I’ve no particular association with the area or the industry, but I have an odd fascination with the slate industry and the way it has shaped the landscape of North Wales.
In most industries, once a plant has worn out or is rendered obsolete for whatever reason, the place is either raised to the ground and something else is built there, or it is regenerated or re-purposed into something else, e.g. apartments, offices, colleges, etc.
Not so quarrying. While some quarries that are simply holes in the landscape have been filled with landfill, the removal of rock from a hillside or mountainside is somewhat irreversible. But whereas most quarrying has minimal waste (e.g. the majority of what is quarried is used, such as gravel or sand quarrying), slate quarrying of the past was a different proposition entirly. Yeilds of around 10% meant that collosal amounts of waste material (or ‘rubbish’) were created, and these continue to litter the hillsides of Snowdonia.
I’d visited Dinorwic on a couple of occasions previously, but hadn’t explored any other quarries but had read about them on the Quarryscapes blog, Graham Stephen’s Geotopoi blog and Iain Robinsons Treasure Maps blog, the Penmorfa website as well as on Flickr. These quarries are a complete paradigm shift from other industrial sites, and not just for the reasons I mentioned above. They tend to have been closed for many, many years, and the places are just left to decay. Consequently, people have been exploring and photographing them for years, so by searching various sources online there’s a really good chronicle of how things have changed over the past 30-50 years.
It has been through these websites that I have become friendly with Iain Robinson, who invited me along to see the Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry, one that he is quite familair with. The quarry isn’t a huge place, certainly nowhere near as big as the giant Dinorwic and Penrhyn Quarries that dominated the industry for many years, but is a good size nonetheless. Furthermore it has recently seen a partial re-opening after a seam of green slate was discovered.
See Iain’s blog here: http://robinsonmaps.blogspot.co.uk/
This is a panorama created from three separate 8×10 glass plate negative scans. Needless to say, the resultant file is rather large! I recently upgraded my computer as my 6 year old PC with 4GB of RAM struggled with files like this, but the new one has significantly more processing power and Photoshop CC made light work of merging these files. Thankfully the photographer had the incredible foresight to provide plenty of overlap on each individual frame and repositioned his camera intelligently between each exposure, so the merged file has little of the curvature that is often seen when merging pictures into a panorama.
Horses bringing cargo or provisions.
Passing steamboat and riverfront buildings in the background.
Some kind of loading or unloading going on alongside
A lot going on on deck
Young boys watching the proceedings
As is the norm with these glass plate scans, it’s the staggering level of detail that makes looking at these images quite rewarding. I don’t know how these images were viewed or presented when they were taken in the early 20th century, I’m quite certain they weren’t blown up to any kind of signficant size and the astonishing resolution was probably wasted. But when viewed on a high-res HD screen, it’s quite impressive and I dare say that a giant panorama print would be a sight to behold, if somewhat expensive and unwieldy.
Given the wide field of view in the resultant panorama, this is very much the depiction of a scene. By that, I mean that it is almost like standing at a window, or at a vantage point, and taking in the view by looking at different things, then using binoculars (magnifying glass tool) to focus on one particular element, then returning to view the whole scene. I suppose that’s the difference between this and the regular images that are of a lesser field of view.
If your internet connection and computer hardware will take it, I’ve uploaded a high res jpeg to my Google Drive for you to download and luxuriate in the detail! Beware – it’s 76mb, significantly smaller than the 1GB full size file!
A bit of a follow up to the post I made a while back about the foundry roof collapse at Brymbo – I’ve been informed by the Brymbo Heritage Group that the roof has now been safely removed and the walls made safe and watertight. I suppose this is a case of having to move backwards before moving forwards, but it’s good to see that something is being done to preserve this important facility, given that almost everything else has been demolished.
I’m guessing that this photograph was taken by some intrepid photographer climbing a tall riverside gilding such as a grain elevator as for the most part, downtown Buffalo looks quite a low lying city with few tall buildings. What strikes me about this scene is the clear summer sky, as so many of the photographs in the archive, especially of cities, are characterised by murky, overcast skies, a function I guess of the amount of atmospheric pollution endemic of the times. I also wonder what the dynamic range of the film in use was, and whether the very slow film was capable of capturing detailed skies (although to be honest, this doesn’t look like a particularly challenging exposure).
The steamer is Northland, one that appears in a lot of photographs in the the Library of Congress archive. It was one of many steamers that worked on the Great Lakes. Their purpose was either to link railheads on either side of the lake or to carry tourists to the more remote areas that were all but inaccessible before cars became more available post world war 2.
Northland was built in 1894 at the Globe Iron Works in Cleveland for the run between Buffalo and Duluth. This was no small pleasure steamer – it was 383 feet in length, displaced 4244 tons and carried 350 first class and 300 second class passengers. Total cost was a not insignificant $650000.
Although huge swathes of Britain were once forested, much of this was cleared in mediaeval times and before for use as fuel and construction materials (for buildings and ships). So by the time the steam railway came along, there wasn’t much left and there was no requirement for railway haulage out of the forests.
However, given the enormous size of America, and the development of the country happening at the same time as the development of the railway, it was inevitable that railways would be used for applications such as hauling heavy lumber.
As forested areas tended to be hilly, specialised geared locomotives such as the Shay type were developed, however conventional 4-6-0 types were also used for flatter areas. Additionally, there were a number of railway companies that were dedicated to hauling lumber, either to railheads or to mills.
A good introduction to the subject can be found here http://www.american-rails.com/logging-railroads.html, and Wikipedia has some good links http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_railway.
Some interesting videos on YouTube as well, this is a good place to start http://youtu.be/_haZIk4GXzI.
As there are no plans for using the Hub area of Helmshore Mills for the week commencing 2nd March, I have agreed with the museum to extend the exhibtion by one week. The final day is now 8th March 2015.
A bit of early warning that I will be presenting my Mechanical Landscapes talk on the follwoing dates:
Tuesday 10th March – Batley Camera Club
Wednesday 18th March – Huddersfield Photo Imaging Club.
I have no more talks scheduled currently, but will consider all offers. My preference is within a 6o minute drive from Chorley. This is due to me being in full time employment, and I travel to venues after a full day at work, but please contact me anyway to see if we can come to an arrangement.
EDIT – I wrote and scheduled this a few weeks ago, and since then have been booked for talks at Burnley, Atherton and Pernrith for 2015 / 2016, but I am always open to approaches for talks at camera clubs and other interested organisations for 2015 and beyond.