#614 – Lees Brook Mill 1 – getting going again and a new camera

I didn’t do much by way of industrial photography in 2022. I’d organised a 3 day trip to south wales in March to photograph a number of places for my ongoing coal and steel projects but then caught Covid on the day I was travelling and had to cancel all my arrangements. After that, other than a couple of trips to Manchester for exhibitions and a spot of photography here and there, my attention was elsewhere for most of the year until I went up to Redcar to see the blast furnace just prior to demolition. This meant that my list of places to visit was getting longer and longer not withstanding the fact that several had been demolished or burned down before I got chance to visit – always a risk in my type of photography.

My subsequent plans over Christmas were thwarted by flu (lesson learned in 2022 – viruses will interrupt all your plans) so I needed a catalyst to spark my imagination and get me out of the house before illness stuck again or life just got in the way.

In December I was offered the opportunity to do a week long ‘takeover’ on the F8 Documentary Instagram account and that was a welcome recognition for my work. It also made me spend some time with my rather large body of archive to select 5 images that would showcase my work – no easy task! But this got me back in the headspace for photography, and then someone I follow on Instagram posted a snapshot of Lees Brook Mill in Oldham. This caught my attention as I’d driven past it a number of times over the years but had never taken the time to stop and have a look.

What caught my attention was the foreground, or more specifically the fact that there was something in the foreground as from an aesthetic / composition perspective this makes it more interesting than say a road or pavement which is the most common foreground for pictures of mills.

The January day that I went was chilly, with temperatures hovering just above zero, as they had been for most of the preceding week. Brook Lane, where I wanted to photograph the mill from was cobbled and being at the bottom of a hill, had a huge frozen puddle covering a large section of it (plus a thin veneer of ice across the rest which made for some interesting / precarious moments).

I was gratified to see that there had recently been some recent trimming of the trees and undergrowth on both sides of the River which afforded a clearer view of the mill. Not perfectly clear but probably better than if I’d visited a month or two back, and these are the kind of uncontrollables that you just have to deal with as a photographer. Better to get an imperfect photograph than none at all, and way better than the views – probably taken the in summer – that I’d seen on Google Street View. (I’m presuming it had been cut back to prevent high waters bringing it down and debris causing flooding downstream, could be wrong though).

This was my first outing for my new to me (i.e. second-hand) Nikon Z6 ii. If you follow this blog you’ll know I don’t discuss cameras and stuff very often as I just think of them as tools, so I select the best one for the job. I’ve been using Nikon DSLR’s since 2005 and full frame since 2008-2009 I think, as well as a couple of different Fuji X cameras since about 2013 as a lighter more compact alternative, as full frame Nikons are HEAVY once you’ve got a decent lens attached.

But after 7 years of using a Nikon D810 and a D4, plus a Fuji X-T2, I decided it was about time to get the best of both worlds – the quality of a full frame sensor in a smaller, lighter, stabilised body ideally with wireless capability. I’ve always found the Nikons more intuitive to use so I sold off the majority of both systems and bought a Nikon Z6ii and a couple of lenses. The 24-70 and 14-30 F4 lenses are nice and compact compared to their F-mount predecessors – although a bit larger than the Fuji equivalents – and make for a nicely balanced combination on the Z6. As I like to have 2 bodies, I’ll shortly be buying a Z7 ii as well with the rest of the money from the sale of my older gear. And given I tend to change my main camera body every 6-8 years that should be it until the end of this decade, which will probably be the next time I write about cameras too!

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