Nov 192013
 

Col Du Peyresourde, L’Alpe D’Huez, Sa Calobra, Stelvio can only mean one thing to some: Le Tour de France — the famed cycle race established in 1903.

Michael Blann (a keen cyclist himself) has a passion for Le Tour, so much so that he’s set himself the challenge of documenting the stunning course.

Printing Michael’s work has been a real pleasure, so I recently asked him to talk me through the series:

“The idea for doing a project based on European mountains and their roads has been simmering for some time and I guess is rooted in my formative years riding a bicycle and watching the Grand Tours (of cycling). For me, there’s always been something very mythical about mountains and when I’m there I always feel a sense of excitement mixed with serenity. The challenge they present to cyclists adds a very primeval dimension of man overcoming mountain. They are always painful experiences but equally rewarding.

Col Du Peyresourde by Michael Blann

Col Du Peyresourde

“So I guess I came to the project wanting to portray these mountains as something more than just rocks. I wanted to show their character, the way they are defined by their roads and man-made structures, the vegetation, the way they change through the seasons. But I also wanted to put this into the context of cycling, after all, many of these mountains have been given mythical status through cycling. L’Alpe D’Huez wouldn’t have the same notoriety if Le Tour hadn’t passed over it in 1986 when Bernhard Hinault and Greg Lemond resolved their differences and rode the climb together with a clear lead over the rest of the peloton.

Col Du Peyresourde by Michael Blann

Col Du Peyresourde

“For me, I wanted to capture the permanence of mountains, their scale and sheer presence. It was important to shoot them through all times of the day and seasons. The contrast from winter when just a faint impression in the snow shows the line of the road set against the spectacle of a race in mid summer was very appealing. I also kept coming back to the idea that a cycle race is no more than a travelling circus that visits for the day and is then gone again, leaving the mountain behind. There’s the notion that the mountains are the constant that provide the platform for these dramas to play out.

Sa Calobra by Michael Blann

Sa Calobra

Stelvio by Michael Blann

Stelvio

“This line of thought dictated my approach as I wanted the work to have a quietness about it that showed a certain homage towards mountains. Pulling back from any human elements whether it is the roads or fans lining the race route was important, as it showed everything in context. People became insignificant in the grand scheme of things and scale became a strong thread throughout.

“This also dictated the equipment I chose to shoot on — a Hasselblad H4D-50. Like the old 10×8 cameras, I wanted to capture all the detail and fidelity to ensure nothing was lost when the images were enlarged. Great care is needed at the size as all the faults and imperfections become more apparent and it offers less leeway for error. For this reason I teamed up with Jack Lowe to help ensure a great result through the printing process.

“With the initial phase of shooting completed I am now embarking on the winter shots, much of which will be shot from a helicopter. The project will culminate in an exhibition and coffee table book in the autumn of 2014.”

Stelvio Hairpin by Michael Blann

Stelvio Hairpin

On a Technical Note…

I’m not generally one to have ‘camera conversations’ but you can imagine that I’m often asked about the best camera files from which to make the finest prints.

For years, in partial answer to that question, I’ve banged on about the fact that more pixels don’t necessarily result in a better file — pixel size plays a huge part in the signal-to-noise ratio battle, for instance.

In addition, any photographer will tell you that the following statement is high on the list of insults:

That’s a great photograph — you must have an amazing camera!

(I have some great replies but more on that another time…)

That said, I thought you might be interested to know that Michael’s files from his Hasselblad H4D-50 were among the best I’ve ever seen (and please note that I’m by no means associating that with his great photographic skills!).

I loved poring over the details lurking in just about every corner.

A quick conversation on Twitter confirmed a general consensus that this camera is fast-becoming a modern classic…

Finally, here’s an example to illustrate my point — first a full-frame image and then a crop showing the file at 75% (not 100% as it then became so close that it was hard to see where the crop had come from!):

Ventoux by Michael Blann

Ventoux

Ventoux by Michael Blann

Ventoux — crop showing detail from the image above at 75% from Michael’s Hasselblad H4D-50 camera…

Oct 092013
 

It’s always a treat when I can be involved in a body of work over a long period of time, seeing its progression and printing the resulting exhibition.

I’ve worked with Damien Wootten for many years now — nine, in fact. During that time, he’s visited several North East locations repeatedly for the last eight years to form the series, Coastal Retreats.

Coastal Retreats, Caravan by Damien Wootten

Mainly working in and around Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Damien’s immersion in the area really shines through.

As he describes:

“At times everyone needs somewhere to retreat to, and I’m sure — like many — my destination seems to be the coast, and being a photographer it seems inevitable that I take my camera with me. I’m very familiar with the North East coast of England and parts of it are deserted, wild and beautiful — but it is the more ordinary, everyday and less attractive areas that interest me more photographically.”

Coastal Retreats, Family by Damien Wootten

Local Family, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland

Damien continues:

“I have never questioned too deeply why I have chosen these locations to work in and accepted it as an impulse and a need. Hopefully these images have something more to give than just to show the surface of things and offer something worthwhile and contemplative to say about our place within our landscape. These coastal areas seem to symbolise that – where the man-made reaches the edge of things. This is where the natural environment takes over, restraining human encroachment.”

Coastal Retreats, Man by Damien Wootten

I love the Northernness of ‘Coastal Retreats’, a feeling that I’m sure prevails as a result of Damien living in the area along with his seemingly unconditional persistence!

Anyone who lives in the wild and woolly North East will know exactly what it feels like to stand in many of the scenes Damien’s captured, not least a biting one such as this:

Coastal Retreats, Snow Sea by Damien Wootten

Printing this series has been a true pleasure — I hope all those who manage to see the show between 12th October and 2nd February at the Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland enjoy it as much as I have.

The photographs are all 40x40cm Archival Pigment Prints on 60x60cm Museo Silver Rag 300gsm using HP Vivera Pigment Ink.

Apr 172012
 

Julian Calverley shooting his North Northwest Beginnings series on Skye using his Alpa camera fitted with a Phase One IQ180 digital backI’ve written many words on these pages and elsewhere about the work of Julian Calverley — it’s a true pleasure to now be introducing you to his imminent show at Gallery 1066.

We first worked together in October 2010, which I wrote about at the time.

Since then, Julian and I have made many more prints together as his success in the world of edition printing gathers momentum.

Working with Julian is a real opportunity for us both to revel in the current capabilities of digital photographic practice. You may remember that he works with one of the finest cameras around, made by Alpa of Switzerland, which he currently uses in conjunction with the very latest in single capture technology — the Phase One IQ180.

This is an 80 megapixel digital back, which produces a 16bit single capture of around 450MB — when making many of the large prints for Julian, I often have to reduce the files produced from this camera!

Print Detail from Julian Calverley's North Northwest Beginnings edition prints

Detail from Archival Pigment Print | HP Vivera Ink, Hahnemühle Bamboo 290gsm

Print Detail from Julian Calverley's North Northwest Beginnings edition prints
Detail from Archival Pigment Print | HP Vivera Ink, Hahnemühle Bamboo 290gsm
Print Detail from Julian Calverley's North Northwest Beginnings edition prints

Detail from Archival Pigment Print | HP Vivera Ink, Hahnemühle Bamboo 290gsm

Print Detail from Julian Calverley's North Northwest Beginnings edition prints

Detail from Archival Pigment Print | HP Vivera Ink, Hahnemühle Bamboo 290gsm

Julian’s background is described at Edition Prints:

“Julian Calverley has been creating imagery in one form or another since he was old enough to hold a paint brush.

“Born in Hertfordshire in 1964, he very quickly demonstrated a love and natural talent for drawing and painting, in particular watercolour landscape work.

“After a brief and uninspiring spell at art college, Julian realised it was the mix of photography and traditional darkroom skills that would allow him to express himself most effectively.

“The next few years saw experience gained with various studios and in 1988, at 24 years old, Julian set up his first studio and darkroom.

“He now divides his time between personal and assigned work, his attentions mainly focussed on capturing landscapes in their various atmospheric conditions.”

Julian Calverley signs and embosses his North Northwest Beginnings edition prints

Each print is signed and embossed by Julian...

Julian Calverley signs and embosses his North Northwest Beginnings edition prints

I really enjoy how the exemplary workflow from start to finish sings through the final prints. As written on the Edition Prints Process page:

“The finished pieces command a theatrical air; so wonderfully crafted, as if each facet to the image has been summoned into place at the click of a finger.”

Wayne Ford has also written a wonderful blog post on Julian’s work entitled, The Theatrical Sonnets of the British Landscape Photographer Julian Calverley.

If you haven’t seen Wayne’s blog yet, do pay it a visit — he has nurtured it into the ultimate photography archive.

I don’t often get to see the prints I make in their final destination, so I can’t wait to make the journey south next week to Baldock and see the framed pieces on the wall.

The show runs from 20th April to 3rd May, full details are listed here.

Print Detail from Julian Calverley's North Northwest Beginnings edition prints

Detail from Archival Pigment Print | HP Vivera Ink, Hahnemühle Bamboo 290gsm

Print Detail from Julian Calverley's North Northwest Beginnings edition prints

Detail from Archival Pigment Print | HP Vivera Ink, Hahnemühle Bamboo 290gsm

Julian Calverley shooting his North Northwest Beginnings series on Skye using his Alpa camera fitted with a Phase One IQ180 digital back

Julian at work, complete with his famous storm umbrella!

Jan 102011
 

Well, Happy New Year.

Already, we are safely on ‘the other side’ as work continues on Dan Holdsworth’s edition for his exhibition, Blackout, currently showing at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

I have also been working with Colin Barker once again on further orders from his incredibly successful 2010 show, Part of the Pack, as well as with Mary Ann Rogers, scanning in preparation for her forthcoming editions of 2011.

Lately, I have had reason to leaf through my own photographic archive and I was pleased to stumble across my last works to date.

Made on 5×4″ colour negative film at Bolam Lake in Northumberland, all the way back in 2004 , I called them ‘Tree Spaces’.

Shot on a cold February morning, they seem highly appropriate to the current climate, so I thought you might like to share in them too.

Having already been providing digital services for a number of years by this stage, it was at this time that I realised I could no longer give my own photography the time and devotion I felt it needed. One day, maybe—another lifetime perhaps…

'Tree Space 1', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

'Tree Space 1', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

'Tree Space 2', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

'Tree Space 2', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

'Tree Space 3', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

'Tree Space 3', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

'Tree Space 4', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

'Tree Space 4', Bolam Lake, Northumberland, 2004

%d bloggers like this: