The Midges that Died for Art

Last weekend — what with it being the summer holidays an’ all — I thought it would be fun to concoct an impromptu camping/photography expedition to Scotland with my younger son.

Stocked with food, chemicals and 110 year old cameras, we headed north from our home in Newcastle upon Tyne.

We had a ball, wild camping in Neena with wondrous sights aplenty…

Stag at Bridge of Orchy, Scotland

From Instagram: The sight that greeted us on our first night at Bridge of Orchy…

Thankfully, I had the foresight to pack insect nets and repellent; I’m all too aware of how the Scottish midge can turn a perfectly nice time into a humid, swarming trauma.

Sure enough, having settled down to make some photographs beside the stunning River Etive, clouds of the interminable bug descended as I poured my second plate.

At one point, I looked down at my gloved hands and I couldn’t see them — they’d literally come alive with a swarm of midges, looking like some kind of organic techno prop from a sci-fi movie.

It was time for a sharp exit but I had to finish making the plate before we could pack away and move on…

wet plate collodion process, tintype, large format

Glen Etive, Scotland (10×12″ Tintype), complete with embedded midges…

Pouring the 10×12″ Tintype, I was doing my best to keep the little critters from flying into the collodion.

Then it dawned on me — if I simply let them ‘do their thing’ I’d be making full use of this photographic process.

I’ve written before about capturing the weather in a glass plate. Now, I’d not only be creating a unique one-off photograph on metal, I’d also be capturing another important facet of the Scottish landscape — the midge!

Into the collodion they flew, ready for a lovely soak in a bath of silver nitrate. And so, it came to be that a handful of midges died in the name of art.

Now, to think of more ways to reduce their numbers…

wet plate collodion process, tintype, large format

The Midge: Dying for my art…

wet plate collodion process, tintype, large format

A tiny crop from the plate — not bad for a 110 year old Emil Busch brass lens!

For more recent work, check out the Gallery.

Neena, wet plate collodion process, ambulance, darkroom

From Instagram: Neena — mobile darkroom and bed for the night…

Rum at Dusk

The Isle of Rum from Camusdarach, Scotland, photographed by Jack Lowe

“All the complex wires of life were stripped out and he could see the structure of life.

“Nothing but rock and sea, the tiny figures of humans and animals against them for a brief time.” — Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

Annie Proulx has eloquently put into words an issue I’ve been pondering of late…

When I first step out of the car having journeyed to a place such as the west coast of Scotland, why is it that I always feel so readily and notably at ease?

Any cares or concerns fritter away in the breeze (there’s always at least a breeze in Scotland) and my mind seems instantly able to function with a new-found clarity.

It’s a sensation rather akin to drinking a lovely cool glass of water on a baking hot day.

For Example…

In August my wife and I travelled to a spot just south of Mallaig in Scotland. I wrote about it shortly afterwards on these pages.

The thing is, this site didn’t even exist at the start of that week and now it does — a direct result of the clarity gained from being in a location so wild as the west coast of Scotland.

On the day this site was conceived, during that week in August, I made my first new photograph in years — one that I knew would be among the first to grace these pages.

So, here it is, a sumptuous Platinum/Palladium print capturing the beautiful Isle of Rum at dusk (as seen from the mainland at Camusdarach)…

The Island of Rum from Camusdarach, Scotland, photographed by Jack Lowe

Visit my Platinum/Palladium Print Collection to buy this print and have it delivered to your door. Alternatively, feel free to contact me for further information.

If you’d like know more about Platinum/Palladium Prints, you can learn all about them by clicking here.

My thanks to Paul Kenny for our discussions about wild places and for pointing me in the direction of the The Shipping News once again.

I’m currently re-reading this beautiful book…

Postcards from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

I’ve been involved in a rather special journey over the last week or so — accompanying my friend Duncan Davis on his narrowboat, Pearl Barley, from Skipton to Leeds.

Defiantly imperial, Duncan briefed me ahead of our mission:

“The total distance is 28 miles, 7¾ furlongs and 28 locks. There are at least 32 moveable bridges of which 3 are usually left open and 20 small aqueducts or underbridges.”

The journey took five days, albeit at a leisurely pace. The time taken to travel home to Newcastle by train from Leeds? 90 minutes!

A longer blog post beckons once I have sifted through the hundreds of photographs I’ve made. In the meantime, I’d like to share my favourite Instagrams from the journey with you.

All made with my iPhone 4s and edited with Nik Software’s Snapseed, I view them as a kind of scrapbook for formulating my thoughts whilst also acting as modern day postcards, winging their way into the timelines of my followers…

Pearl Barley on the Leeds Liverpool Canal

The 57ft Pearl Barley

Morris 1000 Dashboard

Duncan had a surprise for me — we would drive from Frosterley to Skipton in his 1955 Morris 1000…

Pearl Barley narrowboat gearbox

Before we could go anywhere, the gearbox needed seeing to…

Captain Duncan Davis at the tiller of his heritage narrowboat, Pearl Barley

Captain Duncan Davis at the tiller of Pearl Barley

Pearl Barley on the Leeds Liverpool Canal

Standing on the roof of Pearl Barley as we pass through a leafy stretch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal…

Bingley Five Rise Staircase Lock

Entering the first lock at Bingley Five Rise…

Bingley Five Rise Staircase Lock Gates

Water gushes through the 4220kg gates at Bingley Five Rise…

Pearl Barley moored at Saltaire on the Leeds Liverpool Canal

The stoves keep us warm during a chilly, misty morning at Saltaire…

Duncan Davis at Fanny's Public House, Saltaire

Duncan Davis at Fanny’s Public House, Saltaire

A Pilgrimage to Bardsey Island

The Llŷn Peninsula sits on the very north western corner of Wales.

We (like many others) have always referred to it as the pig’s ear — think of Wales as the head of a pig in profile and the Llŷn Peninsula looks like the ear flopping over its brow…

Being one of the extremities of the UK mainland, the Llŷn certainly has a whiff of the outcrop about it — a stronghold of the Welsh language, it can appear rather mysterious to the outsider.

Let’s say that the music certainly stops when a man and his wife clearly not from these parts walk into a local bar!

A Utopian Presence…

So, if the Llŷn Peninsula has a whiff of the outcrop about it, then how could I possibly put Bardsey Island into words?

Bardsey Island, Lleyn Peninsula, Wales

Lying the best part of two miles off the tip of the peninsula, Bardsey sits on the horizon, tempting onlookers with its Utopian presence.

The shape of it alone seems so perfect — I’ve sat for hours on the craggy peninsula, marvelling and daydreaming at such a beautifully simple and seemingly tranquil piece of land.

Steeped in history — with evidence of human activity dating back some 3000 years — 20,000 Celtic Saints are said to be buried on the island, stemming from a time when three pilgrimages to Bardsey were declared the equivalent of one to Rome.

It is my great pleasure to announce the release of an Archival Pigment Print of the above image — my first offering, available to buy exclusively on these pages.

Bardsey Island Signed Print Jack Lowe

The Archival Pigment Print of Bardsey Island, signed numbered and embossed…

Shot on 5×4 film back in 2002, the quality and detail within this photograph is extraordinary.

The prints are made using the very finest methods available, notably my favourite combination of HP Vivera Pigment ink and Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm (you can read more on the Print Process page using the menus above).

Bardsey Island Signed Print Jack Lowe

Each print is titled, numbered and signed by me on the reverse in pencil…

Bardsey Island Signed Print Jack Lowe

…and carries my embossed mark in the bottom right hand corner.

If you would like one of these very special prints, you should find everything you need to know here.

If there’s anything else you would like to know, please feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help.

My First Pilgrimage to Bardsey Island…

Into the Mystic, Condé Nast Traveller Magazine, May 2003I was first introduced to this part of the world back in 2002 when Condé Nast sent me on a mission to photograph the area.

The article was published in May of the following year and it was, without question, my favourite week of commissioned photography.

Condé Nast put us (me and my assistant) up in the gorgeous Georgian restaurant with rooms, Plas Bodegroes (pronounced Plass Bod Egg Royce).

I fell in love with the place, now an all-time favourite short break for my wife and I — a rare treat every few years or so…!

My Second…

To offer you a glimpse of what it’s like to set foot on Bardsey Island, I’ve put together a collection of photographs on Behance from my second pilgrimage — this time a short break with my wife.

Jack Lowe on Bardsey Island, Lleyn Peninsula, Wales

A (rare) photograph of me during my second ‘pilgrimage’ to Bardsey…

Those blues are rich, aren’t they?

Well, I kid you not, this was one of the most spectacular days we have ever experienced — with such searing sunshine and deep, deep blues we could have been anywhere in the world.

I read somewhere that with so much sea and so little land, the light appears to dance here. That sums it up pretty neatly!

So, I’ve now made two pilgrimages to Bardsey Island — I can’t wait for my third, my equivalent of one to Rome (but I’d surely like to go there too)…

Useful Publications

The flora and fauna is stunning on Bardsey Island — we saw rare Alpine Choughs, a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons circling around the cliffs below us and a Manx Shearwater (deceased).

At macro level, the range of lichens, plants and insects is extraordinary.  Remember the Collin’s Gem series of books? Well, they’re still going strong and we always have them to hand.

And with such Celtish history on the island, a pilgrimage to other sites might well be in order!

Ordnance Survey Maps of the Llŷn Peninsula

The OS Landranger map of this area is always easy to remember — it’s sheet No.123!

From the beautiful Explorer range of OS maps, sheet No. 253 covers the western end of the peninsula…

Book a Day Trip!

Why not pay a visit yourself?  You’ll find all the information you need to know here.

Ordnance Artworks

The Ordnance Survey maps I mentioned in my last post really are extraordinary.

We’re so fortunate to have such beautiful artworks made for us…

This photograph is taken from the Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398, a particularly fine example.

Have a Favourite…?

Do you have a favourite sheet number you like to pore over?

Leave a comment and let me know — I may have to add it to my small but growing collection!

North Morar, Scotland, Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398

North Morar, Scotland | Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398

Photograph of Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.398: