Large format print: a gigapixel view inside a studio at Islington Mill

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A test piece, shot in Maurice Carlin’s studio in Islington Mill, comprising a 1.33 gigapixel, HDR panorama. My first attempt at a gigapixel HDR pano, using 721 x 24 megapixel photos.

Great for highlighting small detail (check out the plant growing on the inside of the window, amongst other features) but slow and challenging to work on, with some visual quality issues. Definitely a technique I’ll continue to progress…

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 50mm f1.4 lens, Nodal Ninja 5, Promote Remote Control. 7 bracketed exposures per image.

Inside Fūlbæchop, Bacup

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A view inside the ‘Chop… Rossendale’s best* record shop and another south Pennine gem. Established in 2012 by artist, DJ, musical encyclopaedia and all-round nice chap Michael Holland, Fūlbæchop is a unique and personal space: part studio, part exhibition area, part record shop. Its curious moniker comes from the Old English name for Bacup, and the shop itself reflects some of the historical and cultural influences on this part of the country, as well as Michael’s broad musical tastes and heritage. Obscure vinyl, limited fanzines and CDs sit cheek by jowl with hand-crafted artworks, firewood and textiles.

Bacup lies towards the top of Rossendale in Lancashire, almost at the head of the River Irwell which flows south to separate Manchester from Salford. It sits of the hinterland between urban and rural: a gateway to wild, raw and evocative moorland landscapes. Bacup’s sometimes described as the best preserved cotton mill town in England, and it has a faded, quirky character and an uneasy relationship with its industrial past: cotton mills and coal mining were the major employers until a couple of generations ago, and their loss has left a physical and psychological scar in the town’s fabric. It’s also left a rich legacy of beautiful buildings, interesting customs and a proud sense of identity.

Fulbaechop flyers

So perhaps it makes sense for a local lad to return to his roots and set up shop here, tapping into the past and trying to create something sustainable and innovative for the future. If Fulbaechop existed in a city, it’d be full of trendy trainspotters, earnest eccentrics and cool creatives; digging through crates, sharing stories and planning collaborations. In Bacup, it’s a hidden gem, adding a welcome splash of cosmopolitan outlook and progressive inspiration. Michael’s a one-man ideas factory, bubbling with enthusiasm and pride in his local area, and keen to share his diverse knowledge of music, and showcase his own and other artist’s work.

There’s not much passing trade on Yorkshire Street, but hopefully seeing Fulbaechop in 360° will pique some people’s interest and inspire them to take a trip across the hills from Calderdale, or on a short trip from Manchester and beyond. Well worth a visit in person, or online… chop chop!

*well, only record shop… but it’s a cracker

Sylvia Plath’s grave at Heptonstall

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The American-born poet, Sylvia Plath, was buried at Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, in 1963 after a short and troubled life. In the past she was perhaps better known for her marriage to the former Poet Laurate Ted Hughes (originally from Mytholmroyd, a short distance away) but in recent years her creative impact and ability has been positively reappraised, based on a wider body of her work being discovered.

Her grave lies in the new graveyard: the headstone carries a simple inscription from Hughes, and has been defaced several times (if you look closely the name ‘Hughes’ is typeset slightly differently as the text has been replaced: a certain strand of more radical feminists is alleged have attempted to remove his surname repeatedly, in response to the abusive relationship in life and revisionist way he managed her creative legacy after death).

Sylvia Plath's headstone

On previous visits (see photo above from August 2012) the grave has been marked with stones, pens and other trophies and tributes from fans and well-wishers. On this occasion, fifty years after her death, the grave had been tidied up, just displaying floral tributes. During the time I was photographing this pano there was a steady stream of visitors to the site…

I shot this panorama on the same afternoon as a short and impromptu photoshoot with the excellent and highly tipped Merseyside band Bird, in and around the old and new church of St Thomas at Heptonstall.

Adele and Sian from Bird

I shot the band shortly before the second date on their current UK tour, when they played at the Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge. We had a short window of opportunity to take a few shots on a cold February afternoon, in the sombre surroundings of this ancient Yorkshire hilltop village under leaden skies. The weather matched their enigmatic, emotional and intimate music… given extra resonance as we viewed Sylvia Plath’s grave.

Thanks to Adele, Sian, Lex, Emma and Jack for their patience and good spirits: sitting in front of an open fire in the pub after an hour’s shooting in the raw winter’s air has rarely felt as rewarding!

Bird’s fourth release, Ophelia, is out now on Jack to Phono Records.

 

Valley of Lights parade finale, Hebden Bridge

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After the excitement and spectacle of Todmorden’s Valley of Lights celebration on Saturday, expectations were running high for the Hebden Bridge leg. Swapping the rain for a clear, frosty moonlit night, the town shivered with cold and the thrill of anticipation.

Handmade Parade invited me to come and take some panoramic photos, so I was lucky enough to get a grandstand view of the finale at Old Gate, right across the river. We watched as the lantern parade culminated in the participants lining the riverbanks, waiting expectantly. Performers filed over the old bridge, heralding the start of the finale performance, and then we were treated to an hour of stunning dance, theatre, puppetry, drama and pyrotechnics.

The atmosphere in the crowd was electric, fuelled by the eye-catching performances (from the highly talented local Handmade Parade and FlameOz crews). As I’d sat behind the fire sculptures at Tod, it was great to get an audience-eye view of the main show. Two fire dancers started the finale, marching over the bridge and twirlingFirst watching the tableau depicting the rainclouds gathering over the valley’s characteristic landmarks… cottages, mills and even Stoodley Pike. As the rainclouds encircled the valley, a huge furious paper dragon came down Old Gate, wrapping itself around the players; then shadow puppeteers evoked the enveloping wall of water which the flooding brought to the valley. Stellar fire performances from FlameOz gripped the audience, while a fiery sculpture of the dragon glowered in the gloom behind. This ramped up the excitement further, before a wall of pyrotechnics lit up the length of the river and bought the event to a close. Epic stuff…

If you click the image at the top of the page you’ll be able to view three different 360° panoramas, shot from a pole above the crowds. They show different stages in the show; from the lantern landmarks, to the fire sculpture, and the pyrotechnic fountains at the finale. And if you pan around you’ll see the crowd agog and enrapt, and may even spot some wide-eyed children looking from the first floor window of the cottage behind us.

After that we moved to the car park to see the 200 LED-strewn riders on the Night Light Bike Ride as they streamed in for a quick break before moving onto Mytholmroyd, before heading down to the canalside for food, drink and craft stalls at the Night Market & Canal Boat Flotilla. A hot cider from the Real Cider Company, and a Porcus sausage barm did wonders to restore circulation after several hours in subzero temperatures.

It was great family night out, and felt like a resounding success. It shows that, despite adversity and hardship, local talent and enthusiasm is enough for a community to tease out a silver lining from dark storm clouds here in the Pennines!

A flaming fire finale to Hebden Bridge's leg of Valley of Lights, Nov 2012

 

Valley of Lights, Todmorden

After severe flooding hit the Calder Valley twice in rapid succession this summer, the local communities reacted brilliantly to this devastating challenge. Businesses and individuals pulled together, demonstrating the indefatigable local spirit and individual outlook which characterises the upper valley, bringing together neighbours and strangers alike.

With many residential and commercial properties affected for months by the floods, it’s been a tough year, and collectively the area deserved a reason to celebrate their achievements since… and let their hair down. Fast forward six months and cue the Valley of Lights; a unique initiative spearheaded by Totally Locally, supported by Calderdale Council and creatively led by Handmade Parade. Embracing the pool of talent, enthusiasm and skill of hundreds of artists, performers, producers, retailers and members of the public, it’s an event spread over ten days in the three towns worst affected by the flooding here – Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.

Designed to celebrate the Upper Calder Valley; its people, its creativity, its uniqueness and its hundreds of small businesses, it combined community initiatives with a series of spectacular performances, outdoor markets and displays. It’s a gloriously welcome way to usher in the start of the Christmas period, and the switch on of the lights in each town.

It was Tod’s turn first on Saturday 24th November, and as luck would have it, the heavens opened just before the start of the celebrations. Ironic considering the heavy rain in the summer. However folk round here are hardy and won’t easily turn down the excuse for a celebration and performance… especially one designed to showcase their triumph over the natural elements. Besides, we do parades and parties well around here, such as the Pollination Parade early this year.

After the Christmas Lights switch on, performers and musicians led a Lantern Parade around the town, before a spectacular fire finale in at the Rose Street / Bramsche Square site. Tod Market stayed open late, with both regulars and local artist makers selling their wares, encouraging shoppers to spend their pounds close to home. Musicians and street performers weaved among the heaving crowds, raising smiles and spirits through the rain.

Meanwhile there was a spectacular wharfside flotilla along Fielden Wharf on the Rochdale Canal, featuring lit-up inflatables by Spacecadets (you can view some panoramas of their work from Preston in 2006 and the Lowry, Salford in 2007 respectively). Live music was performed by Daniel Weaver from an open narrowboat: you can just spot him through the crowds during the timelapse video above.

Friends and food clients alike, local food heroes Porcus and the Bear Café set up stall to warm the hearts (and bellies) of the brave souls who ventured out in the rain. I set up my trusty GoPro and recorded a (very soggy) timelapse video of Porcus serving up their homemade rare breed sausages, while I tried out my new DSLR in wet weather conditions. All in all it was damp but delightful night, perfectly showcasing the diversity and distinctiveness of the local area, and making people rightly proud of what they have and hold dear!