#599 – The Art of the Panorama Part 3 – Mills and Mining

Unlike the steel industry with its vast landscapes, the mills and mines I’ve photographed are for the most part more compact, more upright. At one time when the cotton mills were the dominant features of the urban landscape of the northern mill town, it was possible to make panoramas of these dozens of mills and chimneys from the surrounding hills or other vantage points, but those days are long gone. It is worth checking out the famous Oldham panorama which was taken in 1876 of the hundreds of mills on Oldham’s townscape in Victorian times.

That scene is now transformed as Oldham once had over 360 mills, but now has maybe only 25% of that number and the landscape is transformed, and such is the case in mill towns all over the north, there simply isn’t a vista to be found where mills make up a significant component.

Mining is different as mines did not tend to be clustered closely together. However, I’ve found a panoramic crop to be a good way of showing the mine in its place in the landscape.

Grove Rake was a tiny part of a huge, barren landscape that was photogenic in its own unique way.

Hatfield Colliery by contrast was in a relatively flat landscape (apart from the spoil heaps), and most of my photographs were much closer in. This puddle intrigues me but it was too far away to get a worthwhile reflection, so I got down low and made it a foreground element with the intention of cropping later.

Haig Pit was in an unusual position on top of a cliff, overlooking the Irish sea. The coalfield extended 4 miles out to sea, so I wanted to show the these various components (sea, cliff, mine) in the composition. I got as close to the edge as I could and zoomed in a bit so that the headstocks were not too small in the frame. Again, the crop here was to reduce the amount of sky and grass so as to eliminate distractions and not lose the main components of the story.

While en-route to somewhere else, I popped in to see Welbeck colliery a few months before it shut. It was somewhat hard to photograph from the outside, but on the other hand quite a lot could be seen from the public areas nearby and it all seemed to be in a very linear layout. This again made it a candidate for a panoramic crop, I just wish that I’d had the foresight to take multiple images that I could have stitched together. Too late now, its been demolished.

While most of my panoramas are crops, I do sometimes take multiple images. This one of the salt mine at Winsford was taken using the excellent panorama function of my brilliant Canon G1X Mk3 (a vastly underrated camera, overpriced new but a bargain second hand), and it’s come out very well. Sure, it’s not perfect, and I’m sure that a camera on a nodal point head on a tripod would have done better, but this is all done in camera and it’s a lot better than some of the other in-camera panoramas I’ve seen.

Mills of course are a different proposition. They tend to be large 3-5 storey rectangular boxes, or featureless single storey sheds that can be hard to photograph. The photo above was one of several I took of the demolition of Penwortham Mill which sat on a large semi-rural site and was once surrounded by weaving sheds, workshops and offices. These were demolished several years ago, leaving a large, empty wasteland between the fence and the mill. This crop made sense in that regard although I’m still not sure if I’ve gone too far.

This scene in Haslingden was shot with the intention of cropping into this format, and I feel it works better this way. The foreground is quite strong, as is the sky and it’s definitely one of the better ones in this series.

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