone, with a window on one side and a gap at the top where the roof once sat. I wanted to photograph this building in a similar way to the first, but I had to play around with my position a bit to get other objects out of the frame. A short distance behind this ruin was another building with a more modern looking roof which spoiled the image, but thankfully I was able to position this in frame so that it was hidden behind my subject. 

After taking the two photos above I decided that I wanted to take some close up black and white detail photos, so I packed the Nagaoka away and heaved the RB67 monster out of the bag and put it on the tripod. I have two backs for the RB67,  but only one that has intact light seals, so I was now presented with a problem. I had half a roll of Ektar 100 loaded into the film back on the RB67, and only having one back meant I had to use it up before I could switch to black and white film. I wandered around the mine for some time to take the last five or so colour images, just to use up the roll. As it happens, these colour photos actually turned out to be some of my favourite from the trip! I concentrated on shooting objects like the giant green wooden doors below, which would work well with colour film.

After using the Ektar up, I removed the roll from the camera and put it safely into my bag, then loaded the RB67 it with a roll of Ilford Pan F that had been in my fridge at home for several months. I would have loved to use some Ilford FP4+ here, but I'd used up all my remaining FP4+ some weeks before (note to self: buy more FP4+). Pan F is a 50 ISO film and requires longer shutter speeds, and I was a little worried that the wind might rattle the camera and show as movement blur in the photos, but the RB67 is a heavy and sturdy animal and with the mirror lock up feature I was able to get very sharp and blur free photos. 

I am very pleased with the black and white images. I really enjoy taking close up photos that show the texture and worn look of mechanical parts like gears and locks. I am a big fan of high contrast images and I think the subjects allowed me to use a range of tones from pure black to white.

After a couple of hours at the mine we packed up and made our way back to the cars. Naturally I was the last one back to the car because I was having such a great time and didn't want to leave. I'm very pleased with my photos, and although there was a lack of light and colour in the sky to make the colour photos really pop, I think the rough texture and history of the site made the black and whites work very well.

As usual I'd love to hear what you think and if you have any comments please post them below!

-Carl-