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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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…

My New Ambulance

It’s been a curve-curve ball of a week…

A while back you may remember that I was inspired by the work and adventures of Ian Ruhter who makes huge Tintypes in The States using his old blue van as a giant camera — a van he affectionately calls The Time Machine.

If you haven’t seen his now-famous Silver & Light video, I’ll include it at the bottom of this post for you. Watch it. You’ll love it.

At the beginning of my own journey in wet plate collodion, I’ve been fantasising about the kind of vehicle I might own one day to use as a mobile darkroom. So, I’ve been keeping a weather eye focussed on eBay to get an idea of what’s out there for when the time comes.

As you might imagine, there’s a plethora of weird and wonderful machines available. Two weeks ago, a decommissioned NHS ambulance came up for sale and I knew instantly that it would be perfect but, in all honesty, the timing felt too soon.

Mournfully, I watched it slip away — sold to some lucky buyer who I now envied…

Envy isn’t a pleasant emotion, so I quickly expelled the memory from my consciousness and endeavoured to move on. I managed that until eBay sent me a tantalising email stating:

“An item you were watching has been relisted.”

Shucks. Now it felt like destiny. The urge was strong to see if I could possibly bring this wondrous vehicle into my life. And thus, to cut a long story short and after a marathon return trip to Cheltenham yesterday, it became so.

This vehicle — shortly to be my wet plate collodion darkroom — is simply incredible. A ready-made lab on wheels. It’s built solidly, crammed with loads of  gadgets and has effortlessly awakened childhood memories (mainly involving Lego, toy cars and Ghostbusters).

The previous owners named it Neena — get it?

Anyway, I can’t wait for the adventures that lie ahead. Here it is — my new ambulance:

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion DarkroomJack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

Jack Lowe's Ambulance / Wet Plate Collodion Darkroom

As promised, Ian Ruhter’s Silver & Light:

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

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: