Shipshape

Happy New Year, one and all! I trust that you’ve had a peaceful and enjoyable festive break?

At the start of 2015, after a long time in the planning, I find myself at a crux in my life: In just 10 days, I start The Lifeboat Station Project.

I’m excited and terrified in equal measures…

The Lifeboat Station Project

As many of you will already know, particularly those who follow my Instagram feed, The Lifeboat Station Project has been a fair while in the thinking and planning.

The main reason, you see, is that my mission ahead is not as straight forward as it could be.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe

In the modern era, I could quite easily have grabbed a digital camera, captured the images on a cluster of memory cards and then sat in front of a computer for weeks prettying them all up.

However, you’ll also know by now that I’m not making this extraordinary body of work like that at all. I’m making the photographs on 10×12″ glass, just as the Victorians used to.

So, I’ve had to take great care in many ways — from liaising with the RNLI to ensure that they’re happy to receive Neena at every station to working out methods of safely transporting so much glass whilst on…

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Skye Glass

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Julian Calverley working at Elgol on the Isle of Skye (Half Plate Ambrotype)

Two weeks ago, Julian Calverley invited me on an impromptu visit to the Isle of Skye, a stunningly beautiful wilderness in the far north of Scotland.

I’ve known Julian for a long time, I’ve made his edition prints for years. Now, I was presented with a new treat — to capture him in one of his favourite stomping grounds for a new book being released later in the year.

I could only seize the chance and, thus, the Ambrotype above was made.

No hiding…

Whilst working with wet plate collodion, I’ve come to adore and embrace the fact that everything within a plate tells a story.

Experienced collodionists are able to pore over a plate and know where things went well and where they went wrong, what worked and what didn’t.

For example, the waviness to the left of the photograph? That’s the wind at Elgol trying to have a say, blowing my collodion as I poured it onto the glass in the dawn breeze.

Not only have I recorded Julian working with his camera, I’ve also captured the weather.

So many elements of that early morning are now immortalised with a piece of glass and a box of chemicals. That’s beautiful to me. I love it.

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Pouring collodion… (by Julian Calverley)

Working on location with this process can be physically gruelling as there’s simply so much paraphernalia. It’s a labour of love and you soon find out why there aren’t many people working on location in this way.

However, the rewards for all those efforts are wonderful and even just one or two great plates make it all worthwhile.

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

It’s no mean feat working in the field with wet plate collodion…

Online, it’s impossible to relay the experience of viewing an Ambrotype in the flesh.

As I’ve mentioned before, they carry entrancing three-dimensional qualities — almost holographic — leaving me with a sense that I’ve captured a slice of time, that I’ve actually created some kind of time capsule.

In short, the plates are unique, unreproducible and irreplaceable.

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Undercover, probably working some magic… (by Julian Calverley)

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

My half plate 1905 Thornton and Pickard Imperial Perfekta — brass-bound mahogany joy…

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

Remember ‘Sketch for a Darkbox’? Click on the image to see what I mean…

Wet Plate Gallery

The eagle-eyed will have spotted that I’ve now created a Wet Plate Gallery in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Take a look to see some of my favourite plates so far. Watch this space for more soon and, remember, there’s no substitute for seeing them in the flesh…

wet plate collodion process, half plate, ambrotype, large format

A quick capture by Julian while I made his portrait…

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: